The fifth sequel. Not something to get the mind brimming with excitement, no matter how big a fan you are of the franchise in question. The sixth film in a long running series could go one way or the other.
Looking at horror franchises, you’ve got 1986’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, which is a fine example of a sequel done right. By taking things up a notch and turning the titular character, Jason Vorhees, into practically a zombie, it made the film and the following entries in the series more exciting despite them admittedly being a mixed bag overall. A not so good example is 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Only notable for the big screen debut of the ever popular Paul Rudd, The Curse of Michael Myers carries on the plotline first created in 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, but instead of taking the legendary “boogeyman” in a scary new direction it turned out to be a more boring, generic direction, unfortunately.
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But what of the other big horror franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street? The NOES film series had become the biggest of all the 80’s horror franchises; its first part in 1984 is now a stone cold horror classic, and villain Freddy Krueger a horror icon. But like the above, it suffered from inconsistencies regarding the series’ entries, so when it was decided that 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare would be the last entry in the hit horror franchise, horror fans everywhere were excited to see how Freddy’s evil reign in the dream world would end and whether Freddy would go out with a bang or a whimper.
Released in the UK in January 1992 to mostly negative reviews, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare concerns child psychologist Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) joining forces with the troubled teenagers she is supporting to help track down the infamous Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Of course, things are never easy and with Freddy involved death is inevitable for anyone that gets in his way. This time around there’s an interesting twist to the story, as Freddy had a child with his former wife Loretta (Lyndsey Fields) and that child is a member of the team tracking him down. This does help to keep the film interesting to a point, but the main issue appears to be with Freddy Krueger himself rather than the actual film – despite Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare not exactly being a very good film anyway.
Up until NOES’s third entry, the brilliantly entertaining A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Freddy Krueger was a dark and dangerous demonic entity of sorts. An immortal being in the form of a man that can enter your dreams and nightmares at will and brutally take your life. In Dream Warriors, Freddy started to make little puns and one-liners in order to toy with his victims. In this instance it worked as the mix between horror and comedy was near perfect. As was Dokken’s classic 80’s rock theme song.
As the series progressed, Freddy became more comedic, and by the time we reach The Final Nightmare Freddy Krueger was pretty much a pantomime villain. Examples include Freddy doing a “wicked witch of the west” routine on a broomstick during a nightmare sequence. Which, although this might seem fun to some, takes away what made Freddy so damn scary in the first place. The occasional pun here and there is one thing, and of course dreams in general can be pretty ridiculous, but for Freddy if there’s any laughter we want nervous laughter, not full on, heads back laughter. Also, while toying with a young Breckin Meyers’ Spencer Lewis by bringing him into a video game and just messing around in general while praising the game’s “great graphics”, you just want – or expect – Freddy to destroy Spencer at this point, the toying with victims becoming over-the-top and slightly frustrating.
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In the film’s and Freddy Krueger’s defense, Freddy does appear to own his world now and is free to do what he wants, so if he wants to make silly jokes and take as long as possible to kill his victims then that’s his choice. But the initial darkness is truly missed by this point, and as much fun as Robert Englund might have had here, (and make no mistake, Englund still owns the role of Freddy Krueger no matter how bad the overall film), you just miss the dark brutality of the early Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
But there are a few positives in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare to make it worth a watch. Alongside Robert Englund as the always enigmatic Freddy Krueger, Lezlie Deane is great as kick-ass Kung-Fu babe Tracy, one of the troubled team looking for Freddy. Her nightmare scene, involving her dark past with her father and eventual fight with Freddy is a highlight of the film. Rock legend Alice Cooper also makes a brief appearance as Freddy’s dad, in an effective flashback scene with a young Freddy played by Tobe Sexton. It was good to see Alice relishing his role as an abusive parent, even for just a few minutes.
Johnny Depp returns briefly in a dream sequence. An acknowledgement perhaps to the series that gave Depp his Hollywood breakthrough in 1984 when he stared in NOES’s first movie. The soundtrack is also pretty decent, with three songs from former punk rockers-turned-arena rock goods the Goo Goo Dolls and other hard rocking acts such as Fates Warning and Iron Butterfly, which is always a welcome addition to any film. Also nice to see was a nod to David Lynch’s classic TV series Twin Peaks, when one of the characters mentions that the weird, small town they have ended up in is like the surreal town in Lynch’s influential show. Director Rachel Talalay has mentioned in interviews how much of a fan she is of Twin Peaks so had to get a mention of it in Freddy’s Dead somewhere.
As director of Freddy’s Dead, Rachel Talalay deserves some credit for her vision. Working on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise for several years, being a producer of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master, suggests Talalay has love for the series, and has clearly tried her best to make it work. And to be fair, it’s not a complete disaster, despite Talalay saying in an interview that she is not a fan of the final scene. A 3D scene that was perhaps thought up to bring in audiences, falls flat as it simply looks dated watching it back, doesn’t add any effectiveness in terms of scares or tension, and feels like a gimmick. A shame as the intention would have been to have Freddy go out with a memorable and big ending, but instead it’s a bit of a damp squib. That aside, Freddy’s Dead still has moments scattered throughout that help you remember why you fell in love with the series in the first place. Despite them being few and far between.
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Making 34.9 million US dollars on a budget of between 9 and 11 million US dollars means that, despite the negative reviews, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was still something of a success, and actually took more than 1989’s A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child. So despite the general disappointment in the film itself, it was clear that there was, and still is, love for this franchise and its iconic villain. And when Wes Craven announced his return to the franchise and released Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994 to a much more positive reaction than Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, it was further proof that this immortal killer and popular franchise wouldn’t be going anywhere in the minds of horror fans anytime soon.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was released in the UK on 17th January 1992.