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Film / Wes Craven's New Nightmare

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Wes Craven: I think the only way to stop him is to make another movie. Now, I swear to you I'm gonna stay by this computer and keep writing until I finish the script, but... when the time comes, you're gonna have to make a choice.
Heather Langenkamp: Choice? What kind of choice?
Wes Craven: Whether or not you will be willing to play Nancy one last time.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare is the seventh A Nightmare on Elm Street film, released in 1994, ten years after the original. It is the only film in the franchise besides the first to be solely written and directed by series creator Wes Craven.

In the real world, people behind the Elm Street films are preparing for a new installment. As this goes on, it becomes apparent that Freddy Krueger has seemingly come over the wall separating reality and fiction, and is now haunting the actress Heather Langenkamp, who played Nancy in the films.

Despite being one of the better-received Elm Street films, the film wasn't as big at the box office, garnering 16 million dollars with its 8 million budget. Its self-aware tone and deconstruction of the horror genre is considered a precursor to Scream (1996), which Craven directed two years later, though while Scream went onto become a blockbuster film and genre touchstone, New Nightmare settled for more of a cult following. 25 years later, a fan-film continuation of the movie has been announced, with Miko Hughes (who played Heather's son Dylan) returning.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Averted, but implied by the hospital staff that Heather is this to Dylan.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Since Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon change into their Nightmare personas in the fictional world, this supposedly would mean that Robert Englund changed into Freddy to fight Heather. However, it isn't clear if the Entity possessed Englund to become Freddy or if the Entity was able to manifest independently without help.
    • The earthquakes seem to coincide with Heather's nightmares a lot of the time, but whether they are somehow linked to the entity's imminent manifestation into our world (it does apparently live underground, after all - for a given value of underground) or are just regular earthquakes that provide a conveniently mundane explanation for the characters getting weird wounds is left uncertain.
  • Artistic Licence: Heather's TV interview. The presenter asks her questions and then cuts her off before she's had a chance to say more than a couple of sentences. Any presenter with proper training would know that cutting the subject off while they're answering a question is a big no-no.
  • As Himself: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Robert Shaye and Wes Craven all appear as themselves. To keep with the "real world" theme, Freddy Krueger is also credited "as himself".
  • Badass Longcoat: Freddy is wearing one.
  • Based on a Dream: Invoked. Wes Craven explains to Heather Langenkamp that he is plagued by horrible nightmares of the Entity trying to break into the real world as Freddy Krueger. He writes the script for the movie, which somehow gives shape to reality itself, based on these dreams.
  • Becoming the Mask: The Entity that was sealed as Freddy Krueger has been stuck as him for so long that he thinks he is Freddy, and by extension, that Heather is Nancy.
  • Big Bad: The Freddy Krueger in this film is one even moreso than the Freddy Krueger in the mainstream continuity. It is an ancient entity of evil, which according to Wes Craven has existed in various forms throughout history. It is therefore behind many other monsters, and has spread more misery and destruction than Freddy ever did, who's mostly confined to Elm Street.
  • Big Good: Wes Craven himself, of all people. He believes in what is happening and can stop it, but only if Heather literally plays her part.
  • Broad Strokes: The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is subtly implied to be similar but different from the real-world films. There are six films, the sixth of which killed off Freddy, and Heather only appeared as Nancy in the first and third ones. However, it's implied that Nancy never died in the In-Universe movies. New Line Cinema wants Heather to come back for the seventh movie, and her reaction doesn't imply that this would conflict with the third movie. An interviewer also describes all five sequels to the original movie as popular, while several of the real-world sequels received negative reviews.
  • The Cameo: Jsu Garcia (who played Rod in the original film) and Tuesday Knight (who played Kristen in The Dream Master) appear in the funeral scene. Johnny Depp almost appeared as well, but Wes Craven didn't ask him.
  • Character as Himself: "Freddy Krueger as Himself", to suit the Real-World Episode plot. Of course Robert Englund (who played Freddy in the movies, including this one, and figures into the plot), was also credited with playing himself.
