Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
This is where it all started for me, at the tender age of 9 (maybe 10). While my peers were already knee-deep into the horror genre, dressing up as Freddy for Halloween and such, I was still pretty freaked out by the character and the concept. I knew enough to be able to tell you that Freddy was "this ugly dude with claws who could kill you in your dreams". Even 'Tiny Toons' did a farce on this character, so I figured if there was gonna be anything I was willing to finally check out, it would be the extremely exposed Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees.
One day, after attending church, if I'm not mistaken, some family friends, my brother and I all sat down to check it out. The big bro was always much braver than I was back then, and had already dabbled in various horror including Freddy, so he had no problems. Me, on the other hand, took something I watched one sunny afternoon home with me, dreading sleep that night. Of course, I knew enough that it was just a movie and none of this was going to happen. But like with many things that attach themselves to many people by leaving a massive impression, Robert Englund's performance as Freddy here really did me in. Looking at it now, it's very clearly his hammiest performance as the character. But back then, some of that imagery just burrowed itself into my brain.
Keep in mind, I was very unfamiliar with this stuff. It was material I wasn't really supposed to see, but didn't really want to either, as even movie trailers would give me the shivers sometimes. Fast-forward to today where I'm truly grateful for that fear I experienced as a kid. Robert Englund is now someone I've met in real life, and is someone I've made a personal hero of sorts because he had that effect on me as a kid - even with his corniest performance as Freddy. I'm therefore further grateful that my first exposure to Freddy wasn't something like the original or... actually, almost anything else. Today, I consider it "the guilty pleasure one". There's a certain warped nostalgia tied to it, but I can't deny that the fact that this was the one that did me in as a kid is a fairly embarrassing truth. It's dumb, but so fun for me to watch.
From the average Freddy fans perspective, after 'Dream Child' was released to significantly lower numbers, it was clear that Freddy was becoming old news, and it was time for him to go. At this point in the game (1991), it was right around the time slasher horror started to fade and started to get taken over by suspense thrillers like 'Silence of the Lambs'. The subgenre of slashers wouldn't truly make its comeback until 1996 with the self-aware, Wes Craven horror satire, 'Scream'. This pretty well makes Craven not only a part of the initial slasher phase, but almost single-handedly responsible for its short-lived resurrection. Hell, he even tossed fans 'New Nightmare' in 1994 just to tide them all over. Sadly, that would veer away from what made 80's horror so special and focus on teen horror, and not a lot of it was particularly scary.
Getting back to the subject at hand, however, the quick plot involves a 10-year jump into the future (most timelines seem to make it 1999) where the last Elm Street kid (Shon Greenblatt) is tossed beyond Springwood's borders by Freddy (Robert Englund) for reasons unknown but revealed later. Found by police, and given the name John Doe, he finds himself under the care of youth care center psychologist, Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane). John tells her about a dream he has that coincides with a recurring dream Maggie has, so she takes him into Springwood (the setting of both their dreams) to find some answers.
Stowing away in the van, however, are tough girl Tracy (Lezlie Deane), stoner Spencer (Breckin Meyer) and smartass Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan); other kids from the youth center. While Maggie sends the stowaways back with the van, she and John take a look around town for answers to what their dreams are telling them. It all seems to point to a mysterious figure named Freddy Kreuger who has evidently ruined the entire town. Meanwhile, as they try to get back to the shelter, Tracy, Carlos and Spencer soon find themselves taking a break in none other than 1428 Elm Street - the epicenter of Freddy's domain. So it certainly dabbles in the tradition of its predecessors, but it's still very much its own thing, and it adds to Freddy's lore. For that, it's fairly intriguing.
However, make no mistake, the execution is pretty terrible. I have to commend Englund on how much he hams it up in this one, and he really makes it a lot of fun. But the execution is so fast-paced and when it's all done, the film seems to see itself as a throwaway. They may have chose to kill Freddy off once and for all, but it could have been better handled than this comedic, nonsensical, plot hole filled romp. On the whole, this is pretty well a "so bad it's good" movie, but it still carries that bizarre nostalgia with it that gives it a certain charm for yours truly. It's like a bookmark in my personal history with horror. Freddy was essentially the first horror icon to be successful in what he set out to do - make me lose sleep. But looking at that little factoid now, I can laugh it off as truly silly and as a result, I have fun. If you watch this as a "bad movie", there's no reason the results can't be similar.
Body Count: 3
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