Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
Plot: A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?
The series is dead. Freddy's Dead was made specifically to kill it off for good. Not even 3 years later, Wes Craven had an idea. What if, instead of dreams overlapping with the waking world, what if the ANOES film series overlapped with reality?
The movie starts with a very similar opening to the original ANOES, with a man in a red and green sweater building a mechanical hand with knives on its finger tips. Then the man chops his hand off and...the cameras pull back to reveal a movie set. Wes Craven is making a new Freddy movie. One of the prop makers for the movie happens to be married to Heather Langenkamp, who is reprising her role as Nancy in the new movie. Heather does not like the new Freddy glove, which is twitching due to being shorted out by blood from the scene. Then it comes to life and stabs this dude in the fucking throat. Some demented Thing shit . It carves up another dude, and Heather's son, Dylan disappears on set. As the hand goes for Chase, Heather wakes up. It was all a dream, you see, had during a powerful earthquake. Chase wakes up with a cut in the same spot that he was cut in Heather's dream. In theory, this was the Northridge earthquake of 1994, and actual footage of the destruction was used in the movie. Weirdly, in one of the background shots at the movie studio, you can see the mold from 5 when Alice and Freddy were fused together.
We find that Heather has a stalker, which is making her have nightmares. Chase is leaving for 2 days for a commercial shoot, and Heather has a meeting. Aftershocks continue, and the wall cracks in the shape of Freddy's claw marks. Downstairs, Dylan is watching ANOES 1, and he FREAKS THE FUCK OUT when Heather turns it off. Then the phone rings, and he chills out immediately. But it's THE STALKER! It's DDP! "Someone's coming." Creepy ass kid. Another aftershock. Weird shit going on in LA. I would love to believe this is Heather's actual house, made from her highly successful career as an actor in two ANOES movies and a handful of things you've never heard of. Between ANOES 3 and this, the biggest thing she had done was 5 episodes of Grown Pains...as two different characters. Dylan wants Heather to stay home today. He's going to stay home with Julie the nanny today.
Heather is taken to a talk show. On the way, the limo driver manages to shit on the entire series after part 1. Lol. I SEE YOU, WES. He did the same thing in Scream. 1 ain't even the best of the series, breh. Anyway, Heather is doing an interview for the 10th anniversary of the first movie. The host gets weird about her personal life, then introduces Robert Englund. SWERVE! IT'S FREDDY! Fucking dying at the Jay Leno version of the Nightmare theme for his entrance. "You are all my children now!" Sweet ANOES 2 call back. The only real call back to it in the series. Heather is clearly not comfortable with any of this. This is also the last appearance of the "classic" Freddy. Sara Risher from New Line Cinema calls Nancy, and she's off to a meeting.
Heather meets Bob at New Line's HQ. This is already weird. Bob had cameos in most of the movies, and now he finally has a real role as himself. And his office is mostly filled with Freddy memorabilia. He pitches her the idea of making the DEFINITIVE Nightmare movie. Wes is on board and writing the script as they speak. In fact, he hadn't called Bob for a decade because he hadn't had any really scary nightmares. Heather isn't super comfortable with the idea and seems to kind of turn it down. Chase has been working on a prototype for a new glove. It's been kept secret from Heather until this meeting. How weird that she was having a nightmare about a new ANOES movie the night before she went to have a meeting that was about a new ANOES movie. HOW WEIRD.
When Heather returns home, Dylan is again freaking the fuck out, then drops the "never sleep again" tag line from the original movie. His t-rex doll has been cut in the same shape as Freddy's claws. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?!?! As it turns out, Chase was lying to Heather about what he was working on. He's on the set of a new ANOES movie. And the two guys that got killed in Heather's dream on the set of the movie? They didn't show up for work today. Chase decides to leave the set to check on Dylan. OH SHIT, THE GLOVE WENT MISSING! Heather reads Hansel and Gretel to Dylan. Dylan knows the story by heart. The actual Brothers Grimm version. Which is kind of creepy since he's like 6. It creeps Heather out, too. That t-rex doll? His name is Rex, and he protects Dylan from the mean old man with the claws who wants to come up while he sleeps. Chase drives home, bust starts to doze as he's driving. In a normal ANOES movie, that means he's fucked. True to form, Freddy's glove pops out of the seat and stabs the fuck out of him, causing him to wreck. But then Heather wakes up, so maybe it was just a dream. OR WAS IT?! It was not. Police show up moments later to inform her of Chase dying in a wreck. Heather goes to the morgue and sees Chase's body for herself...which has giant claw marks on his torso. Kind of like Freddy claws. HMMMM.