  • Child Eater: Freddy tries to eat Heather's son Dylan alive before she stops him.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe:
    • A real supernatural entity tries to use the belief in and popularity of Freddy Krueger to manifest in the real world, adopting Freddy's identity. Wes Craven (playing himself) explains that stories, and people's belief in them, have always been the bridge between the real world and the supernatural.
    • Dylan's stuffed dinosaur Rex is actually an effective defense against Freddy because he believes he is. Freddy actually has to violently deal with it to get to Dylan.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: When the archetype behind Freddy is defeated—in the humiliating way it had already been once before as the witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel — as it burns away, it briefly turns into its demonic-looking true form, and a fat load of good that does it.
  • Collapsing Lair: The ruins where the climax takes its place start exploding when "Freddy" is defeated.
  • Credits Gag: Due to the metafictional nature of this film, Freddy Krueger is credited "As Himself".
  • Creepy Child: Dylan becomes one as the movie progresses. Being played by the same actor who played Gage Creed probably helps.
  • Darker and Edgier: The film was a very conscious shift away from the camp of the later Nightmare sequels, and was probably the least humorous film in the series outside of the original.
  • Deconstruction: The theme of the film is the fact that, as one character says, “Every kid knows who Freddy is. He’s like Santa Claus, or King Kong," and that people have a hard time judging reality from fiction, such as Heather being asked if she would trust her son around Robert Englund, just because he's an actor who happens to play Freddy. Of course, the concept goes meta when it works in not only Heather's real-life experiences with a stalker, but also the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which happened during filming. In the end, Craven considers Freddy just a fairy-tale (as seen with the tie-in to Hansel and Gretel, and Heather reading the script as if it were a storybook to her son).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Much of why this Ancient Evil is going after Heather is because he was mode-locked into being Freddy for ten years and believes himself to be Freddy. Because Heather played Nancy, Freddy's enemy, in the first and third movie, he believes that Heather is Nancy and that he has to kill her in order to cross over into the real world for good. Wes Craven himself lampshades this.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Wes Craven's New Nightmare:
    1. Wes Craven's new A Nightmare on Elm Street movie
    2. In-Universe, Craven wrote the script based on having a new nightmare
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Wes Craven bases the new Elm Street script on prophetic dreams.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: During his destructive rampage in the real world, Freddy Krueger kills four people, continuously torments Dylan Porter and tries to murder Heather Langenkamp simply because she played Nancy Thompson in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Despite everything they go through, both Heather and Dylan manage to survive and the entity is destroyed once and for all.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Shortly after Julie's death and Dylan escapes from the hospital to get away from Freddy, Heather is desperately searching the hospital for him. When Dr. Heffner tells her that Dylan had been sedated, she explains that Dylan is prone to sleepwalking, and is perfectly capable of getting out of the hospital, only to realize that he had probably done just that.
    Heather Langenkamp: [Dylan] doesn't have to be awake to be on his feet!
    Dr. Heffner: What?
    Heather Langenkamp: He sleepwalks, you idiot! He's fully capable of walking out of this hospital! (Beat) ...Oh, shit!
  • Fairy Tale: What Wes Craven believes New Nightmare to be — both In-Universe and outside of it.
  • Faux Shadow: Wes Craven said on the commentary track that he had deliberately made two characters seem, very subtly, to be possible villains in disguise. He did this by introducing them with "was it really a false alarm or just foreshadowing?" moments, and by making their performances seem suspicious. One is a babysitter (who in the original draft of the screenplay was in league with Uber Freddy) and the other is a slimy chauffeur. Neither of them turns out to be either a villain or a threat: the babysitter ends up dying to save Dylan and the chauffeur is never seen again after his one introductory scene.
  • Final Girl: Heather Langenkamp.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Heather reading Hansel and Gretel echoes how she and Dylan kill the demonic entity at the climax. Extra bonus if you look at the picture, you can see the witch in the drawing is wearing stripped clothing similar to Freddy.
