I was super excited by the premise of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. A meta commentary on the dilution of a horror brand? The return of Heather Langencamp? Slasher movies going mythic? Sign me up! So how well does the movie live up to its promise?
Honestly, it’s a bit patchy. The idea that an ancient demon can be contained in stories (as Freddy Krueger and, it’s implied, the witch from Hansel and Gretel) is a great one, but it’s not expanded upon nearly enough. Most of what we have is a simple slasher story of a mother trying to protect her child from a monster, and the fact that this story holds up is all due to Langencamp. Her on-screen version of her offscreen self is testy and brittle from years of not quite making it as a star, and especially from having her qualifications as a mother questioned due to her horror movie past. When it counts, though, she’s the bravest woman around, and one you’d definitely want on your side when confronting ancient evil in a striped sweater.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but I wish it had given me more. We know from his underrated Phantom of the Opera that Robert Englund can act across time and genres, so why not give him a chance? Why not let us see this ancient evil in more than one form, or else explore the psychology of a demon thinking it’s a slasher villain? My husband suggested a scene where the Freddy-demon could have emerged to chase all the costumed horror fans from the tv studio scene, yelling “Who’s funny now?!”
New Nightmare, in some ways, is as trapped by basic slasher movies as the Freddy-demon.