APRIL 15, 2010
Things were pretty awesome in September of 1991, because I got to see two R rated horror movies in theaters practically back to back (my first ones, at that - my only previous theatrical horror experience was the PG-13 Poltergeist II). First was Child’s Play 3, which I got to see on its first showing on opening day, as it was the last week of summer vacation before I went back to school. So when Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare opened, I had to “wait” until Saturday afternoon to see it. Stupid school! Sadly this would end my streak; I think the next horror movie I got to see in theaters was Pet Semetary 2, in August of 1992.
I’ve gone back and forth on the film more than any other in the series. Seeing it on the big screen was a big thrill, and thus I “loved” it. But then I started thinking it really wasn’t all that good, only to like it again after a couple of viewings on VHS. And the last time, I REALLY didn’t like it, to the extent where I considered it the worst one. But now I kind of like it again. I dunno what it is about this goddamn movie that I can never really pick an opinion on it. Ask me again in 10 years and I may hate it.
What I like about it is that it’s the first film in the series that managed to be kind of creepy even when Freddy wasn’t around. The entire sequence where they go to Springwood, with its childless, possibly insane residents wandering about, is wonderfully strange (with a clear Twin Peaks influence), and I wish they could have stayed there for the whole movie. I also liked that the characters were actually kind of funny for once instead of just Freddy - John’s “Nothing will get me about of this bed!” bit is still worth a chuckle. Hell, even Freddy managed to make me laugh for once, when he’s dancing around and generally being an asshole behind the deaf kid.
Oh yeah, there’s some goddamn blood in the movie too. Deaf kid’s head explodes, and John gets impaled by a bed of spikes. And in one of the nightmare scenes, one of our heroines bashes her abusive father with an iron, resulting in a pretty kick ass effect. As with Dream Child, there’s only three deaths in the entire movie (all dudes too - has to be a first for a horror movie), but the less convoluted plot and genuinely interesting backstory keeps it from being an issue. And since only one of those deaths is worth watching (the deaf kid), maybe it’s for the best. Another excruciating death sequence like the one for Spence (Breckin Meyer!) could have killed this movie for good - it’s by far the absolute worst/most annoying sequence in the entire series.
I can’t recall if there was any uproar about Freddy having a daughter - it’s true that she was never mentioned before, but no one ever said he DIDN’T have one either. Most of his backstory either involved his conception or the final days of his human life, so there was never any reason to go into his stint as a family man anyway. And it makes sense - if he was killing kids for a while, I would assume that it’s because no one thought to suspect a guy with a wife and a kid of his own. A janitor who lived alone probably would have been suspected right off the bat, no? And I really liked the mystery as to which of our two (three if you count Tracy, though she was an obvious red herring to me even when I was 11 and didn’t yet know what a red herring was) characters was Freddy’s child. Unlike the previous two films, Rachel Talalay and Michael De Luca’s script pulls off the Psycho twist quite well - John really is our connection to the film, but Maggie was developed enough to easily take over the film once he died at the end of the 2nd act. It was a great surprise.
Oh yeah, those last two films? They’re not mentioned. Alice and Jacob aren’t around, and when Freddy lists off the different ways he’s been “killed”, he doesn’t mention being torn apart by the souls inside of his body, or... well, whatever the hell happened at the end of Dream Child. They also don’t even bother explaining his resurrection this time around - he just shows up in John’s nightmare (there’s a thing about how he’s the last Elm Street kid, which would also make more sense if you ignore the last two films). Innovation released a 6 issue comic series that sort of bridges the two films, but after reading it on the official NOES website, I can assure you you’re not missing much. The story was needlessly convoluted, involving Alice, Jacob, Dr. Gordon, Nancy, the Dream Warriors, Dan, Yvonne, etc. And it STILL doesn’t explain where John came from anyway, so it’s wholly unnecessary unless you love “funny” Freddy, as he just delivers pun after pun throughout the story, stopping only to deliver clunky exposition that rivals his nonsense in FvJ.
A “timeless” soundtrack rears its ugly head again, after the largely song-free Dream Child (the Kool Moe Dee rap song played over the end credits, remember). But it’s kind of amusing to hear pre-power ballad-only Goo Goo Dolls, who have two songs in the film, which is probably why the film finally got a soundtrack release in the mid 90s, at the height of the Dolls’ popularity thanks to their hit “Name”. Iggy Pop’s closing credits title tune is pretty far from a toe-tapper, but it’s better than the rap stuff, and plays over a montage featuring highlights from the previous movies (even 2, which was otherwise ignored throughout the entire series). And in keeping with series tradition, the film opens with a quote, only this time it’s followed by one from Freddy Krueger (“Welcome to prime time, bitch!”). Unlike Jason Goes To Hell, this “final” entry really catered to the fan base with these sort of shout-outs, instead of completely ignoring the bulk of the series and sending off its killer in a movie in which he barely appeared.
I do wish the ending was a bit better. It’s a bit anticlimactic to go to the “bring him into the real world” well, since that’s what they did in the first one (though Nancy was actually still dreaming that whole time, so I guess it’s OK), but that they just blow him up is kind of weak. And not even in Springwood at that! If you’re going to kill Freddy fucking Krueger, you gotta do it in an iconic fashion AND setting - not with a homemade pipe bomb in the basement of some halfway house.
Maybe this wasn’t the intention though. According to a (post-release) Fango article, the ending sequence was originally much more elaborate, but it had to be toned down due to the 3D eating up so much of the budget and time. If you ask me it wasn’t worth it - even in theaters (this was my first 3D experience) it was hardly amazing, and it doesn’t work at all at home. I mean, the gimmick was that Freddy was finally being killed - did it really need 3D on top of that? Plus, the idea that Maggie needs to wear 3-D glasses in her dream never makes any sense (nor does her laughable explanation that she’s still seeing things the way she does in her dream - so you’re seeing real life in three dimensions? WHOA!). If anything it sort of detracted from the experience - here we are, killing off one of movie-dom’s all time great monsters, and I’m too busy fiddling with a piece of cardboard so I can see it right, and looking at background/foreground depth instead of what’s happening.
Speaking of those Fango articles, it’s funny to see how the style of the magazine evolved just from reading the respective articles for the past 3 NOES movies. Whereas the articles on Dream Master and Dream Child were loaded with dirt and people complaining (Englund flat out says he doesn’t like the scripts for either film - in the article ostensibly promoting it!), the Freddy’s Dead articles are all happy and sunshine-y, with even comments about the previous films kept largely positive (basically just “this one’s going to be even better!”). There is also a lack of context or insight to the pieces for this film - nothing about why it ignores those films, why they had 3D in the first place, or even why they decided to kill Freddy off for good (heh) this time around. It’s all fluff, and it would just get worse over the years (I can barely even read any recent issue; when they’re not completely spoiling movies with photos and set visit descriptions, they’re ass-kissing all upcoming films and judging all others based on their box office performance). I guess you could say the glory days of Fango died along with Freddy, except they never really came back (ironic footnote - the magazine just underwent a massive overhaul, including a new editor - just as the new NOES film is about to hit theaters! Hopefully the mag will have a creative resurgence).
Back to the movie though: overall, I like more about it than I don’t like, which I guess qualifies it as a success. I think it improved on the previous two films, and it’s certainly more successful than Jason Goes To Hell (which is the only other definitive “final” horror franchise entry I can think of - there was never a Halloween: Michael Myers Dies At The End or Leatherface’s Last Massacre). And its box office success allowed for the daring and mostly great New Nightmare, so thanks for being pretty good and a total lie, Freddy’s Dead!
What say you?