Thursday, April 10, 2014

Movie Review: Wes Craven's New Nightmare

After the disaster that was Freddy's Dead, Wes Craven was openly embarrassed of how the nightmare series has turned out. After six films and endless product placement, Freddy Krueger is now a total joke. So it was up to Mr. Craven to bring back the intelligence that the series needed. So he got the opportunity to produce a script he been working on for a decade. It was intended to be a third film but further negotiations went by and it later became Dream Warriors instead. A couple of sequels later and FINALLY, Wes Craven gets to turn the series around with his clever writing and ingenious directing. Some people may think Wes Craven isn't the greatest of directors. When he's bad, he's almost terrible. But when he's good, he's great. And I think this is one of his finest hours.
The plot follows actress Heather Lagenkamp and her family. As strange events occurs, including dreams that are almost too real and creepy phone calls. But things start to unravel, when the very movie role she tries to escape from come back to haunt her....literally. And beyond a suspense of disbelief, it seems that the character of Freddy Krueger is emerging into the real world to take over her life.....and her family.
While some people were confused by the psychological aspect of the story and garnered a mixed reaction, I thought  it was a big step up to the series and put it back into it's right place. It also made Freddy scary again. Although I don't find this movie terrifying, it has great suspense while being well-acted and well-structured.

 The cast is top-notch, even including Wes Craven who did an alright performance. You could actually feel a special connection between the cast fresh from working together again in a ten year reunion.

This is probably Heather Lagenkamp's  best performance. It is shown that over the years, she has grown into a more mature, competent actress. In the first movie, there were times where she was a little shaky but ultimately gave a decent performance. In the third movie, there were times where she did try to pull through but came off a bit stiff and bland. But in this movie, this is where she really comes into her own and giving a versatility and vulnerability to her character....which is herself. Once we are introduced to her, we see that she's not living a glamorous Hollywood mansion, she's actually has a humble, stable home life with her family and is pretty much uncomfortable by the fame she got from playing the role of Nancy. Most of her worries comes from her recently being harassed by a stalker who leaves creepy phone calls. She fears that her iconic role would ultimately consume her life as that is the only role that everybody knows her in, which is why she took a step down from doing any mainstream films. But then her life takes a tragic turn, once her husband is killed and her son, Dylan, begins to go into a strange psychosis.

Once she uncovers the mystery surrounding the strange events and her son's behavior, it all pieces the puzzle when after 6 films, the "real" Freddy Krueger is trying to step out of the real world. So in order to get back to the life she once had, she must, reluctantly, play Nancy one last time.....

Child Actor Miko Hughes is a bit hit or miss. He has his good moments and he has his really bad moments, especially in the scenes where he tries to act "creepy."

But there were moments between him and Heather Lagenkamp that was very heartfelt. It's always shocking in horror films when the monster tries to corrupt the child. I thought that was one of the more scarier aspects of the movie, which is even more scarier that Freddy Krueger was a child murderer. What Dylan represents is the terrified child in all of us, who would always check under the bed to see if there's a monster lurking. And I was definitely one of them.

Although we don't see much of Heather's husband Chase played by the very handsome David Newsom, though as much as we do see him, he is very sweet, charming, and is very protective of his family. Even though he gets killed early on, Wes Craven manages to make a likeable character out of Chase.

Which makes his death all the more sad, not only the fact that he's really sympathetic, but also being a devoted husband and father.

At first, I really didn't get why Julie, the babysitter was introduced into the story. At first, I thought she was a friend of Heather's, but she seems to be a normal college-aged woman who's only JUST the babysitter. In the early draft of the script, she was originally supposed to be a pawn of Freddy since she does, of course, have a mystery about her since we really don't know anything about the character at this point, but later this idea was scrapped and she becomes the hero of the movie by punching a few nurses or two.

But unfortunately, Julie is then killed by an invisible Freddy, which is a chilling replay of Tina's death:

It's good to see John Saxon again, this time playing himself as a true, honest friend to Heather. You can see that Heather sees him as a father figure and is much more understanding and meaningful than the character he plays.