Chase's funeral is a cameo-fest, with actors and crew from multiple movies making brief appearances. A big wind storm/after shock shakes Chase's casket, which makes Heather dive after it, but she trips on Rex and hits her head. Fucking Rex! Dylan goes missing, and suddenly, there is a familiar laugh. It's FREDDY! Freddy has Dylan! But he looks...different. He's been lifting. Sweet delts, Fred. Even his face looks more muscular. John Saxton, who played Nancy's father in ANOES 1 and 3, is the one to calm her down. Later that night, Dylan again ends up watching ANOES 1. BUT THE TV WAS STILL UNPLUGGED! He again freaks the fuck out. Dylan does the nursery rhyme and says he heard it not from the movie, but from under his bed. The mean man with the claw is trying to come into OUR world.
John takes over in a fatherly role for Heather, and the two chat while Dylan is at a playground. Heather reveals that mental illness runs in her family. Her biggest fear is that she has passed it on to Dylan. The same Dylan who climbs to the top of a playground rocket and jumps/falls off. "God wouldn't take me." Creepy ass kid you got, Heather. Nancy gets another letter from her stalker, which is a burned letter in a paper, of which she had a lot of. Just a reminder, the previous movie in this series had Freddy kill a guy in a video game while making Power Glove references, do some Bugs Bunny gags, and do a full on Wicked Witch of the West parody. Now, we have a movie about the making of a new ANOES movie, actors from the movies having Freddy nightmares, and a 6 year old with a severe mental disturbance.
Heather calls Robert Englund. She tells him she's been having Freddy nightmares. Robert instinctively knows that Freddy is darker and more evil in Heather's dreams. When she asks about Wes' script, he tells her that Wes got as far as, "Dylan trying to reach God". How spooky. During the call, Robert is painting. And it's a weird ass Freddy painting. 2SPOOKY4ME.
Heather goes to bed, with Freddy's new glove ripping through her sheets. She wakes up when her cutlery drawer falls in the kitchen, but her sheets are still ripped. Dylan is still being creepy, doing the nursery rhyme, and now having taped the fallen knives to his fingers like he's Freddy. Not only that, he actually comes after Heather with them. OH SHIT! But it was just another nightmare. Whew. When she wakes up, Dylan is still doing the nursery rhyme and walking around the burned letters, which say "Answer The Phone". OH SHIT. "Ha ha ha. I touched him!" Freddy's tongue comes out of the phone again! Dylan again freaks the fuck out, foaming at the mouth. The phone also foams. Naturally, Heather checks him into a clinic.
There, Dylan continues to be a weird ass kid, and Heather isn't that that far off from being as weird, tbh. She won't tell the doctor about the Freddy shit, and the doctor knows she's hiding something. She goes to see Wes to find out about this ANOES script he's writing. He doesn't know where it's going. He's just writing down his dreams. But one thing has become clear to him: Throughout history, there has been this force, this evil force, that, from to to time, can be captured by storytellers. Sometimes, the story can get watered down over time, or told too many times, or the story itself gets banned, so that force is set free. And in Wes' view, the character of Freddy Krueger has held that force in check for the past decade. But now that the series has gone dormant, the force, as Freddy, is crossing over into the real world. 2META4ME. And because Heather played Nancy, she's the the gatekeeper, as it were. Wes thinks the only way to stop this force is to make a new ANEOS movie, but the things he's been writing in his script are happening in the real world. In fact, this whole scene was revealed to have been scripted word for word already. This is some high brow shit for a horror movie. Actually, it's not that crazy. I think you could make this same movie without the ANOES stuff and it would still work. It just adds an extra layer to it all.
