Wednesday, October 19, 2011

“Every town has an Elm Street!”

By 1991, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise decided to put out a final movie in the series, and why not? The last couple were adequate at best. So the series decided to go out big, with lots more effects and lots more of Freddy on screen before killing the horror icon off, presumably for good. The result was Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and it is CRAZY.

So ten years have passed since The Dream Child, making it 1999. After Alice and her boy Jacob moved away, Freddy came back and went on a massacre in Springwood, Calif--, oh right, “Ohio.” The movie starts with the last surviving kid in the entire city confronted by Freddy in a dream but he gets knocked past the Springwood city limits, which acts as a barrier that Freddy can’t cross. But what about when he?…never mind. The kid gets amnesia from the close call and ends up at a shelter for troubled youth. There, we meet a few said troubled youths and their counselor, who decides it would help jog John Doe’s memory with a road trip back to Springwood. A trip to the orphanage reveals that Freddy had a child of his own, so the race is on to find out who that kid is and if they’re still alive and somehow try to find a way to stop Freddy for real this time.

Oh, and all of the Springwood adults have gone completely insane from the previous massacre of Freddy.

John Doe: Shon Greenblatt is our first protagonist who gets amnesia and is essentially sent out into the rest of the world to find whatever it is Freddy wants. He becomes convinced that he’s Krueger’s long lost scion, so its kind of funny when that backfires on him.

Spencer: Breckin Meyer plays a kid who’s a stoner who doesn’t want to be like his father. He gets the most surreal death scene in which he gets transported into a television and, well…just watch.

And yes, that's Johnny Depp at the beginning of the clip

Carlos: Ricky Dean Logan plays a kid with a hearing aid because his parents physically abused him as a kid. He gets a very ironic death.

Tracy: Lezlie Deane plays an angry, violent girl who was sexually abused by her father as a kid.

Dr. Maggie Burroughs: Lisa Zane plays a psychiatrist in her late 20s who is trying to help these kids but doesn’t really understand the whole dream stuff. Though she starts to, which is good, because the movie telegraphs her as Freddy’s lost child. She’s also pretty hot, so, uh, good job, Freddy?

Doc: Yaphet Kotto (who was the Bond Villain in Live And Let Die and one of the supporting characters in The Running Man) plays a dream therapist working with the kids. He’s a source of information and facts that ends up helping the protagonists quite a lot actually. Sympathetic and competent, he gives one of the better performances of the film.

Freddy Krueger: Robert Englund goes into full-blown camp territory here, hamming and cheesing his way from movie references all the way to pop culture gags to, I shit you not, a joke about Nintendo’s infamous Power Glove. Freddy’s played for laughs more than horror in this installment, but he still manages to get a few choice bits of true devilry out of the movie as well.

With a bunch of odd cameos, like Tom & Rosanne Arnold (as Springwood parents driven over the edge) Johnny Depp (in the above dream sequence), and Alice Cooper as Freddy’s abusive dad (in a flashback).

Directed by Rachel Talalay, the movie doesn’t lack for spectacle. Digital effects were starting to be more prominent so those get used quite a bit. The dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream concept gets used for some nice surprises and as always, Freddy’s dream attacks are a true visual highlight. Pacing is another strength of the movie; despite a lot happening, the flick really does breeze by hitting all the classic Elm Street beats. Some of the effects for the video game based attack on Spencer though are very obviously not game graphics, which I can understand, because in 1991 most graphics were only 8-bit anyway. Still, they go through all the trouble of blue screening Breckin Meyer onto what is essentially a cartoon and they don’t even pixilate it. Bit of a shame that.

It should also be mentioned that the movie also features a climax IN 3-D!!! You can tell that’s the part where the 3-D glasses should be put on because Maggie puts them on. Yeah. It’s pure cheese, and since the video release wasn’t in 3-D, pretty obviously nothing more than a gimmick. I have no idea if the 3-D was well done or not.

Characters by Wes Craven, Story by Rachel Talalay, Screenplay by Michael De Luca. Aside from a few “wha-huh?” elements like telegraphing the “twist” insanely early in the movie (and reducing its impact), the script seems to be self-aware that this is an incredibly cheesy horror-comedy and capitalizes on it. After the last two movies, that’s a refreshing thing.

The flick also adds a bunch of backstory flashbacks to Freddy’s origin, showing him as a messed up kid who murdered small animals and Alice Cooper, and I don’t think any of that stuff was necessary at all to bring any kind of “deeper understanding” of Freddy Krueger’s character. Freddy works because he’s a bogeyman, and bogeymen tend to be simply motivated, which, amusingly, is what the flashbacks show. Freddy is a devilish figure because he was always a devilish figure, even before undeath.

Original music by Brian May (not the guy from Queen). More of an orchestral feel to things this time while still retaining the synthesized elements of the series. There’s also Iron Butterfly, Iggy Pop and…the Goo Goo Dolls? Wow. Did not expect them.

You know what? I really liked Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. It’s not as creepy as the original Nightmare on Elm Street and not as thoughtful and polished as Dream Warriors, but it IS a lot of fun. In a lot of ways, it’s a mirror of Dream Warriors. A new entrant to a group of troubled teens is mentored by a sympathetic adult with a past history with Freddy. And much like Dream Warriors was a culmination of the first 3 movies’ heady concepts and extended metaphors, Final Nightmare is a distillation of the latter 3 movies in the series, with the ridiculously over-the-top violence and evil jokester persona of Freddy (lame jokes and all). Dream Warriors made me go “that’s really interesting.” Final Nightmare made me laugh my ass off with childish enjoyment. It’s the funniest in the series, and really shows the flexibility of the Freddy character and I think that’s part of what makes him an iconic film monster; the ability to be serious and clownish at the same time and provide a knowing wink to the audience that there is something inherently weird and goofy about all this bizarre dream imagery.

So yeah. I liked it and recommend Final Nightmare as a cheesy horror-comedy. Haters gonna hate. But this movie was anything but genuinely “final.”

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