Well, hello there, and welcome back to I Love That You Love It, a column devoted to bringing civility back to the horror movie discourse. Last month, Cinepunx founder Liam O’Donnell and I sought to settle our differences about the film Death Line amicably, and I think you’ll agree we succeeded with flying colors. For that I am grateful, so that I never have to slog through that pretentious snoozefest of a movie ever again.
Now, far be it from me to simply denigrate the films that other people enjoy, so for our sophomore outing Liam and I have agreed to discuss a film that I like to give him a chance to provide a counterpoint. Although, I must say I think that poor Liam has his work cut out for him, as I’ve selected what I believe to be a universally loved installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I’m speaking, of course, of 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
After six years and five installments, Freddy Krueger’s empire had started to crumble, so New Line decided it was time to send our favorite dream demon off to the great beyond for good with one final romp. Gone is Alice Johnson, the final girl from the pervious two films, as Freddy’s Dead kicks off in a near future where Krueger has wiped out every kid in Springwood except for one (Shon Greenblatt). Krueger inflicts him with amnesia and sends him out beyond Springwood where he soon winds up at a home for troubled teens.
There he meets Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane), who agrees to take him back to Springwood for some answers. Stowed away are Tracey (Lezlie Deane), Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan), and Spencer (Breckin Meyer), three kids trying to escape the shelter, and as Freddy starts picking off members of the group, Maggie realizes her role in everything may be more than coincidence as she looks to put a stop to Freddy once and for all.
So, Liam, do tell: what issue could you possibly have with this film?
Bryan, I must admit, for a second you had me worried when you suggested this film, but reading your introduction it is clear: you are certainly joking. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is not solely the weakest of the NOES franchise (not a small claim) but is one of the worst horror sequels of the ’90s. How could a film featuring not only the always endearing Yaphet Kotto (the man not the band) and Freddy’s first foray into the third dimension be this boring? Even the brief synopsis you have offered, free as it is of some of the most egregious excesses of the film, is still so embarrassing it was impossible to read without cringing at least once. By this point Mr. Krueger had become America’s creepy, pedophilic jester and lost any value as a horror icon, but SURELY he deserved a send off with at least some semblance of a plot, and at least one compelling character. The ideas here are half-baked, and the execution of them aspires to reach half baked.
You really consider this film to be boring? I have to say that you and I have very different definitions of the word boring, and yours is incorrect. And stupid. I won’t deny that the essence of Freddy Krueger shifted a great deal in the second half of the ‘80s from a truly dark character with a sadistic sense of humor to something of a caricature. But that’s not this film’s fault, and I credit director Rachel Talalay for leaning into what Freddy had become and serving him up as an evil Saturday morning cartoon. I’ll grant that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a movie that features death by hearing aid, Freddy dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West, and an extended 8-bit video game nightmare. You call it boring? For shame.
Friend, I wasn’t aware you watched horror films for Looney Tune-style antics. I watch them to feel actual fear, terror, and at minimum discomfort. When I require the easy pleasures of slapstick, I simply watch Bugs Bunny or perhaps The Three Stooges. I can get the over the ridiculousness that you have apparently come to a franchise for that kind of silly fun which features a pedophilic nightmare monster. Cool. I should take that back though, comparing this film to such classic work as the Looney Tunes and Stooges is accusing this film of having far more wit than it ever pretends to. The utter refusal of this script to respect the intelligence of it’s audience would be offensive if it were not so clear that the makers of this film could not see past the dollar signs in their eyes long enough to have a critical take on the material. This film is not just a standard money grab, but one so free of creative intention that it could only be described as malevolent. Let us set aside the many gimmicks and bits that you have already highlighted that are meant to constitute a plot of some kind. Let us focus on the main thesis here of this film. Freddy has basically run through all the teenagers of the town, save for one, which he uses as a sort of bait to get his…sorry checking my notes here: DAUGHTER??? To come back to town so that he might…USE HER AS A VEHICLE INTO THE LARGER WORLD? Come on man. Come on. Still, the central idea of NOES has never had a ton of logic behind it, and while this film ignores everything established in all the other films, perhaps it does so in order to do something new and exciting, right? Of course not, the formula developed in NOES 3, which shifts these movies into some kind of fantasy adventure films, with each film featuring some half baked macguffin for the teens to cling to in their battle with Freddy? That shit just keeps going here, and the introduction of animation and 3d does absolutely nothing to improve this quagmire of greed inspired mediocrity. Yes, of course, since the first film, these movies have moved toward a more fun and frivolous atmosphere. This one is not fun though, and it trades all the interesting bit of all the previous films in order to be the most boring installment of the series. Not only am I skeptical any human could truly enjoy this mess of a film, if they did they must hate all the films that came before it. This film, for me, casts it’s sickly pall over the rest of the franchise and makes me regret even the installments I enjoy.
