Given this is the sixth film in the series, my highly scientific ‘odd numbered films of the series are awesome’ Elm Street theory suggests that Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) should be rubbish. And it is.
The first signs were actually pretty good in this. The obligatory quote about sleep (Nietzsche this time) was followed by the Freddy Krueger quote “welcome to prime time bitch” which I thought was a cool little self-referential touch. Then it gets even more intriguing with science fiction elements being incorporated into the narrative. We are told the film is set “10 years from now”, all the kids of a town have been murdered and a mass psychosis has gripped the adult population. This start really grabbed me for the first five or so minutes. Then the film just stumbles into utter blandness. There is a highly comedic (I’m talking Wizard of Oz parody) Freddy with no menace at all, a total tossing away of the sci-fi coolness, woeful acting, I think they started screwing with the mythology again but I was too disinterested to really care and a total lack of realism that just makes the entire film feel off somehow.
So about half an hour in, the above is what I was feeling. This was on track to be the worst of the series and just another woeful even numbered entry. Then something strange happened. Namely, the first ‘kill’ in the film is probably the best that the series has had. The first kid to go down is Carlos and he meets his end amongst a barrage of originality that had been nowhere to be seen up until this point. The sequence utilises sound in a creative way that you really need to check out, rocks some truly uncomfortable gore, weaves in the serious (mummy issues) and the comedic (Freddy toys with his victim which makes him even more menacing) without missing a beat and finishes with a ‘pin dropping’, head exploding moment that I wanted to stand up and applaud. Where had that been? This is soon followed up by another really original kill. The ambitious video game/trippin’ balls sequence is perhaps not quite as sublime as the one it follows, but it is still a refreshing jolt and also further teases out the parent issues that are an overarching theme of the film. Bringing this return to form to its high point is a great twist that I definitely did not see coming as director/writer Rachel Talalay totally flips where the film is going on you. I don’t really recall any major twists in the earlier films. But this one is fantastic and sets the film up for a really intriguing closing act.
Whilst the themes of the film are still relatively well delivered through the closing section, overall after so much great work, the last 20 minutes returns to dire standards. The narrative just sort of degenerates again, and wastes the momentum that the big twist had set up on some unnecessary exposition. Effects wise this closing section, especially the (theatrically) 3D stuff at the end is terrible. I’m not sure if it was terrible back then, but on my pretty sharp 2D blu-ray release, it jars. Definitely some of that is down to the fact that the sequence was clearly designed to be seen in 3D. But it also just looks really cheap, not to mention they have to somehow get a character to wear 3D shades in the plot which is an abysmal moment. But there are better moments for the effects work throughout the film. Through the dire early section, the creative use of the effects is one of the few joys. As always with this series it is the practical effects that are far more authentic and effective that the computer generated ones.
You know it is really quite hard to accurately sum up feelings toward a film that is two thirds rubbish and one third fantastic. Even though my overall rating is relatively low, I still have to recommend giving this one a watch if you are a fan of the series and have not seen it. Amongst the rubbish are some of the series’ most inspired moments.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
Next week I will be reviewing the final ‘canon’ film in the series. Hey if anyone out there wants to review the shitty A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, then fire an email to email@example.com.
Check out the rest of my Elm Street reviews here (decided to do up a little table ranking their awesomeness):
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
4. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.