    • The chauffeur at the beginning provides two bits of foreshadowing by making reference to the ceiling death from the first movie (this movie's last death) and by yelling "but they never should've gotten rid of Freddy!" (the catalyst for the movie's plot) as Heather closes the window between them.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: This movie involved Freddy escaping into the "real world", so that a new movie had to be made to imprison him again. Which is the movie you're troping now.
  • Groin Attack: While "Freddy" is trying to attack Dylan, Heather stabs him in the balls.
  • Harassing Phone Call: Heather has received several, presumably from "Freddy".
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: "Freddy" wears a pair of leather pants.
  • Helping Hands: The opening nightmare has the new Freddy glove starting to move by itself and attacking two technicians.
  • Identifying the Body: Heather Langenkamp has to identify her husband's corpse after he dies in a mysterious car crash caused by Freddy Krueger. The coroner tries to shield her from the worst of it by only showing her his face, but when Heather pulls down the rest of the cover, the giant slash marks on his chest are shocking enough to cause her to throw up right on the spot.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Wes Craven attached his name to the title to announce his return to the franchise. The title ties into the story, as it's referenced that Craven's horror films are inspired by his nightmares – meaning this movie is, literally, Wes Craven's new nightmare.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: At the end, the ultimate evil has been defeated and Resealed away now that Wes has finished the screenplay portraying it. Heather Langenkamp and her son read from the screenplay, which depicts the first scenes of the movie.
  • It Won't Turn Off: Heather's son keeps watching the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), even after Heather pulls the plug on the TV.
  • Jack the Ripoff: The villain of this film is not Freddy but an ancient supernatural entity whose form changes throughout the ages and just so happened to take Freddy's form for the past decade.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Freddy's new design resembles Orlok quite a bit, as he doesn't wear his hat as often, wears a long coat and has more curved and organic looking claws. At one point he mirrors the pose from the trope image, immediately before the Shout-Out mentioned below.
  • Mama Bear: Heather, this time for her own kid.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Robert Englund's fictional counterpart in this film is much like the real-life guy; talkative and jovial, and genuinely enjoys the villainous role he's playing.
  • Me's a Crowd: When Dylan is crossing the freeway, he sees a group of Freddies at the other side.
  • Meta Sequel: Instead of another sequel about the further adventures of the characters from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), it's a story about the further adventures of the people who made the movie, allowing the story to play with and comment on the tropes of the series.
  • Mr. Exposition: Wes Craven serves to explain the entire plot to Heather Langenkamp (and by extension the audience). He tells her about the Entity that has taken on the form of Freddy Krueger, that it has been released due to the end of the movie series and is trying to cross over into reality, and that Heather is the only one who can stop him.
  • Mundanger: Although Heather's troubles are being caused by Freddy, they're based on real-world fears that don't actually require a supernatural presence. The doctors can't tell what's wrong with her son, her son wanders off into traffic, she loses her husband in a car accident, she's got a stalker and an earthquake damages her house. Your young son climbing to the very top of a jungle gym will give any parent palpitations, much less him falling off.
  • Murder by Cremation: How The Entity is beaten: being shoved into a lit furnace in its lair like the Witch from Hansel and Gretel.
  • Mythology Gag: Many to the first film and to the sequels.
    • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
      • Freddy licks Heather with his "phone tongue" and recreates Tina's death with Julie from the first film.
      • Freddy turns the steps into quicksand to slow down Heather.
      • Wes Craven originally intended the first film to have a happy ending and was not happy when New Line Cinema forced him to write a Twist Ending instead. Here, Heather/Nancy gets to put down Freddy for good.
    • Freddy's Revenge
      • Robert Englund quotes the "You are all my children now!" line.
    • Dream Warriors
      • The God-like Freddy appearing as a puppetmaster to a sleepwalker (though in this case, no "strings" are involved).
    • The Dream Child
      • The Freddy and Alice morphing head appears as a prop at the beginning.
  • Neck Snap: Freddy kills Julie by breaking her neck after dragging her up to the ceiling and disemboweling her.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: At one point in the story, Robert Englund's character simply disappears. Freddy physically manifests shortly after, but it's never explained if it's a Grand Theft Me possession, if Freddy kills Robert, or even if Englund decided to turn off his phone and ignore the crazy people.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted; there are two Roberts, Robert Englund and Robert Shaye, although Shaye is addressed as "Bob". Justified, since they're both real people playing themselves.