OK, I’m not sure if you decided to make 36 different points in one big run-on sentence as some sort of psychological warfare, or if you suddenly forgot how to structure a paragraph. Therefore, I’m going to have to see if I can pluck out the basic points for my retort:
- Regarding the choice to lean into the child abuse aspect, particularly with Tracey’s sublot, honestly this is one area where I agree with you. This is the biggest misstep of the movie for me, particularly considering the goofy tone they’re going for the rest of it. They should have cut it.
- To your point that we can’t enjoy horror unless we feel fear, terror, or discomfort: that is some top-tier edgelord crapola. Part of what makes horror such a fun genre is its flexibility. Sure, sometimes I want a horror movie that can really disturb me. Other times, however, I just want to go for a silly ride. So yes I appreciate the cartoon antics.
- Wait a minute…do you mean to say the people who made this movie wanted to make money?? Certainly no one in show business has ever looked to cash in on a good thing to make a buck. If all horror movies required airtight narrative threads exploring bold, new themes to make them worthy of watching, then we’d have to throw approximately 60-70% of them directly into the trash.
- Does Freddy’s Dead introduce some wonky, last-minute mythology that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny? Absolutely. But unlike a movie like Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy’s Dead keeps the core components about what makes Nightmare movies work: teenagers fall asleep, Freddy fucks with them via dream-logic shenanigans, and they get murdered in creatively gruesome ways. Then at the end of this one we blow Freddy up and call it a day. I, for one, am satisfied.
- “This film casts it’s sickly pall over the rest of the franchise and makes me regret even the installments I enjoy” is on par with “Lady Ghostbusters ruined my childhood!” Lighten up, Francis.
I wish, WISH, this film actually did any of the things you suggest it does. Yes, I LOVE fun horror films, but YOUR argument is that because this film at times resembles a cartoon, it is good and not boring. I suggest that simply being a poor imitation of fun is not enough. The humor is lame and dumb, the violence is lame and dumb, and this combination of idiocy and lack of creativity creates a miasma so ridiculously stupid as to render the very idea of the series ridiculous. It does NOT contain anything of value from the previous films, not one iota. It instead capitalizes on the worst instincts of the films before it, and that is why it’s desire to make money is so utterly grating.
Yes, films more than any other art tend to be an artisan work, deigned for profit over creativity. However, if you really wanna boil every other horror film down to the utter crass commercialism of this piece of shit it is clear you have no respect for the genre as a whole. What is amazing and charming about horror is that despite the clear money grab of so many films, the genre entices folks of great creativity and ingenuity to try new things and take chances, and thus, often in spite of their own instincts, create lasting cultural artifacts that are awesome. This film is not that. Mostly forgotten and for good reason, this film is an embarrassment not just to the franchise, but to this entire decade of horror cinema. It does not offer a fair deal to its audience, “hey give us your money and we will offer you the thrills and chills you desire.”
This movie literally despises you and says “hey, you’ve got no taste or self respect, and will pay for any trash we are cruel and bored enough to film, so here it is you fucking lemming”. You, the lemming that you are, joyously leap over the cliff face simply because Freddy is in it, Englund giving one of his LEAST inspired performances of a decade, and it has some insanely sub par effects. This film is not fun or funny, it lacks even the whisper of creativity, and it assumes that its audience is too stupid to notice that no one involved gives a fuck about what they are doing.
So, let me make sure I’m perfectly clear. You’re saying…you didn’t enjoy this film?
Unfortunately, I did not. Neither video games, nor 3D, nor the immortal Yaphet Kotto could save this ship from sinking.
Well, you raise a lot of fantastic, well-reasoned points, Liam. Allow me to offer one final retort: