BABY JESUS IN THE MANGER, I’m DONE, y’all!
Here’s where things get topsy-turvy. This is real life, where we follow Heather Langenkamp, her husband Chase and their son Dylan. Heather is hard at work, but the invite is extended to her to join the newest Nightmare movie that Wes Craven is writing. We see appearances from various cast members playing themselves and Heather’s husband is a special effects guy who’s working without Heather’s knowledge on Freddy’s newest “glove”. In fact, the dream opens with a nightmare of Heather’s about this very thing.
When Heather wakes up, she’s in the middle of an earthquake and after said quake subsides, she and Chase run off to work, leaving young Dylan in the capable hands of Super Babysitter Julie.
Heather feels a bit besieged by all of the Freddy Krueger brouhaha; she appears on a TV show where Robert Englund as Freddy Kreuger makes a surprise appearance, the head of New Line Cinema pressures her to be in another Nightmare sequel, and she finds out her husband’s been doing Nightmare related special effects behind her back. Not only does she want to move on to other projects, but there’s a sense that she worries that her involvement in the string of horror films may leave an impression on her child. She’s already scared by a stalker who calls in a Freddy voice and leaves notes in her mailbox.
Slowly, but surely, weird things begin to happen; Dylan complains of his stuffed animal being clawed by the man who comes up through the bed. Heather has weird nightmares. And then Chase dies after rushing home due to a frantic phone call from Heather when Dylan begins to shake and seize. It appears that he died in a simple car accident, but his chest appears clawed – and the viewer has no doubt about who did it.
After burying Chase, an aftershock hits during the funeral, and Heather’s son appears to fall into the grave and get sucked into Chase’s casket. A frantic Heather attempts to pull him from the clutches of a distinctly different looking Freddy.
She’s rescued by John Saxon, who played her dad in the movies, who explains that she hit her head. Meanwhile, Dylan only gets worse. Heather begins to call her other castmates, like Robert Englund, who intimate that she’s not the only one having dreams about Krueger.
That’s a painting that Robert Englund did. Inspiring and uplifting, yes?
Heather desperately tries to get in touch with Wes Craven to talk to him about what’s going on and she finally shows up at his house wanting answers. Craven begins to discuss the script in very roundabout ways until he confesses to Heather that Freddy wants Heather. When Heather corrects him to say that “Freddy wants Nancy,” Craven explains that Heather gave Nancy her strength, so Freddy can only come through her.
Shocked, Nancy is very, very pissed about Freddy Kreuger being, well, real – and Craven apologizes, saying he thought at first that they were just nightmares he was writing down, but that he began to realize that Freddy was something very old and evil that assumes different shapes over time. He expounds upon this, saying that sometimes, storytellers can trap the…thing in stories, but when the story gets old, the thing can escape again and wreak its havoc. It’s why he’s writing the script and the outcome will depend on whether or not Heather decides to give the movies one more go.
From there, things only get worse. Dylan attempts to attack Heather in her dream and is having more and more fits. In sheer frustration, she takes him to the doctor who explains that Dylan is showing signs of schizophrenia, something that disturbs Heather given her family history of mental illness. Heather thinks this is unlikely, and after going several rounds with the medical staff that don’t have a clue what’s going on, she’s finally at odds with all of them, fearing that she’s losing her mind or worse, that she’s not.
The doctors understandably think she’s totally bananas, but Dylan doesn’t. And neither does Julie the babysitter, who tries to keep Dylan awake after they sedate him. Sucks to be Julie the babysitter, though.
As Tina dies, so does Julie. The nurses clutch their pearls as Dylan sleepwalks straight out of the hospital. By the time Heather catches up to him, her and Dylan are both deep in dreamworld as the thing known as Freddy Krueger is after them both.
Cornering both Heather and Dylan individually, Dylan recalls a bedtime story Heather read him about Hansel and Gretel and crawls into an oven, escaping Krueger – but manages to escape after Krueger attempts to kill Heather. Both of them shove him into the oven and turn it on full blast.
They both escape the dreamworld, landing back into Real Life, as both find the finished script Craven’s been working on so feverishly. Inscribed to Heather, they begin to read.
What makes New Nightmare so spectacular and such a stand-out in the series is that to the best of my knowledge, there’s been no horror movie quite like it. Craven incorporates everything about Freddy – the mania and the love of the public, as well as the darker side as well – to create what feels slightly introspective about the entire series.
It’s very weird, because it’s almost like watching someone examine what happens to people who make horror movies. It reads as someone commenting on an idea literally taking on a life of its own. From the real world with the stalking and the devoted fans, to the supernatural aspects with the actual haunting of Heather and her family by Krueger, it seems to examine what happens to people when their ideas go from ideas on a page to something given energy and life by people.
This is what consistently makes me love Craven. Whether you love him or hate him, his movies do have depth and do have questions at their core. It’s what makes me roll my eyes at those who view horror movies as lurid bits of gory fluff, because most great horror movies have something at the very core that’s either very primal or very cerebral. Craven’s movies – Last House on the Left, the Nightmare movies he was involved with, even Scream – have had very central themes to them that are strong in both idea and execution.
It’s less a pure sequel and more stand-alone, but if you’ll notice, New Nightmare has never really been repeated. I suspect this has less to do with the poor box office that it posted but more to do with the fact that it’s difficult to pull off in the long run.
It is, I think, an oft-forgotten addition to the series, which is deplorable, considering it’s one of the strongest features in it.