Despite featuring in three more movies after this, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare really does represent the last solo appearance of this incarnation of Freddy Krueger as portrayed by the wonderful Robert Englund. After 6 films and a few cameos in TV and music videos, Writer/Director Rachel Talalay was given the task of finally ridding the troubled teens of Springwood of the monster that had plagued them for years. (Spoilers abound)
1991 saw the arrival of Freddy’s Dead and the anticipation amongst the horror community was high. Had they saved the best for last? Was this going to be the pinnacle of the Elm Street series?
Short answer. No.
Let’s get into the long answer.
In my retrospective on Part 5: The Dream Child I made a point on how forgiving we are with films we like which we are far less inclined to do with a film that we don’t particularly like whether it be quality of special effects, plot holes or something we just perceive as downright stupid.
Not only does Freddy’s Dead prove this point but it seems to go out of its way to do so. Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge received criticism for failing to adhere to the rules that had been established in the original. This is slightly unfair as there had been only one film in the series so there was a little wriggle room to play with the rules. Freddy’s Dead doesn’t have this excuse.
We’re informed at the start that it is ten years since the events of Part 5 and that the town has been wiped clean of all children and teenagers and that the adults are experiencing mass psychosis. Wow! Freddy really amped up his work in the last decade. Who was he using to be able to enter the dreams of all these youths? Don’t worry about that. The film certainly doesn’t and, if you were hoping to see more of Alice and Jacob then you’ll be disappointed as this film bypasses any semblance of continuity from the previous entries as we’re introduced to the last, remaining Springwood teen, John Doe (Shon Grenblatt) as he looks to escape from the town.
The film quickly stops making sense with anything that any of the other films established and I’m not going to let it get away with the excuse “We never said “X” couldn’t or didn’t happen” as that’s just too damn lazy, even for a horror franchise.
John Doe goes from being in a dream sequence that starts in a plane which breaks apart then into a house which itself is falling as we get introduced to Freddy doing an impersonation of the Wicked Witch of the West which is, by a country mile, his least auspicious introduction into an entry in this series. From there, John is thrown out of the window and finds himself outside the familiar house at 1428 Elm Street which just so happens to have a bus stop outside so, after buying a ticket from Producer Robert Shaye (making a cameo as he had done in Parts 2 and 4) , John is smashed into by a bus being driven by Freddy.
The make-up job on Robert Englund in Freddy’s Dead is the most understated and so far removed from the horribly burnt visage we were seeing in the earlier entries that I can only assume that it was to save Robert Englund from an overly long stint in the make-up chair. The look doesn’t work for me. Even though I never found many of the films especially scary, I could, at least, acknowledge that the main villain looked unnerving. Not so much here sadly.
The bus plows on and, as Freddy hits the brakes at the city limits, John creates a Looney Tunes hole in the night exposing daylight beyond as Freddy approaches the barrier and requests for an unconscious John to bring him more victims.
My big question here was where did John fall asleep exactly?
Okay…….we’ll let that slide. Not everything here has to make sense.
Discovered by police, the amnesiac is taken to the imaginatively named Recovery House Youth Centre which looks after troubled teens and is nowhere near similar to the Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital from Part 3 which looked after troubled teens. It looks like a demilitarised zone though so the youths within must be extremely dangerous as well as troubled.
We don’t get to meet many of the staff or prisoners, sorry, teens but let’s see who we do meet.
Staff wise there’s only really two of note that have any kind of characterisation. Maggie (Lisa Zane – older sister of “Titanic” actor Billy Zane) is a doctor/counsellor and Doc (Yaphet Kotto) is the resident therapist who we meet when he shows Maggie a picture on the wall showing what he says are dream demons who roam through the dreams of the living (opposed to the dreams of the dead?) until they find a truly evil being to imbue with the power to cross over and turn our nightmares into reality. Even as we scratch our heads, wondering what or who he could be talking about, we also learn that Maggie is having recurring dreams, the most prominent feature of which is a water tower.
The same water tower appears in a newspaper clipping held by John Doe who only remembers that, wherever he is from, he is the last.
Establishing that John is from Springwood, Maggie takes the world’s dirtiest looking van to the town along with him to see if they can shake up any memories.
Along for the ride, as they were looking to runaway but didn’t really make it very far, are the teen characters who we have come to know very familiarly as “Freddy fodder”.
