“Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)

The seventh installment in the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film franchise takes place approximately a decade after the iconic first movie in the series premiered. When the film opens, it appears as if Freddy has returned. Is he back once again to do major damage to the descendants of those who hunted him down and took justice into their own hands, after the legal system failed the victims of his crimes? Leaving Freddy’s motivations for revenge aside, it’s not as if he didn’t deserve the vigilante justice he received. He was, after all, known, prior to his capture and trial, as The Springwood Slasher, responsible for multiple murders. Freddy, who is not shown on screen, seems to be building a new and improved weapon, his signature glove. This time, however, it is robotic, but when the camera pans back, we see that it is merely special effects people, working on a film set. This being a horror movie, things don’t remain docile for long, and soon the glove begins to malfunction, causing Heather Langenkamp, the star of two previous films in the series, including the original, to wake up screaming from a nightmare.

Viewers will soon realize that things are different this time around. Freddy is back, there is no hiding that fact, especially years later, but so are several of the key players from the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” but not in the way audiences watching the film for the first time in 1994, probably expected. This was not merely another story involving Freddy Krueger stalking the dreams of the descendants of those who had killed him years earlier. Actress Heather Lagenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors), stars in the film, but she’s not playing the part of horror heroine, Nancy Thompson. Instead, she’s portraying herself, as if the events of the movie, are actually occurring and haven’t been scripted. In the film, she’s married to Chase (David Newsom), a special effects production guru, and is a mother to her young son, Dylan (Miko Hughes).

When director Wes Craven, who also portrays himself in the film, begins to have nightmares, the bad dreams that he’s having, seem to give birth to the real Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven’s dreams, seemingly bring Krueger out of the movies as a fictional character, and into the real world. Heather’s relatively idyllic life, begins to take a turn for the worse, with everything from creepy phone calls, to her son having horrible dreams, where he winds up sleepwalking. When Heather confronts Craven about what is going on, he states that he is working on a new script involving Freddy. He posits, that by killing Freddy off in the 1991 film “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” directed by BAFTA nominee Rachel Talalay, who co-wrote the screenplay for the film with three time Oscar nominee Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips) that Freddy is no longer confined to fiction. Craven fears that a more dangerous version of Freddy has been released, because he feels horror stories keep out real world fears from taking over, but once the stories no longer exist, it opens a doorway to let the things that haunt us into our everyday lives. Craven lets Heather know, that he is once more going to need a champion to vanquish the evil that has escaped; that someone that he needs, is a reluctant Heather.

In addition to Heather Lagenkamp and Wes Craven, other people involved with the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” reprise their roles. Robert Englund, once again returns to play both himself, and a darker, more dangerous version of Freddy. Heather is not the only one having nightmares about Freddy. Englund, apparently for the first time, is allowing the character he brought to cinematic life for the six prior films, and in the television series “Freddy’s Nightmares,” to get to him psychologically. Furthermore, Golden Globe winner John Saxon (This Happy Feeling) starts off playing himself, but as the film progresses, he reverts back to the role of Lt. Thompson, who is not only a member of law enforcement, but Heather’s fictional father in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” A few people involved with the first film make cameo appearances: Robert Shaye, who produced the original Elm Street film; his sister, Lin Shaye, who played a small part as a teacher in the first movie, but is probably most recognized these days for her role as psychic, Elise Rainier in the “Insidious” films; and Jsu Garcia, who played Nick Corri, one of the main teenage protagonists in the original film.

The film was written and directed by Wes Craven (Scream). The movie premiered in Germany at the Fantasy Filmfest in August 1994. The film which has a runtime of 112 minutes is comprised of the genres of fantasy – horror – mystery and thriller. Trivia buffs take note: This is the only film in the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise that doesn’t feature opening titles. Prior to filming, Heather Langenkamp was dealing with a stalker in real life; she gave permission to Craven to use the storyline in the film. In the film’s credits, Freddy Krueger is credited as himself, even though Robert Englund played the part. Furthermore, Englund has stated that “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” is his favorite film in the series.

Unfortunately, for Craven and all involved, the film didn’t garner, anywhere near the box office returns of the previous six films, in the franchise. For example, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was budgeted for an estimated $1,800,000, and went on to gross approximately $25,504, 513. The profits would only rise as subsequent films were released. For example, my personal favorite in the series “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” was budgeted for an estimated $4,500,000, and went on to gross approximately $44,793, 222.  “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” had an estimated budget of $8,000,000 and grossed approximately $18,000,000, far below expectations based off of the earning power of the previous six films in the series. Speculation at the time, was that viewers wanted the standard slice and dice Freddy Krueger film, and instead they were watching something that was not at all what they were used to. Audiences, if the film were released today, I believe, would have an overall positive reaction to the movie. I also think it would’ve done much bigger box office, based off of positive word of mouth. The film, despite its detractors, is a refreshing entry into a series, that while enjoyable for me, being the horror film fan that I am, became a welcomed departure from the, by and large, formulaic films that were produced, as the number of sequels increased.





About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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1 Response to “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994)

  1. I liked New Nightmare much more than the overrated Scream films. Good post

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