New Line Cinema
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Produced by Michael De Luca, Michael N. Knue, Robert Shaye and Aron Warner
Screenplay by Michael De Luca
Based on a story by Rachel Talalay
Based on character created by Wes Craven
By the time we get to FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, Freddy Krueger has been around for eight years now and he’s simply no longer scary at all. How could he be? By this time Freddy has appeared in rap/music videos, hosted his own horror anthology TV show and his face appears on lunch boxes, kid’s pajamas (which shows you how loopy merchandising can get since Freddy Krueger is a killer of children) T-shirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses, tote bags, bumper stickers, oven mitts in the shape of his famous bladed glove…I think you get the point. By 1991 Freddy Krueger has been marketed up the yin yang and Robert Englund is appearing on award shows and talks shows as Freddy joking and clowning, breakdancing and riding skateboards. So when you no longer take a horror icon seriously anymore, what’s left to do? Turn him into a live action cartoon, that’s what.
Peter Jackson wrote an unused screenplay for this movie in which Freddy Krueger was now perceived by teenagers as not being a threat at all and treated as a joke. In fact, his script had kids taking sleeping pills just so they could go into the dreamworld and beat up on Freddy. That would certainly have been better than what we got in FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE which for most of its running time is more Looney Tunes than Wes Craven.
Set ten years after the end of the previous film, we’re told that Freddy Krueger has killed off every last child and teenager in Springwood, Ohio and the remaining adults who still live there have pretty much gone insane from grief. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty depressing opening for the movie as what’s happened is that clearly Freddy has won. None of the battles, sacrifices and deaths of the characters in the previous movies have meant a thing because ultimately, Freddy got what he wanted. But now he needs to get out of Springwood and he needs one more very special child to do so. That child just may be John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) who wakes up in a youth shelter with nothing but caffeine pills and an old newspaper clipping of a missing woman named Loretta Krueger.
John comes under the care of case worker Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) and dream specialist Doc (Yaphet Kotto) who also work with other troubled teens such as Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) who was physically abused by his mother so badly he lost his hearing one one ear. Spencer ( Breckin Meyer) is a pothead. Mainly to piss off her control freak father. Tracy (Lezlie Deane) uses boxing and martial arts as a way of controlling the rage stemming from the sexual abuse she suffered at her father’s hands. Maggie herself has her own issues in the form of recurring nightmares about Springwood and that, along the article John Doe suggests to her that they should take a trip to the town to get some answers for both their problems. Carlos, Spencer and Tracy hide in the back of the van and all of them end up in Springwood where Freddy awaits with the secret of who the final Springwood child is and reveals his master plan to escape Springwood and kill more children because as he puts it in the movie’s only chilling line: “Every town has an Elm Street…”
This is the one that everybody remembers mainly because of the cameo appearances by Elinor Donahue, Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper (as Freddy Krueger’s abusive stepdad) Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr (who are billed in this movie…no lie…as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Tom Arnold’) and it’s a shame because Lisa Zane’s (Billy’s older sister) performance is really good and deserves to have a better movie to be in. She, Yaphet Kotto and Robert Englund are really the only performances to watch out for as they commit to the material and give it all it’s worth. Even though here Freddy Krueger is definitely a cartoon character (the scene where he kills Spencer by video game is cringe worthy) Robert Englund is obviously trying his best to work with what he’s got.
But it’s scenes like this and where he shows up as The Wicked Witch of The West that neutralizes the good ones such as where he replaces Carlos’ hearing aid with one that amplifies his hearing to the the point where the dropping of a handful of nails sounds to poor Carlos like explosions going off in his head. That’s the old sadistic Freddy we used to know and love at work there. Or the one where Carlos is dreaming he’s opening up a road map and it keeps on opening and opening and opening until he’s suffocating from the road map filling up the entire back of the van.
And it’s surprising to me that Rachel Talalay directed this one in such a slapdash silly manner as she’s been associated with every “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie from the beginning as a producer. One would think that she would know the character inside and out and come up with a truly knockout “last movie” in the series. But she obviously was more interested in the getting to the 3D sequence that is the climax of the movie complete with “dream demons” that supposedly explain Freddy’s supernatural powers and were undoubtedly pulled outta the same hat George Lucas got his “midichlorians” to explain The Force.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE is the one movie I would truly point at as being the real clunker of the series. I can only recommend it being watched if you’ve already watched all the other movies in the series already. Fortunately, despite the title, it wasn’t the last and the next two Freddy Kreuger movies would more than make up for this one.