And then there's good o'l Robert England playing well...his good o'l self. He is very normal, nice guy who seen to have embraced the character he created. But deep inside, it shows he is somewhat haunted by the monster he portrays on film. The scene where he is painting a horrifying portrait of Freddy surrounded by his collected souls, the look on his face tells how much he is frightened by the essence of Freddy, showing that he as well as Heather is trapped by the shadow of his infamous role. This is probably one of the more effective scenes in the movie.

Lastly, there is Wes Craven, in his first acting role, no less. He's pretty much there to give exposition, so I'm going to focus on Wes Craven the character, not Wes Craven the actor. Once he and the rest of the cast and crew becomes haunted by the presence of Freddy, he is mortified of what's happening and tries to do what's right by writing a script that's too real to comprehend. Now to be honest, I wish Wes Craven should've put more emotion into his role. I mean, he's a writer/director who's unfinished script is coming to life. he should be freaking out. But no. He sits nonchalantly in his lavish mansion, living like a king. The scene they should've shown was him in a darkened room, windows taped shut, paranoid and scared out of his mind. I think that would've been more effective and capture the fear of what's happening.

And now what you all been waiting for....Freddy Krueger. And he is just as scary as he was in the original. Most of the complaints from fans came from how Freddy didn't have enough screen time. And quite frankly, that's a GOOD thing. What was so great about the first movie was that even though Freddy isn't in most of the scenes, he still is this haunting presence that cripple his victims, emotionally and physically, Which happens a lot in this movie and is used very well. And this all works, having Freddy in the shadows and given less screen time. It makes him more scary and mysterious. Having him in the spotlight while being the star of his own show, will lose the effect and quality of the film. the fans can disagree all they want about his but I like it this way.

There is also a twist to the whole Freddy mythology. The catch is, it isn't really Freddy after all. It is ancient evil that manifests himself into the fictional character. It's better than it sounds. But I thought this was a cool concept and set the story in motion.

The look and design on Freddy might be a mix reaction for most of the fans but I really liked it. The makeup is definitely a step up from the last movie and also like the long coat along with the green hat, giving Freddy this sleek badass look.

Now to the special effects. They are done really well and still holds up to this day. But what really makes it effective is there is less much of it. What the sequels did wrong was that it was used too much of them, which made the films less scary. Wes Craven went back to basics on this one and focused on suspense, tension, and build-up, which is the key ingredients for a horror film.

Now most people might disagree with on this, but I thought the climax was pretty cool. Freddy's lair was structured brilliantly. It's sort of like going into his hell dimension, which was interesting. One of the elements that Wes Craven used was the Hansel and Gretel theme which work well into the story, giving the movie a dark fairy tale twist, adding on to the creepy ominous atmosphere.
Now for the trivia. As you know, the earthquake scenes are sort of a foreshadowing to the story. what's even more eerie, is that an earthquake actually happen in early 1994. You can see some of the damage in the scene where Heather is on her way to meet Wes Craven.

In the funeral scene, you can point out actor Jsu Garcia, (Who's looking sexier than ever I might add), who played Rod and the actress Tuesday Knight who played Kristen in Dream Master. Wes Craven wanted to ask Johnny Depp to do the funeral scene as well, but hesitated. It would be years later, where Johnny said he would've obliged. And that's very much true, since he did do a cameo in Freddy's Dead.....And that's a terrible movie.

The doctor who is a total bitch to Heather is actually based on Richard Hefner, the head of the MPAA, who was gung-ho about censoring horror films back in the 80's.

The snarky nurse, who is quite funny actually, is played by Wes Craven's daughter.

Heather Lagenkamp actually did have a stalker, which is pretty scary when you think about it.

Although certain fans and critics praised the film, it was a box office flop and I think at the time, horror fans wanted more than just a compelling story or maybe it was the fact people just got tired of Freddy, without knowing that it's not same wisecracking, annoying jokester in the sequels.
Yes! Finally took Wes Craven to save the series from it's falling grace. The movie blends in well with it's mix of horror and drama while also sending nods to other great horror films including the original. With it's investing characters, complex storyline, and suspenseful, hair-raising moments, Wes Craven's New Nightmare is definitely my #1 favorite nightmare sequel.
My last word: Go watch it. Right now.

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