As Heather does research on sleeping disorders, her TV keeps turning on to a news story about two special effects crew members from the new ANOES movie being found dead in a field. Then, another earthquake. Heather checks the closest and OH SHIT IT'S FREDDY! "Miss me?" It plays out almost exactly like the bed room scene in the first movie. Another aftershock sends him away, but not before he sliced her arm. She goes back to the hospital to check on Dylan. Julie is also there, because she had a bad dream about Dylan. The doctor sees the cuts on Nancy's arm and immediately assumes it was a suicide attempt. Something did happen to Dylan, though. He's in an oxygen tent for the night. What actually happened was left unsaid. Then, naturally, Heather dozes off, so Dylan starts speaking in Freddy's voice before projectile vomiting on her. And then the doctor turns into Freddy. "Almost there."
As if shit wasn't weird already, Heather finds herself repeating lines from the original movie, and even gets the streak of gray in her hair. She leaves to get Rex, but is taken by hospital security. Dylan is left with Julie, who is under strict orders to not let him fall asleep. Naturally, two nurses come in and give him a sneak attack shot to sedate him, so Julie punches that smug bitch right in the face. "Hey! You can't do THAT!" Amazing delivery of that line. Dylan dozes, which means Freddy pops up to recreate Tina's death scene from the original movie. But in the real world. And we actually see him do some of the dragging up the walls/ceiling this time. As it turns out, Dylan's sleep walking has him trying to cross the highway to make it back home. Freddy dangles him over cars, Heather gets hit by one. But they make it home. John Saxton is there waiting, and suddenly, they're back in the movie universe. Heather is Nancy, John is Lt. Thompson, and Freddy is back. Not only that, she's back at 1428 Elm. SWERVE!
Dylan left the trail of breadcrumbs in the form of the pills he wasn't taking at the hospital. Nancy takes one and enters the dream world, which might actually be hell this time. While down there, she finds a copy of the script, reading the very scene she's in. Freddy tries to shove her face into a pool of snakes, but she grabs one and shoves it in his eye. I mean...snakes are kind of bendy. She stabbed him in the eye with a snake and it stuck. "FUCK YOU!" Dylan stabs Freddy in the back of the knee before Freddy can kill Nancy. Or Heather. Which one is she now? Is that even important? Probably not. Dylan runs away, and the only place he can hide in is a furnace. Freddy just stretches and tries to EAT HIM. Nancy shows up just in time to stab Freddy in the dick. They shove Freddy in, and before he dies, he turns into what might be the devil. Or at least that ancient force of evil. And it looked so absurdly bad. No idea how that stayed in the movie in that form. Hell explodes, and Heather/Dylan wake up at home. "We're saved. The witch is dead." The script followed them. Nancy reads it, which, again, is of the scene they're in. And then she starts from the top to read the story to Dylan.
So...a lot of stuff to unpack here. Freddy being the container for an ancient evil is pretty neat. The idea of Wes needing to make another ANOES movie so the spirit didn't get out is neat. The earthquakes being caused by Freddy breaking into the real world. The evil force in general using its Freddy container and therefore Freddy's powers in the real world. It's kind of weird that this movie is always talked about as Freddy jumping into the real world, when there is a pretty lengthy scene of Wes himself telling you the plot of the movie. This movie isn't about Freddy coming into the real world. It's about an ancient evil that had been stuck like a genie in a lamp by the vessel of the Freddy Krueger character, but was now escaping since the film series had stopped. And as a result, the evil took on the form of Freddy and was haunting Heather Langenkamp, because she was the avatar of Nancy, who gave Freddy his first defeat. But it's not Freddy. That should be really clear, but it isn't for some, I guess.
It's not even that heady of a concept, but it is for a horror movie. This is for sure the best "real movie", the most serious, the most thought provoking, and most technically proficient movie of the series. Just the whole idea that all those scary stories you heard as a kid were about a true evil, and telling the stories kept it trapped in that guise until a new story came along. This is reinforced multiple times throughout the movie, mostly with Hansel and Gretel, but also with allusions to Nosferatu and other classic works of horror. It is also shown that what is inside of Freddy is truly a force of nature, as the earthquakes coincide with the spirit breaking through into the real world.
And in a way, it elevates the genre of horror to a noble cause, and story tellers to be heroes that keep the world safe by keeping the evil contained to their stories. I like it a lot. It's a more interesting concept than that of "guy gets burned alive, comes back to kill kids in their dreams", really. At its core, the Freddy story is really just a ghost story with some fresh paint on it. In this movie, Wes tells a Lovecraftian story about an ancient evil contained and controlled from the world only by the magic of storytelling. Top notch.