Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wes Craven's New Nightmare - 1994

Well, continuing my '90's streak I have going here, as well as building onto my slasher binge, I finally watched New Nightmare....for the first time.  Nightmare on Elm Street for me was "the series that got away".  You see, I have seen most of them, some of them multiple times, but I don't know which ones I haven't seen, and which ones I have yet to see.  I know I've seen the first one- who hasn't right?  But then I'm sketchy on the second.  I know I've seen the third, and then not sure on 4, 5, or 6.  Then, I had definitely not seen New Nightmare until now.

What can I say, it's not for lack of interest, it's just that this series was always harder to track down for me, harder to keep the sequels in my memory, and harder to understand.  Something about all the dreams and the realities and whatever made this series very hard for me to actually know what was going on.  I think that was part of the charm of it, always keep the audience guessing about if they're watching the movie, or a dream within the movie.

Wes Craven is a rare kind of self-aware filmmaker.  His early works became legendary, The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes are classic horror films that launched imitators, remakes, cult followings, etc.  Then his career slowed down a little bit with some not-as-successful films of his came out, and in the meantime 10 years passed and Halloween came out, etc.  So he then successfully relaunched a horror franchise with Nightmare on Elm Street.  NoES became a smash hit, producing immediate sequels, though Craven was not involved in most of them.  But he has a rare gift to look at something as the whole of what it is, he both embraces and cherishes the bizarre series of films that NoES spawned, and he made New Nightmare as a film that is both aware of it's movie series proceeding it, and self-aware of itself as a movie within that series.  As odd as that sounds.

New Nightmare brings back Heather Langenkamp playing herself- that is she plays an actress who was in NoES 1 and 3, and played alongside Robert Englund (here, also playing himself).  In fact, she even meets and talks to Wes Craven, as himself, playing the director of NoES.  You see, in New Nightmare, the actress Heather is beginning to have nightmares about Freddy- Wes Craven's creation.  Turns out other people involved in NoES are too, just none of them are talking about it. Heather and her son Dylan are both being terrorized by these weird nightmares and phone calls.  She is having premonitions that are coming true, and just like in NoES, things that happen in her dreams physically like cuts and wounds are taking place in the real world.

So the movie is about the "real world" being infiltrated by Freddy.  It's a greatly entertaining premise that was probably just about the only way to "save" a franchise like NoES- by admitting it's fake, but showing that it still has power, it's a rare move.  It was that kind of thinking that gave Craven the smarts to come up with yet another defining self aware film series in Scream.  In fact, you could say he launched 3 successful horror defining films in 3 different decades.  Rare for that to happen.

New Nightmare has great acting by Langenkamp and Englund, great effects, an awesome score, and is generally really entertaining.  As I said I love the idea of a film within a film, and this is one big film with a film.  It's also self aware in that rare, really good sort of way that just makes it more enjoyable, better to watch for the uninitiated, and extremely smart.  I'd say that this movie might be the most necessary to watch after the first one.  You could probably skip most of the sequels and go right to this (as long as you were aware there were sequels, some of them quite bad and weird).

I'm feeling super optimistic about it right now, I'm proud to give it 4 stars.

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