Thursday, October 23, 2014

The MONTH of HORROR - Day 23: Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Such an odd, odd movie--I'd actually forgotten how bizarre it is but I've been freshly reminded once again! I've seen the whole "film within a film" concept done a bunch of times but never quite like this where it seriously alters the entire series before it, and I'm honestly not too sure what I think about it. Is it clever at times? Yeah, it has its moments. Are there half decent scares? A few here and there. The big question I have to ask though, after all is said and done is: what was the point?

I get that Wes Craven felt that he needed to breathe new life into the franchise that he kicked off over a decade earlier, to make it relevant once more however 'A New Nightmare' uses a very heavy hand whilst venturing into self-referential territory, and I just don't think it works. Freddy Krueger is a cinematic villain, he exists on film, and is always effectively played by Robert Englund, so don't try to tell me he's real. I love the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' universe, and I feel like it was a mistake taking the viewer out of it, and instead into the real Hollywood world where the actual actors who portray some of our favourite characters throughout the series are now front and centre. Heather Langenkamp is awesome but she's Nancy, our heroine from the first film--she is not Heather. The same goes for John Saxon (Nancy's father), and Robert Englund. The idea of a horror movie surrounding the actual actors, and filmmakers responsible for a popular film series' success is a fun one but it's tricky, and I don't think it was a successful risk for Craven.

When i'm told that these are all just actors who portrayed our favourite characters in any kind of film universe, obviously I'm well aware of that but when I'm beaten over the head with it repeatedly, it's actually harmful towards the history of the franchise. Movies like these are all about escapism, you're a fan of the genre so it's a pleasure to disappear into one for a couple hours at a time, that's a big reason why we watch them. When, for the sake of the story, I'm supposed to convince myself that none of that matters anymore, that it's all just smoke and mirrors, not only does it feel mildly insulting but it also removes any stakes whatsoever, and becomes slightly boring. "Oh, it's okay, Freddy isn't real, he's just an actor--no WAIT! He IS real! But not really. Well, he's sort of real". The different realities are in constant conflict, and after awhile it just stops making sense, and becomes irritating.

I feel like I should take a step back here, quit dumping on the concept, and say that there are still some entertaining parts scattered throughout. Freddy is Freddy, and no matter what, he'll always be a great, and iconic villain. There's a terrific set piece toward the end on a busy L.A. highway at night that I thought was quite well staged. You still get some fairly cool kills, although none are particular standouts. Lastly, it's kind of funny to see Wes Craven playing himself, explaining that he's actually scared of horror movies, and they give him nightmares. Har dee har har. 'New Nightmare' is a mediocre watch, and one I can't see myself re-visiting too often down the road--I bet I'll end up watching 'Dream Child' even more, and that one stinks!

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