I remember my first thoughts when I heard that yet another Nightmare sequel was in the works, and said thoughts were something along the lines of "Oh great, another one." Yes, even as a twelve-year-old, I could tell that the series had died after the first few sequels, and the concept of Freddy Krueger wracking up some kills in the "real" world didn't exactly sound like a great movie. It actually took me a few years after its release to check it out, and prior to rewatching it tonight, I had memories of it being an average-at-best affair. Why I thought that, I couldn't tell you.
Review by Chad
Added: February 20, 2007
As mentioned, the story takes place in "reality", with Heather Langenkamp (star of the first Nightmare on Elm Street) playing the character of... well, Heather Langenkamp, the star of the first Nightmare on Elm Street. She's moved on from the Nightmare films and has settled down with a husband and had a kid named Dylan (Miko Hughes), and all is right in her world. That is, however, until Wes Craven pitches the idea of putting together another Nightmare movie with her and Robert Englund. Heather shoots down the idea of starring in this film as she really doesn't want anything to do with the series: she's been getting obscene phone calls from a Freddy impersonator and her son has been having nightmares about the character, so needless to say, starring in another movie isn't something she wants to do at this point in her life. However, it soon becomes clear that Craven has ulterior motives for wanting to write another Freddy flick, and when Heather's son becomes involved, she'll have no choice but to face Freddy one last time (until the next movie, of course).
Once again, I couldn't tell you why I had bad memories of this movie as upon rewatching it, I feel that it's the strongest in the series save for the original. Granted, that's not exactly a huge load of praise when you consider that most of the sequels were sub par, but I actually enjoyed the hell out of this and found that it was a damned good note to send Freddy out on. Gone is the comedic Freddy (well, with the exception of one scene towards the end), and in his place is the fearsome nightmare-stalker that the original had created. Gone are the mindless "how many kills can we show?" entries, and in their place is a film which is both smart and engrossing while never letting the audience forget that they are indeed watching a horror film.
This real-world horror gimmick has been done a couple of times in recent years thanks to the explosion in popularity of reality TV, but at the time of its release, New Nightmare was pretty unique. Watching it now, after having seen the concept recreated for a variety of other films, I can safely say that it was done best here. You truly get the feeling that you're merely watching actors, actresses, and writers go about their daily lives, and never once does it feel like you're watching these people pretend to act "normal." This is reality TV at its finest, and it's sad that the execution found here hasn't been topped yet.
I'm far from being a Wes Craven fanboy, but I'll give the devil his due: when the man sets his mind to it, he can put together a highly-memorable film. Sure, he's had his duds, but when you look at the movies he's best known for and how well they've survived the years, it's pretty hard to miss the fact that he does have talent. It's sad that he stepped away from the series for the vast majority of the sequels, because seeing how he handled this movie and the original, we could have had a series of films and a horror icon that was absolutely unrivaled had he stuck with it. Instead, we wound up with a series of films that, while having a few shining moments, were nothing to write home about and a horror villain that is best known for being "that guy who with the glove who cracks lame jokes." Thankfully, Craven came back to the series and sent the character out with a bang.
I wouldn't say that this is better than the original, but it's definitely up there in terms of scares, creativity, and overall goodness. The storyline is tight and entertaining, the scares are genuine (none of those musical score / cat "scares" that the series had become known for), and we get to see Freddy in all his sadistic glory one last time. Highly recommended. 8/10.