  • Overly-Long Tongue: "Freddy" attacks Heather with one that wraps around her entire torso. Dylan stabs the end of it with a knife, giving him a fittingly snake-like forked tongue once it retracts.
  • Real-World Episode: New Nightmare, is about the making of a new "Elm Street" film, which is (unknowingly) done in order to keep the real Freddy demon from coming into the real world.
  • Recursive Canon: The film is about the actors from the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie being targeted by the "real world" Freddy Krueger. The film ends with Heather Lagenkamp reading the ending of the script for New Nightmare, which describes how she's reading the ending of the script for New Nightmare.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: The climax takes place in there.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Robert Englund and his wife's apparent course of action.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Freddy Krueger himself, but he's not really "Freddy" so much as Evil Itself taking on the form of Freddy, and there needs to be a script made in order to contain it. In fact, it could be said Freddy was the can for the entity, as it was his story and form it's been imprisoned in.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: Whenever the entity is trapped within a story, it becomes the main antagonist of that story so long as the villain is pure evil. It's heavily implied that the entity once took the form of the witch from Hansel and Gretel at one point in history, but its current and most dangerous form ever is Freddy Krueger.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: When a new Nightmare movie is plagued by a mysterious series of deaths, it's revealed that an ancient shapeshifting evil that has existed in various forms throughout time but which can be contained by stories has been impersonating Freddy Krueger for the past 10 years. After being stuck as Freddy for so long, the spirit started to believe that it actually was Freddy and tries to target Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played the first Final Girl to face him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Freddy's shadow going by the wall is similar to the stair-ascending scene from Nosferatu.
    • Freddy's defeat evokes "Hansel and Gretel", a story Heather is seen reading to Dylan early in the film.
    • Robert Englund paraphrases the tagline from Jaws 2 while posing as Freddy for the studio audience.
    Robert Englund: Just when you thought it was safe to get back into bed!
  • Stock Sound Effects: The "breaking vase" sound can be heard during the onscreen earthquakes.
  • Show Within a Show: New Nightmare is the film designed to keep the Ancient Evil in.
  • Take That!:
    • Wes Craven's comment about how sometimes a story gets watered down to become a easier sell or more marketable is a clear jab at Freddy becoming more comical in the later sequels, which Wes has always been very critical of.
    • Dr. Heffner is intended as an insult toward the MPAA, who were infamously stingy and overzealous toward Craven's films and the Elm Street franchise as a whole.
  • This Was His True Form: When the entity is seemingly destroyed at the end, it goes from looking like Freddy to a stereotypical demon.
  • Unexplained Recovery: At the climax of the film, actor John Saxon becomes the character of Don Thompson, who died in Dream Warriors, and talks to actress Heather Langenkamp as though she's Nancy Thompson, who died in the same movie. How either would be alive in a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie is unexplained, but contributes to the overall surreal nature of the film.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used on a shot of Heather as the police visit her and inform her about Chase's death.
  • Villain Decay: Invoked in-universe and averted in the film itself. In-universe, Freddy—who started out as a sadistic child killer—runs into a studio audience giving high fives, while the actual demon is a return to the original monster.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Heather vomits when she sees the claw marks on Chase's body.
  • Wham Line: Heather knows something is seriously wrong when John Saxon calls her "Nancy" and acts like he's really her father.
    Heather: John, why do you keep calling me "Nancy?"
    John: Nancy, why do you keep calling me "John?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The movie leaves what happens to Robert Englund ambiguous. The last we see of him he seems to have become possessed by the Freddy Entity. It's unclear if Freddy ultimately took over his body to fight Nancy or not, and if he did, whether that means that Heather killed Robert.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The demon attempts to kill Dylan at the end of the movie which make sense since it takes the form of Freddy Kruger who in the movies was a child murderer.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Belief in Freddy summons the demon to pose as Freddy.