Carlos (Ricky Dean Logan) is a victim of physical abuse from his parents which left him with a hearing disability. Tracy (Lezlie Deane – who had worked on the film 976-Evil in 1988 and an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares in 1989, both directed by Robert Englund himself) was sexually abused by her father and Spencer (Breckin Meyer) is a spoilt rich kid and easily the character we’re least concerned to see die.
After a brief stop at the towns Summer Faire where there’s a noticeable lack of children and the adults (including cameos by Roseanne Barr and her real life husband at the time, Tom Arnold who exist in the film seemingly only so you can see them and say “Hey, that’s Roseanne off the TV) are acting very, very strangely towards the teens.
Maggie sends the stowaways back to the youth centre while she and John investigate the local school. The clipping that John has referring to the missing “Krueger woman” comes from a scrapbook in this school which also has lots of clippings about Freddy and the child murders. A deranged teacher tells them that in 1966 Freddy had a child taken away which leads them to an orphanage. Finding a drawing by a K. Krueger, John states that that is why he has been kept alive. He’s Freddy’s child!!
This is a plot device I was, again, not fond of. I know they never said in any previous story that he did not have a child but this is something that I just couldn’t get away from feeling would have come up in what backstory we did have to date.
The three runaways find themselves in a loop, similar to how Alice and Dan found themselves in Part 4, unable to leave town, so decide to take shelter in a lovely looking suburban house which, as they enter, transforms into the Elm Street house.
How??? Who is sleeping here to cause this? I can buy into almost any fiction, no matter how crazy, as long as it stays true to itself, but this film tries my patience and my forgiving nature.
Finding myself wishing Freddy would appear and start offing teenagers if only to shift my brain away from its incredulous state, my wish was granted as Carlos is the first to fall asleep.
The poor lad suffered some severe ear trauma so, of course, that becomes the focus for Freddy’s game. Included in this scene is a moment where Freddy actually looks at us, the audience, as he indicates for us to stay quiet as he stalks the hearing impaired Carlos. Eventually, after cutting his ear off and amplifying the volume of what Carlos hears, Freddy produces a blackboard and scratches his nails across it constantly until Carlos’ head explodes.
Similarly, I was scratching my head wishing it would explode as, back in the real world, Tracy looks for Carlos but his body has disappeared. Rachel Talalay the Writer AND Director of this film, had worked, in some capacity on all bar one of the previous Elm Street films so really should have known that the bodies do not disappear. That they try to say later on that Carlos and Spencer (yep, he’s next) have been erased from existence is just as ludicrous and inconsistent with absolutely anything we’ve ever been informed or shown.
Tracy picks up Maggie and John to bring them back to the house as she cannot find Carlos and Spencer is “wasted”. She says wasted as Spencer is stoned in front of an empty TV though you don’t have to be Cheech and Chong to know that this is one of the most ludicrous portrayals of the effects of marijuana ever seen on screen. Even if you’ve never been within 1000 yards of a joint surely, even back in 1991, did anyone apart from Rachel Talalay believe smoking a joint had the same effect as eating a bag of mushrooms found in a tent at Woodstock?
After a brief cameo by Johnny Depp as a thank you to the franchise that kickstarted his film career, Spencer is drawn into the TV and into a computer game being controlled by Freddy.
This manifests itself in the real world as Spencer crashes through walls and bounces up and down like an insane kangaroo with accompanying “boing” sound effects.
Arriving at the house, John and Tracy enter the dream world to find Freddy and save Spencer but it is ultimately too late as, despite taking the game controller away, Freddy is wearing a power glove and knocks the in-game Spencer off a platform and his real-life body down the stairs into a cavernous hole that appears in front of Maggie and, like Carlos, he is gone.
It’s not even worth asking by this point how an awake Maggie saw this as this film has long since made any attempt to play by the, albeit, flimsy rules.
Tracy is pulled from the dream but John can’t be woken so is bundled into the back of the van where, in his sleep, he is killed by Freddy who reveals to him that he is not his child as that is in fact a girl and obviously Maggie which I thought was pretty obvious from the moment it was revealed that Freddy had a kid.
John dies in Maggie’s arms and promptly disappears as his soul is transferred into Freddy. Krueger says “It’s travelling time” and his “essence” flies into Maggie as her and Tracey return to the youth centre.
There they find that no-one remembers Carlos, Spencer or John…..sigh……except for Doc because he can control his dreams……..bigger sigh with accompanying slow shake of the head……. (I hate to whale on someone so much but this writing is piss poor, it really is)
Maggie finds out from her mother that she was adopted and, upon falling asleep finally uncovers what we already know and is revealed to be Katherine Krueger, daughter of Freddy.
