Today's Pick: Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
One of the many things I love about New Nightmare is that you can enjoy the film without ever seeing a single entry in the franchise. It was the first Nightmare on Elm Street film I saw (it would play ad nauseam on TNT when I was young), and while I didn't pick up on every reference or callback, I understood the singular story that was being told. The idea that Freddy is an ancient being kept in check by the act of telling scary stories (and that the Nightmare films became this being's preferred form and method) made total sense to my prepubescent brain. A very cursory knowledge of the character Freddy Krueger is all you really need to get what this film is trying to do. Seeing the other films (specifically the first one) certainly helps, but it's not mandatory.
The film touches on a lot more than just the purpose of Freddy (and by proxy, horror stories in general) and his attempt to escape into the real world. The real drive of the film is Heather Langenkamp and her fear that this evil is trying to invade her home and hurt her child. Langenkamp's performance is honestly stupendous, never feeling like she's just transferring the qualities she took on as the Nancy character. This is a completely different character, and although she has to combat some of the same forces, her approach to them comes from a very different place (instead of a frightened teenager, now she is a mother on the defensive).
I also love the redesign of Freddy in this film. Makeup artist Kevin Yagher always thought of Freddy as a male witch (in terms of his facial features), and this version is certainly that. No longer a burn victim, Freddy's features seem more in line with something out of a Clive Barker story. It looks like he is wearing someone else's skin, trying to appear human while hiding something primitive and sinister underneath, with patches of skin missing and showing the muscles underneath. His trademark claw is also now a physical part of his body, made of exposed bones and veins trailing up to those iconic knives. In my opinion, it's the most disturbing the character has ever looked.
I could gab about New Nightmare all day (maybe one day I will, in article/essay form). It's my favorite film in the Nightmare series, and even one of my favorite Wes Craven films. I think one of the reasons I give Scream so much flak is because with New Nightmare, Craven did a meta commentary on the horror genre in a more respectful and thought-provoking manner than the spoof-disguised-as-a-slasher that Scream was. If you're looking for a more zany and typical Nightmare on Elm Street for your Halloween viewing this year, go with the third entry, Dream Warriors. But, for my money, the scariest and most fascinating entry is this one.
Tomorrow's pick is a great horror movie for kids! ...Well, in the sense that a kid is in it and it'd probably be pretty scary for a kid. You won't see Halloweentown on this list! See you in your dreams...
31 Days of Drew 2 (2014)
31 Days of Drew (2013)