Heather Langenkamp (Heather Langenkamp) was the star of two Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but is now reluctant to make a new film in the series because she's being spooked by a succession of strange goings-on. She is the victim of prank phone calls by a Freddy Krueger soundalike, she is suffering Kreuger-related nightmares and her young son is becoming increasingly troubled and prone to fits. Little does she know that director Wes Craven (Wes Craven) has very good reasons for continuing the series...
I have a confession to make: I don't like the Nightmare on Elm Street movies all that much. Even the first one came across as a special effects showcase, so I'm glad to say that I find Wes Craven's return to the franchise - the seventh in the series - to be surprisingly enjoyable. When Scream was a big hit, all the reviews were quick to point out the characters' post modern self-awareness, but Craven had tried this trick before, in New Nightmare.
Judging by the plotting, Craven has mixed feelings about the horror genre: Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund plays him again, as well as himself) has been reduced to a pop culture artefact, appearing on chatshows, cracking bad jokes, and the subject of a lucrative merchandising campaign and uncritical adulation from his fans. But later on, we see Craven's reasons for bringing back Freddy: in presenting fictional horror he renders real life horror easier to cope with. And also to keep a force of evil trapped for ever, and save the lives of potential innocent victims. And making a bit of money, too, one presumes.
The story makes analogies to fairy tales, specifically Hansel and Gretel, as Langenkamp's son is the object of Kreuger's murderous desires. This casts Kreuger an archetypal villain, so he's a made meaner for this installment - less of the jokes and more of the horror. Unfortunately they should have thrown more money at the film, as the effects sequences are not as imaginative as in, say, Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4; in fact, in their attempt to be self-referential, they're more retreads of past highlights.
Having the actors and production crew play themselves is a nice touch, with studio head Robert Shaye appearing in his office filled with Freddy memorabilia (including a Warhol print!), and a scene in Craven's house showing that what we've been watching is the script he's just written on his computer. But the problems with the series affect this one, too, and the dream sequences are never more than an overplayed gimmick. Having said that, New Nightmare is a brave attempt at something original for a tired franchise, and it's clever without being pretentious. Music by J. Peter Robinson.