Wes Craven's New Nightmare
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (also known as A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: New Nightmare or simply New Nightmare) is a 1994 American meta slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven, the creator of 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. A standalone film and the seventh installment in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, it is not part of the same continuity as previous films, instead portraying Freddy Krueger as a fictional movie villain who invades the real world, and haunts the cast and crew involved in the making of the films about him. In the film, Freddy is depicted as closer to what Craven originally intended, being much more menacing and much less comical, with an updated attire and appearance.
|Wes Craven's New Nightmare|
|Directed by||Wes Craven|
|Written by||Wes Craven|
by Wes Craven
|Produced by||Marianne Maddalena|
|Edited by||Patrick Lussier|
|Music by||J. Peter Robinson|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$19.8 million|
The film features various people involved in the motion picture industry playing themselves, including actress Heather Langenkamp, who is compelled by events in the narrative to reprise her role as Nancy Thompson. New Nightmare features several homages to the original film such as quotes and recreations of the most famous scenes. The film won an International Fantasy Film Award from Fantasporto for Best Screenplay by Craven.
New Nightmare was released on October 14, 1994, grossing $19.8 million at the box office on a budget of $8 million, making it the poorest-performing film in the Nightmare series. However, it received positive reviews from film critics, which led to a continuation of the franchise in 2003, Freddy vs. Jason, which was a crossover with the Friday the 13th franchise, and is set in the same continuity as the other Nightmare films.
Heather Langenkamp lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband Chase and their young son Dylan. She is recognized for her role as Nancy Thompson from the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series before focusing her career on television. One night she has a nightmare that her family is attacked by a set of animated Freddy Krueger claws from an upcoming Nightmare film, where two workers are brutally killed on set. Waking up to an earthquake, she spies a cut on Chase's finger exactly like the one he had received in her dream, but she quickly dismisses the notion that it was caused by the claws.
Heather receives a call from an obsessed fan who quotes Freddy Krueger's nursery rhyme in an eerie, Freddy-like voice. This coincides with a meeting she has with New Line Cinema where she is pitched the idea to reprise her role as Nancy in a new Nightmare film, which, unbeknownst to her, Chase has been working on. She returns home, and sees Dylan watching her original film. Nancy interrupts him, and Dylan has a severely traumatizing episode where he screams at her. The frequent calls and Dylan's strange behavior cause her to call Chase. He agrees to rush home from his workplace at Palm Springs as the two men from the opening dream did not report in for work. Chase falls asleep while driving and is slashed by Freddy's claw and dies. His death seems to affect Dylan even further, which concerns Heather's long-time friend and former co-star John Saxon. He suggests she seek medical attention for Dylan and herself after she has a nightmare at Chase's funeral in which Freddy tries to take Dylan away.
Dylan's health continues to deteriorate. He becomes increasingly paranoid about going to sleep, and fears Freddy Krueger, even though Heather has never shown Dylan her films. She visits Nightmare creator Wes Craven, who admits to having precognitive nightmares that the films captured an ancient supernatural entity. The entity is freed after the film series ended with the release of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. In the guise of Freddy it now focuses on Heather, as Nancy, its primary foe, as killing her will allow it into the real world. Freddy actor Robert Englund also has a strange knowledge of it, describing the new Freddy to Heather, and then disappearing from all contact shortly after.
Following another earthquake, Heather takes a traumatized Dylan to the hospital, where Dr. Heffner, suspecting abuse, suggests he remain under observation. Heather returns home for Dylan's stuffed Tyrannosaurus while his babysitter Julie tries unsuccessfully to keep the nurses from sedating the sleep-deprived boy. Dylan falls asleep from the sedative. Freddy brutally kills Julie in Dylan's dream. Capable of sleepwalking, Dylan leaves the hospital of his own accord while Heather chases him home across the interstate as Freddy taunts and dangles him before traffic. On returning home, Heather realizes that Saxon has established his persona as Don Thompson, and her street, the exterior of her house, and her clothes have transformed into Nancy's as reality starts to overlap with Freddy's make-believe realm. When Heather embraces Nancy's role, Freddy emerges completely into reality and abducts Dylan to his world. Heather finds a trail of Dylan's sleeping pills and follows him to a hellish construct of Freddy's boiler room. Freddy fights off Heather and chases Dylan into a furnace. Dylan escapes the furnace, doubles back to Heather, and together they push Freddy into the furnace and light it. This destroys both the monster and his reality.
