Despite the Elm Street series being my favorite slasher movies as a teenager, I somehow never got around to watching the final entry in the series. (But I did watch the remake. Do yourself a favor and never, ever do that. Trust me on this one.)
On paper, there is just so, so much I should l have loved about this movie. It’s one big pile of meta, and I love myself some meta. It’s thematically about the power of stories, and the power of storytellers, and I love me some storytelling about, well, stories. The lead is a woman (one of the things that drew me into horror movies in the first place,) and a mother. (Hey, being a mom’s a huge part of my life. Everybody likes to see themselves represented in the media they view. And how often does the mom get to be the hero rather than being relegated to a background character, really?) For once, it’s the husband that gets “fridged” to give the female character emotional pain and motivation. (I don’t think that simply flipping the script on that particular trope is an ideal solution, but I am so. very. tired. of seeing one woman character after another be killed off in the service of a male character’s story. Frankly it was a bit of relief when the opposite of that happened.) Add on top of all that a heaping helping of good old fashioned teenage nostalgia, and I really should have enjoyed this movie far more than I did.
Unfortunately, despite loving a lot of the ideas behind the movie, the execution just didn’t quite click for me. The pacing felt off. The “scary” portions felt both too drawn out and like they were happening too quickly, early on in the movie. “Heather’s” characterization felt too shaken, too fragile much too early on in the film. (For those of you unfamiliar, the conceit of the movie is that it happens in the “real life” of the actors and writers who made the films, so Heather Langencamp who played the series first (and best! ;) ) Final Girl “Nancy” plays a fictionalized version of herself.) We were given reason for her to be shaken and upset with not only a string of earthquakes happening in Los Angeles, but also disturbing phone calls coming from a stranger whose voice sounded like Freddy’s. Which would have been much more effective had that old storytelling chestnut of “show, don’t tell” been applied here. But it felt as if her emotional investment was always a step or three ahead of ours as an audience, and therefore it was difficult to go along for the ride.
The relationship between the two actors and the portrayal of “Robert Englund” felt off. I imagine the intent was to build tension by making the first meeting in the movie between him and “Heather” seem uncomfortable, but it just came off as awkward. If we are to believe that “this” Freddy in the movie is a distinct entity from the character Englund played for so many years, it’s not really effective to use the character as a red herring with a slightly creepy uncle vibe.
There was a bit of dipping into society’s perception of horror movies as a genre, but it seemed wishy-washy as a thematic element, it was given neither the time nor complexity that would have made it an interesting part of the plot. The CGI has that cringe-worthy early 90s look to it, (and it was the early 90s, so of course there had to be CGI) but there was some of the wonderfully surreal set pieces and environments that have always been such a part of the Nightmare universe. I did enjoy seeing those.
I kept bemoaning the fact that I should love this movie so much more than I did. It’s a Nightmare movie, and I didn’t expect a masterpiece, but I should have been having a hell of a lot more fun.