Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
Director: Rachel Talalay
Starring: Robert England, Lisa Zane, Yaphet Kotto, Lezlie Deane, Ricky Dean Logan, Breckin Meyer, Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold and Johnny Depp
Might be your dream, but its my rules!
"They Saved The Best For Last"...oh did they? After the disappointing returns of The Dream Child and the cancellation of Freddy's Nightmares, New Line sort of got the hint and decided to go all out for one last run with Freddy. Having "Final" in your title will usually attract those who may have skipped the last couple go arounds to see how this all ends. It was 2 years later, the 90s had begun and Freddy wasn't going to be a presence in that decade, the way they saw it.
Early on, it was thought that this was going to be a Peter Jackson film or he was at least someone in the running. His script was titled "The Dream Lover" and it focused on a dream world where Freddy had become a joke, and he was sort of an older, haggard version of himself. Kids would go into the dreams just to poke fun and kick his ass. He later starts finding new strength when an Elm Street cop gets shot and falls into a coma. Its another interesting aspect to explore in the nightmare world; someone in a coma. Unfortunately, this script isn't something you can really find and New Line passed on Jackson (whom they'd already passed on for Texas Chainsaw Massacre III).
As a reward for being a big part of every production, Rachel Talalay was chosen to take Freddy out one last time. And I don't disagree with this decision at all. Talalay earned her stripes big time. The whole Peter Jackson thing is complete hindsight now. And who knows, maybe that script's pitch sounds better than it is. It just sucks knowing this know and then seeing the film that we wound up with in the end. Talalay claims she wanted to make a film that was a perfect sendoff to showcase Robert as Freddy. Apparently to her, that meant taking the comedian Freddy to all new sorts of groaner lows.
Right from the get go, the cat is out of the bag that if you're looking for a good horror film or the series to find its way back to what you came to love in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street, you will be severely disappointed. In the opening moments we the artistic quote followed by "Welcome To Prime Time, Bitch! ~ Freddy Krueger". After an Escape From New York setup, our scene opens on a plane which immediately is a fantastic concept they've not tackled. But then, here comes the music and here comes Freddy dressed as the Wicked Witch Of The West on a broom flying outside the window. As if that wasn't enough, he just has to say "I'll get you my pretty and your little soul too!". And for the next 90 minutes, its basically this bullshit over and over again.
Talalay sets her Freddy movie in the future, which is an interesting concept. And she doesn't go too crazy with future technologies or anything, which is to be commended. But, this movie neither looks nor feels like what we've been through before. And, for the final film, we just get a whole barrage of new characters with no connection to the previous film. Its sort of underhwhelming in that regard. There's just this "off" feeling that feels more separated from the series aesthetically and thematically than even Part 2 does.
While the film does have its own aesthetic, and the old Springwood is pretty imaginative...it sort looks and feels cheap and fake. Everything looks like built sets, instead of looking more "natural". I dunno what it is, but I'm not really drawn into this place as a I should be. And its so much a Twin Peaks knock off that they even go ahead and mention it with a little line of dialogue. Not helping the matter is a cameo from Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold that completely take you out of the movie. Apparently they were big Freddy fans (and this was during their rise in popularity), but they are also the kind of cameo that becomes a complete distraction from the movie.
Surprisingly for his "final" go around, Freddy doesn't kill very many people. But, thankfully (and once you see the deaths it does have) its kept to that medium. This movie just goes for broke on the cartoonish ridiculousness of the death scenes in this movie. We get the Wiley E Coyote "bed of spikes" gag. Everybody from the 90s will also remember the video game kill (featuring a young Breckin Meyer), where Freddy uses the power glove to control a stoner he's put into a video game. He then mutters "Now I'm playing with power". Some may really enjoy this sort of humor, but to me its just too much and is going all in to deflate one of of my favorite horror villains.
Freddy's Dead is also the grand daddy of the "over-explaining slasher villains origins" sequel motif that would plague Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and Pinhead in the early 90s. It couldn't be ambiguous, we have to see the guy get the power or have some occult connection as to why he can overtake dreams. And its just as unnecessary and silly as it sounds when its presented. Although, we do get to have a nice cameo from Alice Cooper as Freddy's evil stepfather. Oh, and this is the movie where they tell us the house that Nancy lived in was Freddy's house before that. So, like, her parents led a charge to kill Freddy Krueger and then said "You know what, he's kinda got a sweet house, I think I'll take it". They are living in the house of the man they murdered in the name of vigilante justice. Really? As much as they wanted to be hush hush about this, they decide the best course of action is to be reminded by it daily by LIVING there...
Another nip in the mythology is that Freddy now has a daughter, and its up to her to do away with him. And with the way the timeline in this movie is set and the backstory of Freddy Krueger, I think the daughter would be a little...ahem...older looking than Lisa Zane maybe? It just doesn't really work, but I'll give it to the movie since that's what they want to do (I'm more confused by the house choice). But, she's better than John Doe who thinks he is and is much much younger. So how does she take care of him? Pretty much the same way they did it in the first movie. Oh, except this time, Freddy's going out in 3-D! This was a 3-D movie, but only the end and Freddy's death was done in the gimmick. Funny too, as they actually have the 3-D glasses as a prop in the movie and that's how you know when to put them on and off. But Freddy's death with the dynamite and "kids" is really weak, but the montage at the end is much more satisfying.
As a side note, this was the first film in the series not to have poster art from Matthew Peak. His poster submission did get used for the soundtrack however. And as you can see...its better. I really enjoyed his contributions to the posters in this series. Elm Streets 1-5 may have the best poster art of any horror franchise ever. Its easily the best of the slashers. There's a real classy and iconic quality to them that is really captivating. I'd be happy to bolster any of them in my house (If my wife would allow), which I actually do, I have a Dream Warriors poster up in my movie room. Peak actually came back and drew the superb cover art for the Never Sleep Again documentary back when it came out in 2009.
One little weird aspect is how much things changed, in general, not just Elm Street from 1989 to 1991. There is just a 2 year gap between films and what feels like a 10 years difference in looks. The styles have immediately gone to the alternative grunge look. The soundtrack doesn't feature a lot of hip or poppy songs, you get...once again...grunge leading the way. Usually with films at this time there was sort of a crossover period or hangover with the previous decade's styles, ideas and the like, but not here. Freddy's Dead is 100% completely a 1990s film.
While I'm never been a fan of this movie, I have still seen it probably over ten times. Its a part of the Elm Street family. Sometimes I'm bored to tears with it, and sometimes I can find some decent entertainment in the movie. While I'm not big on the characters in the film, I must say that there is some good stuff going on with Lezlie Dean's "Tracy" character. This film just doesn't work for me, and really disappoints as a final go around (luckily it wasn't). Its full of the kind of crap I'd expect from a Leprechaun movie, not an Elm Street movie. I will say though, that of the slasher's we done, this film does sit with me WAY WAY WAY better than that of Halloween: Resurrection or Seed Of Chucky. Its nowhere near those depths. I can at least sit and watch this every so many years. And this film does have its fans, I'm just not one of them.
NEXT TIME: When the Earth doth quake, so doth Freddy awake!