Dylan and Heather emerge from under his blankets, and Heather finds a copy of the film's events in a screenplay at the foot of the bed. Inside is written thanks from Wes for defeating Freddy and playing Nancy one last time. Her victory helps to imprison the entity of the film franchise's fictitious world once more. Dylan asks if it is a story, and Heather agrees that it is before opening the script and reading from its pages to her son.
- Robert Englund as himself and The Entity / "Freddy Krueger". Englund's performance as Freddy is notably toned down in this film compared to it's predecessors, with less focus on comedic quips and more on the sinister aspect of his character. The Krueger costume was also altered to become darker with more "organic" makeup and a revised glove. In the film, Englund also plays himself as both an actor and painter. According to the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again, a scripted but ultimately unfilmed sequence would have seen Englund transformed into a fly and trapped in the web of a giant "Freddy-spider" in an homage to the 1958 film The Fly. The sequence was not shot due to time and budgetary constraints.
- Heather Langenkamp as herself and Nancy Thompson. Following her initial success in both the original Nightmare on Elm Street and The Dream Warriors, Langenkamp took on the role of Marie Lubbock in the ABC sitcom Just the Ten of Us, however she was later stalked by an obsessed fan who was unhappy the series was cancelled, leading to her temporarily moving to England. In the film, Langenkamp's character is also stalked through harassing phone calls.
- Miko Hughes as Dylan Porter. Hughes plays the son of Heather Langenkamp and Chase Porter whose mental health begins to deteriorate after his encounters with Freddy. Hughes was no stranger to horror films, having previously acted in the role of Gage Creed in the 1989 film Pet Sematary.
- John Saxon as himself and Donald Thompson. Since his previous appearances in the Elm Street films, Saxon had kept himself busy primarily with lower budget movies and TV work; he was keen to appear in New Nightmare as he thought it likely to be the last film in the Elm Street saga. In the film, Saxon plays himself and gives onscreen daughter Langenkamp some advice about how to best treat her son Dylan.
- Tracy Middendorf as Julie. Middendorf plays Julie, Dylan's babysitter and Heather's best friend. According to Middendorf in the Never Sleep Again documentary, she was created in part to act as a red herring regarding Heather's stalker; film editor Patrick Lussier revealed in the same documentary that Julie was originally scripted to be working as an avatar for Freddy but this was ultimately changed to her being killed by him. Julie's death mimics that of Tina Grey from the original film, with a rotating room again being used to simulate Freddy dragging her across the ceiling.
- David Newsom as Chase Porter. In the film, Newsom plays Chase Porter, Heather's husband and a special effects artist working for New Line Cinema. The role of Chase was originally offered to Heather Langenkamp's real life husband David LeRoy Anderson but he declined as it would be "too close to the bone". Newsom recalled in 2010 how he looked nothing like a typical special effects artists who tended to be bigger than him with longer hair.
- Fran Bennett as Dr. Christine Heffner. Bennett, an accomplished film and theatre actress, plays Dr Heffner who initially suspects that Heather may be inadvertently harming her child herself. Wes Craven named Bennett's character after former MPAA ratings chief Richard Heffner, with whom he had clashed many times over the censorship of his films.
- Wes Craven as himself. Director Craven initially scripted himself as a man driven insane by nightmares, who had cut off his own eyelids to stay awake and was being driven by Michael Berryman's character from The Hills Have Eyes. Craven decided to opt for a more comforting setting of being in a opulent house in the Hollywood Hills.
- Robert Shaye as himself. Shaye appears as himself in order to convince Heather Langenkamp to take part in the new Nightmare on Elm Street film. Shaye would later remark in the Never Sleep Again documentary, "I don't think I did a particularly good job, but I was okay". Shaye had previously appeared as a bartender at an S&M themed bar in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, as a ticket seller in Freddy's Dead and a funeral minister in the Freddy's Nightmares episode "Killer Instinct" (credited as L.E Moko).
- Marianne Maddalena as herself
- Sam Rubin as himself
- Sara Risher as herself
- Claudia Haro as a New Line Cinema receptionist
- Matt Winston and Rob LaBelle as Charles "Chuck" Wilson and Terrance "Terry" Feinstein, two special effects workers
- W. Earl Brown as Morgue attendant
- Lin Shaye as Nurse with pill; Shaye played the teacher in the original film and, according to Never Sleep Again, was pleased to return as another "generic public servant".
- Nick Corri as himself; Corri played Rod in the original film and is silently present during the funeral scene.
