Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sequels That Didn't Completely Suck

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

I don't like movie franchises, and I don't like sequels. Very seldom are they as effective as the original and certainly not at all imaginative, they just use the wash, rinse, repeat formula of every movie before it. This was a rare exception and I'd been trying to find it (I couldn't even remember what it was called.). When they showed the Freddy marathon, this movie was not included, I have no idea why. But I remembered bits of it and it was good. So this came up and I thought let's see how the memory's holding up.

Now that's not to say that everything about this is original. It copies some things, but other movies have copied part of it. WCNN has a little element of The Exorcist and Dante's Inferno with a dash of The Shining mixed in it, but another movie released a year later, John Carpenter's In The Mouth Of Madness sort of filched the idea that writers can create what becomes reality so it's a little give and take. And it goes like this:

Heather Langenkamp, the real person who played Nancy in the original and in the third sequel Dream Warriors is watching her husband on set where another Freddy movie is in the making. They're trying to get the new 'claw' hand to work properly. In this movie, it's not just a glove, Freddy, in this version, actually cuts his hand off and smashes the prosthetic on. They yell cut as the fake blood is gumming up the servos and the techs and her husband begin working on them. Suddenly one of the prosthetic's knives lashes out, cutting her husband's finger. Both prosthetics then attack the technicians, and one tries to kill her husband. And she wakes up to an earthquake. I swear in this movie they have a freakin' earthquake every ten minutes. If that were remotely accurate, I don't see how anyone would stay in California. Anyway, that gets to be kind of a pattern in this movie, the only slightly irritating thing about it - what is dream and what is real? 

Heather appears on a talk show to discuss her career (She has a career?) and is surprised to find that 'Freddy' has been invited too - to a much better reception. People are going nuts over him and Robert Englund is eating it up, and also hamming it up. That was fun to watch. Later, as himself it's shown that the two are clearly friends, him even giving her a friendly kiss on the cheek as he leaves. Her son Dylan starts having nightmares about a bad man with claws. She has never let him watch her movies. He then starts to creep her out, talking in a raspy voice 'One, Two, Freddy's coming for you...'. She calls her husband to come home and he's exhausted and falls asleep on the road. Freddy kills him. Another bummer, this wasn't a dream. At the funeral we see Robert Englund, John Saxon, Nick Corri and Tuesday Knight. There's another freaking earthquake and she has another Freddy waking  nightmare. This gets kind of repetitive and continues with no one of course believing her.

After a couple more incidents, Heather calls Robert, telling him of her nightmares. He says 'You're having nightmares about me?' Silly. She responds that no, this is different, Kruger is more... Robert says, 'Dark? Vicious?' as he is currently painting a picture of HIS nightmares, a very nasty Freddy. She now knows that this is really happening and it's not just her.Wes Craven (played by himself, who else) is currently writing a script for another Freddy movie. She asks him about it, and here we get his take on the whole thing. He claims he writes from HIS nightmares (that's where Freddy came from) and an ancient unnamed evil roams the world - if it is caught into a story, it's trapped. But if the story becomes watered down for an easy sell (a clever dig at the other versions of the series he didn't do that were either bad or incredibly silly) or ends, the 'evil' can escape. But this 'evil' likes the Freddy thing, and wants to continue so basically what Wes is trying to sell us is that if Freddy movies aren't made, the evil will mess us all up. Nice selling play. I didn't buy it, I don't think many others did either. But never say never...

After scaring Robert bad enough that he leaves town, and John Saxon thinking she's going nuts as well as her son being hospitalized and prepared to be surrendered to Social Services because they believe she let him see all those movies and 'won't let him sleep', she starts to really lose it. The gray streak in her hair, present when she did the third sequel, comes back. John Saxon starts calling her 'Nancy' and she sees a badge on him (he played her father who was a cop) so she knows that reality is shifting and she's got to do something. After the murder of her babysitter (in spectacular Freddy style) and the disappearance of her son, she has no choice but to enter the nightmare for one more showdown.

Here again it departs from the usual formula... there's no house, no little girls skipping rope singing the Freddy song... what she lands in is kind of an attempt at Dante's Inferno - looking a little like a Roman Pantheon, except corrupt and filled with both water and fire. Interesting. Freddy is indeed there with her son. In this, Wes really tried to return Freddy to the dark side, not the joking slasher of the previous movies. His look is very visceral - he looks more skinned than burned, muscle and bone showing, and his claws are indeed his hands. In that way Wes really did try to give us the real NOES that he wanted from the beginning. So since she knows the routine all too well, she figures out how to save her son and defeat 'Freddy' one more time - except this time he turns into what Wes wants us to think he really is - a demon, who explodes for some reason in fire. That... kind of went flat.

She and her son find themselves in his bed (the 'portal' Freddy was trying to cross), and it is over. On the floor is a completed manuscript of everything we just saw (written exactly as they say and do). A personal note from Wes thanks her for the courage to be Nancy one more time. Okay that was a bit of a hokey ending, but hey, they tried. And watching them as themselves and then in character was fun.

Funny - Wes had wanted to ask Johnny Depp (Nancy's boyfriend in the original) to cameo but was timid. A timid horror writer? Later Johnny is said to have wished he'd asked, he would have loved to... oh well. Oh, and even though Robert Englund of course played his character, Freddy Kruger is credited in the end as playing 'himself'. Cute.

Okay so it wasn't the best of horror but still one of the best efforts of what was Wes Craven's original vision for this iconic character.