The dream she was having was of the time her actual mother was killed by Freddy after discovering his dark secret. Loretta Krueger (Lyndsey Fields) finds newspaper clippings and various knifed gloves in the family basement and is strangled to death by her husband. Maggie/Katherine meets Freddy in this dream version of the basement where he tells her that she was taken away so he decided to take their children away. This is nonsense as, in the VERY SAME SCENE we see that he has been killing kids for some time. He reveals the youth centre to Maggie and tells her that his work will continue here. When Maggie tells him that this isn’t Springwood, he hits back with “Every town has an Elm Street” as a street sign bursts from the ground to back that lie up and guarantee itself inclusion in the trailer.
Freddy goes after Tracy next. He takes the form of her abusive father who she batters till his face resembles a Picasso self-portrait and he transforms into Freddy who fights with Tracy but, even though she gives him quite a scrap, she is forced to leave the dream via the tried and tested Nancy Thompson method of burning herself.
Doc takes on Freddy next in one of those rare occasions where Freddy interacts with an adult and though he gives him a reasonable beating, Freddy laughs it off as he explains the numerous ways that people have tried to get rid of him and failed.
A waking Doc meets with Maggie and tells her that if she can bring Freddy out of the dream world and give him physical form, then he can be killed. This proved effective in Part 3 so I see no reason why it wouldn’t work here.
This involves entering Freddy’s brain, a process began by falling asleep and putting 3D glasses on. This was, of course, the indication to the cinema audience to put their 3D glasses on. I was a few months shy of being able to see this on the big screen so, as with all of the 3D films that came out, I was left having to watch people poke things at the screen which only ever looked strange to me.
Maggie goes through a few of Freddy’s memories. We see him bullied at school as a kid with taunts of “Son of a hundred maniacs” but this elicits no sympathy as seconds before he is seen killing a school pet with a mallet. We then see him as a teenager carving into his stomach with a straight razor before being whipped by his stepfather (Alice Cooper in another cameo which works as well as any of the others) who it is implied he kills as he points a bloodied razor at the audience.
He obviously gets away with this murder as the next flashback scene is the parents of Springwood burning him to death where he strikes up a deal with the dream demon things,which look like nightmare sperm, and is given the power to become the supernatural monster that kills in dreams.
Finally, Maggie confronts Freddy in the boiler room and is able to bring him out into the real world. Her, Doc and Tracy tool up but Maggie is separated from her allies by a locked gate and faces Freddy alone for the final time.
He appears in human form and tries to say how it was never his fault and that it was her being taken away that caused him to do what he did, which has already been established as untrue but Maggie is having none of it and knocks the glove from his hand as he raises it. Krueger assumes his more familiar look as he and Maggie fight over the glove. This is one of the better scenes in the movie and Maggie eventually gets the upper hand and pins Freddy to a wooden beam with the aid of a ninjas tool kit that Tracy passes her. She then shoots him a couple of times with a crossbow and impales him with a metal rod. Taking his glove, she puts it on and stabs him with it as Tracy throws her some dynamite.
Maggie sticks the dynamite in Krueger’s gut and gives him a kiss as she says “Happy Father’s Day”. Doc manages to wrench the gate open and the three of them run away.
Freddy looks at us as he says his final word “”Kids” and blows to pieces which sends a last barrage of 3D effects at us which includes Freddy’s head and the three dream demons.
The camera cuts to Maggie who smiles and says “Freddy’s Dead” as the credits begin and the nightmare is thankfully over.
The credits sequence is actually one of the better moments in the film as we get to see a montage of clips from all the previous films as well as this one though it does serve as a reminder of how weak this entry was.
I’ve said that I don’t hate any of the Elm Street films that feature Robert Englund (that wording is key) but this is my least favourite of the series as you might have been able to establish from the sarcastic vitriol that I’ve been spewing throughout this retrospective. For something that really was being touted as the final film of the series I was expecting so much more.
The problems I had with this film are scattered generously throughout this piece so I won’t go into any more detail regarding that as I wrap up.
Freddy may have been dead but he would return again….kind of….as the man who gave him life in the first place decided to revisit the character and deliver a more unique take on the mythology and the resulting film is what I shall take a look at next.
Till the New Nightmare …. Sleep Tight