Whenever my craving for horror kicks in, I always seem to venture back to that cozy corner on Elm Street. More-so than the clawed maniac, I tend to immerse myself in the atmosphere these movies create. The house, the music, the overbearing sense of bizarre dread that always echoes your worst nightmares. These are the elements which make the movies so lovable. While Robert Englund does a masterful job at honing in the Freddy character, I can’t help but admire the filmmakers who expanded upon the lore with a frightening dedication to such dreadful delusions.
There are a few selections in the series which the vast majority of Freddy fans tend to lean towards. Obviously the first one is a classic, Dream Warriors a cult favorite, and New Nightmare an underrated triumph that brought Freddy back into the realm of fear inducing horror. However, there is one film in the series which does not get the attention it deserves. The ever so awkward Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare always gets my vote for being the most lovable Elm Street movie ever made.
As with the majority of Nightmare movies, I saw them when I was just a goofy eyed kid who was obsessed with horror. It was obvious that Freddy was headed into a more comedic direction, but things shifted for me when part six came out. Freddy’s Dead was the only movie in the series to actually scare me, and not because of Freddy himself. As I stated earlier, it was the overall tone and atmosphere that spooked me. This was the first time a Nightmare movie actually conjured the same feeling I’d have when just waking up from a bad dream. The sense of not knowing exactly what’s going on, combined with just enough fear to make you feel uneasy. It was the perfect recipe to creep me out, and yet draw me in for more at the same time. A similar experience to a bad dream, when you know something is wrong yet you can’t help but follow the rabbit hole a little deeper.
There are many scenes which capture this mood with razor sharp accuracy, one of my favorites is in the lost town where Roseanne and Tom Arnold make a strange but amusing cameo. Roseanne swarms the young characters with a disturbing display of maternal obsessiveness. She begs for redemption, hinting towards losing her own children to the Springwood Slasher at some point prior to this awkward meeting. It’s not just the creepy performance by Roseanne that makes this scene so chilling, but the subtle nods toward madness unfolding right under our noses. The entire scene plays out within what seems like some sort of abandoned carnival that is only inhabited by adults. There are roaches crawling all over the food, a strange clown in the corner smoking a cigarette, and an old man circling inside of a bumper car ride all by himself. All of which add to the collective impression that something isn’t right.
The movie also contains a clever misdirection, something moviegoers are quite fond of these days, but a gimmick that was somewhat rare to see back in the early nineties horror world. Throughout the entire movie we are led to believe that this John Doe character, who has been desperately trying to escape Freddy’s grasp, is in fact the son of said maniac. However, after a twisted trip through a series of inescapable nightmares, the Jon Doe character is killed off. It’s then revealed that Maggie, the therapist who had been helping these troubled teens, is in fact Freddy’s daughter. This was a refreshing change of pace for a such a cookie-cutter franchise which had, until then, always followed such a familiar formula when it came to scary storytelling.
While the ending of Freddy’s Dead is undoubtably awful, the charm and charisma exuded throughout the film completely makes up for its terrible ending. Of course we are talking about the sixth entry in a Freddy Krueger movie franchise, so to expect anything short of corny dream demons would be a stretch. Despite its flaws, the movie still remains my most treasured Nightmare on Elm Street movie. It’s currently available to watch on Hulu, along with every other movie in the franchise (with the exception of that repulsive remake). So despite whatever your twisted tastes may be when it comes to the man in red and green, I urge you to give Freddy’s Dead another shot if you have all but written it off as a garbage sequel. There’s definitely enough sadistic substance there to quench even the most gruesome thirst for slasher cinema.