- Tuesday Knight as herself; Knight played Kristen Parker in the fourth film and is silently present during the funeral scene.
Written under the working title A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: The Ascension, Wes Craven set out to make a deliberately more cerebral film than recent entries to the franchise—which he regarded as being cartoonish, and not faithful to his original themes. The basic premise originated when Craven first signed on to co-write Dream Warriors, but New Line Cinema rejected it then.
In New Nightmare, Krueger was portrayed closer to what Craven had imagined: darker and less comical. To reinforce this, the character's make-up and outfit were enhanced, with one of the most prominent differences being that he now wears a long blue/black trenchcoat. In addition, the signature glove was redesigned for a more organic look, with the fingers resembling bones and having muscle textures in between. While Robert Englund again plays the character, "Freddy Krueger" is credited as "Himself" in the end credits.
While earthquake scenes were already written into the film from the beginning, production of the film happened to take place concurrently with the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles. As such, the production team decided to incorporate real footage of the earthquake's structural damage into the film.
Craven had intended to ask Johnny Depp, whose feature film debut was in the first film, to make an appearance as himself, but was too timid to ask him. Upon running into each other after the film's release, Depp said he would have been happy to do it.
Craven kept most of the wardrobe from the first film as souvenirs before New Line Cinema threw them all away, and reused some of it for New Nightmare. Notably, during the talk show stage scene Englund donned his original Freddy costume except the original glove, which has been missing after the filming of the first film (and thus Englund was wearing a replica of it from one of the previous sequel films).
Both New Line Executive Sara Risher and director Craven said that the shoot was relatively easy and free from complications. Reflecting on the filming in Never Sleep Again some sixteen years after the movie was released, Risher commented "all of the other directors had to be guided through but Wes by then was the master". The film's self-referential style would be explored further in the following year's Scream, also directed by Craven.
The film was made for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the original film's release. Both New Nightmare and the 1995 comedy film Tommy Boy were dedicated to the production designer of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Gregg Fonseca (1952 - 1994), who died shortly before the release of New Nightmare.
On the film's opening weekend it made $6.6 million, ranking number 3 at the box office. It went on to gross $19.8 million worldwide, making it the poorest-performing film in the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series. In the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again, it is suggested that the film opening against Pulp Fiction may also have damaged its potential box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, 79% of 41 reviews were positive; the average rating is 6.38/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Wes Craven's New Nightmare adds an unexpectedly satisfying - not to mention intelligent - meta layer to a horror franchise that had long since lost its way." Several critics have subsequently said that New Nightmare could be regarded as a prelude to the Scream series—both sets of films deal with the idea of bringing horror films to "real life", and both were directed by Wes Craven.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave New Nightmare three stars out of four and said, "I haven't been exactly a fan of the Nightmare series, but I found this movie, with its unsettling questions about the effect of horror on those who create it, strangely intriguing." Ebert's review partner Gene Siskel was less complementary of the film, giving it a thumbs-down rating on Siskel & Ebert and stating that it was "campy" and he didn't find Freddy a particularly compelling villain.
Kevin Sommerfield from the horror website Slasher Studios gave it four out of four stars and said, "New Nightmare is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, led by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp. The script has many twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series."
After a good, gory opening, in which Freddy's glove—newly designed with sinews and muscles—slashes the throat of the special-effects guy who's been working on it, the movie succumbs to a kind of sterile inertia. Wes Craven's New Nightmare isn't about Freddy haunting a film set, which actually might have been fun. It's about Heather Langenkamp, star of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, being menaced for two long, slow hours by earthquakes, cracks in the wall, and other weary portents of doom.
In a retrospective review, Vinnie Mancuso from Collider singled out the film as "Craven's meta-horror masterpiece".
New Nightmare is Robert Englund's favorite Nightmare movie: "I think it stands the test of time, a fun reunion with original cast members like Heather and John Saxon. Wes's script is clever and original, the self-referencial horror story." Heather Langenkamp is also very supportive of the movie, saying, "I was just really shocked that I was in the movie so much, I had totally forgotten I was the star of that movie. It was interesting because all my scenes are kind of alone, and I was acting against this tension and this idea of Freddy that we all had at that time. We all knew what I was afraid of and that Freddy might be back, but you never really saw Freddy that much, and I was really amazed that the movie was about Wes [Craven] creating this relationship with that idea that Freddy is here, and the audience has it too. It's a really interesting concept, and it's one of the only horror movies where the monster's really in the background, at least until the end. But it's all about our mentality about fear."
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