Friday, October 24, 2014

just keep on ticking

“Do you know the terror of he who falls asleep?
To the very toes he is terrified,
Because the ground gives way under him,
And the dream begins...”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

“Welcome to Prime Time, bitch.”
— Freddy Krueger

A few credits, then the outline of the US, with Springwood marked, and this:

SPRINGWOOD, OHIO, TEN YEARS FROM NOW

MYSTERIOUS KILLINGS AND SUICIDES WIPE OUT ENTIRE POPULATION OF CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS.

REMAINING ADULTS ARE EXPERIENCING MASS PSYCHOSIS.

THERE IS NEW EVIDENCE OF ONE SURVIVING TEENAGER...

So begins Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Since Robert Englund gets billing above the title here, it occurs to me that one problem the Nightmare films have is personality. Jason and Michael have personality, sure, but Kane Hodder (who played Jason several times) never got billed above the title, nor did anyone who played Michael. The comedic tendencies coupled with, you know, Freddy actually showing his face—scarred, but still his face—mean the numerous victims and potential victims get short shrift. And the plot is repetitive—been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I’m thinking that last remaining teenager thing is part of the opening dream, not the film’s reality, but if it were, that would at least make this entry stand out from its predecessors. Aside from Alice’s pregnancy, Dream Warriors, Dream Master and Dream Child were basically the same story. Freddy kills the friends of the lead character—characters in the case of Warriors—until that character(s) figures out how to manipulate the dream world to overpower Freddy. This story stands out from, say the original, in that Nancy was not manipulating the dream world but pulling Freddy out of it.

Freddy’s Dead, so far, is playing a little like Warriors, with the troubled teens in the hospital, or whatever it is. And, 14 minutes in we get what’s probably a Chekhov’s gun sort of set up—”ancient dream demons” on a poster.

If Springwood has no kids or teenagers, wouldn’t people outside of Springwood know?

Roseanne and Tom Arnold... not a good sign for what’s supposed to be a horror film.

If Springwood has been falling apart for ten years, shouldn’t the residential part of town be just as much of a wasteland as the center of town? The premise for this film is just weird. And, not in a good way.

Actually, the premise might be ok if, perhaps, we the audience were not told up front what was going on. All the strangeness would be like we are having a dream. Reducing the sound when Freddy cuts Carlos’ ear—that’s a good move, make the audience experience his situation... but then Freddy’s jumping around behind him, which makes no sense without an audience. It’s silly, not scary (problem #1) and it is not for the benefit of anyone who is dreaming (problem #2)... if Carlos is dreaming this bit, and his head just exploded in the dream, who is dreaming as Freddy says another line?

Interestingly, all of this playing to the audience fits somewhat with the ideas behind New Nightmare, which I’ll get to in a couple days, but the problem there is that the being who has decided to be Freddy in that film is not a trickster like this Freddy but something much darker. This Freddy does silly shit like running his knives across a blackboard and running a psychedelic video game dream that is in no way scary...

I already called these early 90s slasher films the death throes of the genre. Death throes can be awesome—in my opinion, New Nightmare and Jason Goes to Hell are two of the best slasher films—and they can be awful—Leatherface seemed kinda pointless and this abomination is more like a practical joke played on the audience than anything resembling a coherent slasher film.

Tracy just, out of nowhere, figured out how to manipulate her dream self to have super powers... you know what really is troubling about this film? As she “wakes up” again, the directing and cinematography remains the same. Shots are askew, there are weird close ups...

And, Freddy has become too powerful, as well. Back in the original, when Tina was lifted out of the bed and cut by claws that weren’t there it was frightening; here when John is yanked out of the van, it’s just silly. And then, it turns out, by killing John and Carlos, Freddy erased them from reality. The thing that is Freddy in New Nightmare would never stand for this crap. This film would be the reason he decided to go be Jason Voorhees instead.

The Nightmare on Elm Street series is almost increasingly bad as it goes... Really, the original holds up quite well to this day. Freddy’s Revenge is an awful little thing. Dream Warriors is pretty good, albeit a bit cheesy, until the very end. The ending to the big confrontation with Freddy is kinda lame. Dream Master is better, but it’s stuck on the cheesy side of things instead of the the darker side. Dream Child continues down that path, a nice idea but the execution pulls the series farther away from scary. And Freddy’s Dead just drops the scary altogether.

What this series does well, I must say, though, is expand its mythology. You learn a little bit more about both Freddy and his backstory and about how dreams work (within the series’ reality) with each film.

But then, Yaphet Kotto’s doctor figures out what we’ve known since the original, you gotta pull Freddy out of the dream to kill him. Except, obviously, that doesn’t work either, or Freddy would already be long gone. Really, as soon as there were any sequels, the plot became pointless because Freddy could obviously survive whatever solution this round of characters can come up with. The series had nowhere to go.

(The heads of the dream demons, once they actually are three dimensional, look a bit like Sleestaks. Not a good reference to have in mind if you want us to be frightened.)

The fishy demons offering to make Freddy “forever” would be the silliest thing in these films if there wasn’t so much competition for that title. The fishy demons that seem more like the fish in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life than demons, for example.

And, the joyful smiles at the end of this movie—as if they just had the most fun of their lives instead of, you know, risking their lives fighting the most evil being the dream demons could find—a goofy bookend to a bad movie. Running clips of the better movies next to the end credits—that’s just salt in the wound of having had to watch this thing.

To be fair, I knew this movie was bad and chose to watch it again, so maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

Tomorrow, something good.

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