Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
To me, there is no defending this movie. It is the worst film of this franchise, and a terrible supposed ending for Freddy Krueger. As the progression of these films showed, Freddy transitioned from being a chilling icon of horror into being a jokey, cheesy clown, and this film goes right off the deep end of comedy in the most wretched ways. Worse yet is that that’s just the beginning of this movie’s problems. It tries to do something quirky and new, but the ideas it runs with are just so stupid that I cannot fathom how anyone embraced them as good ideas. What stuns me more is that this film was written by the same person, Michael DeLuca, who wrote my favorite horror movie of all-time – John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness. Of course, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare has nothing at all to do with the horror genre.
Dream monster Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) has finally killed all the children of his hometown of Springwood. One amnesiac teenage survivor, known only as John Doe (Shon Greenblatt), is allowed to escape so that Freddy may expand his power beyond the town. John soon comes into the care of a youth shelter and Dr. Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane), who has a forgotten past of her own as Krueger’s own daughter. This revelation is what can facilitate Freddy’s freedom to engulf the world in nightmares. However, she discovers the demonic origin of his powers and meets him head-on in a final showdown.
This is a cluttered mess of a movie, but I’ll tell you what I like about it which isn’t much. Since Freddy’s Dead is set a decade in the future, there’s obviously a detailed history that we are unaware of, and thus, it creates an inherent mystery. It lays a foreboding mystique over Krueger’s motivations and schemes. Of course, this film squanders all of that hint of potential by not exploring any of that untold history at all. It concerns us solely with this bland, boring mystery about Freddy’s kid and Krueger’s origins. The misdirection of who is Freddy’s kid is terribly weak and completely uninteresting. John is a teenager, and it is stated in the movie that Freddy’s child was taken away from him in 1966 – thirty-five years before the time this film is set. Even then, Freddy was probably already dead by the time John was born. There was an early idea that John would have been Jacob, Alice’s son from The Dream Child, but that is clearly impossible as he’s too old. Maggie being Freddy’s daughter is also a completely new thing that comes out of nowhere. Obviously, this is a brand new thing created for this movie alone, but it doesn’t take into the thought that if Freddy had this child out there all this time that he would’ve taken advantage of her far earlier than now.
This is indicative of how this film presents ideas and questions, but the filmmakers put in no time or effort to think them through. They don’t pull from the established continuity or characters we’ve connected with through the previous five movies. While a few of the films have introduced new ideas to Freddy’s origins, they’ve been largely smart ideas that flow organically from what had come before. These filmmakers also don’t rationalize the motivations or thought processes of its characters to have anything really make any sense. Beyond that, it constantly embraces the ridiculous as if this was meant to be a horribly bad comedy. The story has a very shaky foundation, and anything built upon it is constantly crumbling apart. By the end, it’s an eye sore of a disaster.
Also, this film brings up an intriguing question of whatever happened to Alice from The Dream Master and The Dream Child? This character that defeated Freddy twice, and clearly had the power to keep him at bay is never eluded to once in this movie. Freddy’s wiped out the child population of Springwood, and turned it into a bizarre wasteland of delusional adults. Did Alice get killed, or did she just runaway and let it happen? If Freddy killed her, that would be an extremely pivotal thing for fans and audiences to know and actually see. If she turned her back on him, that’s also a story I’d like to see explored. Why would his biggest, most powerful nemesis not be there to combat him to the bitter end? These questions have no remote answer to them. Instead, we’re burdened with a couple of lead characters that I couldn’t give a damn about.
I cannot say that Shon Greenblatt was a very good casting choice. He’s not terrible, but he just has nothing charismatic or special to offer in this role. He has practically the same expression through every single scene regardless of he’s confident, angry, afraid, or confused. He fails to elicit any sense of caring from me. This is also due to how stupid and flat his character happens to be. He exercises no perceptive intellect, and kind of comes off as arrogant once he thinks he’s Freddy’s kid. He forms this conclusion based on nothing definitive, and just jumps around from one idiotic, self-important conclusion to another. Neither Greenblatt nor the direction do anything to make this a character you’re going to care about one way or another.
Lisa Zane’s character is also someone I couldn’t really care about. The film takes almost an hour before it starts going into any detail about Maggie, and even then, it’s extremely minimal stuff just to facilitate a weak connection between her and Freddy. Beyond that, I ask myself the questions of why am I supposed to care at all about this brand new character that this film takes next to time to develop? What’s so special about this character that she is meant to be the one to put the supposed final nail in Freddy’s coffin? And again, why the hell aren’t we following Alice Johnson charge headlong into a final, epic battle with Freddy? The filmmakers didn’t need to manufacture a child for Freddy in order to explore his back story, and even that idea is so lazily implemented. No one puts forth any effort to make that anything an audience should invest themselves in. Most importantly, Lisa Zane really does nothing with this character. The performance is very hollow, and like Greenblatt, she essentially has one facial expression for every emotion in every scene.
The only cool and bad ass member of this cast is Yaphet Kotto, and that’s because he is Yaphet Kotto. I don’t think it’s possible for him not to be awesome in any role. They should’ve made the film more about his character, who is only named Doc. He’s the one that figures everything out, and has the knowledge and perception to battle Krueger on his own ground. Unfortunately, he probably has the least amount of screentime, and his talent is almost entirely wasted opposite such bland characters and cast members. With this film, it seems that the less significant your character is, or the less screentime you are given, the better your performance will be.
For instance, this film’s new set of teens are pretty good characters filled by charismatic actors. The most notable among them is Breckin Meyer in his first feature film role. You can see all of his signature personality and talent on display here. Lezlie Deane is the most proactive of them all as Tracy showing a lot of fight and toughness. She doesn’t take much attitude from anyone. Ricky Dean Logan has a nice dash of attitude while still being quite likable as Carlos, the kid with the hearing aid. Freddy ends up screwing with him royally via his hearing aid by amplifying every little sound to deafening levels. It’s too bad that it’s so undermined by the absolutely cartoonish behavior of Freddy.
Knowing that even Englund himself agreed to make this movie like a Bugs Bunny cartoon makes my head hurt. Up until this point, he was able to maintain some integrity with the character, but here, it just all gets flushed right down the toilet. There is no menace, no sense of a frightening killer anywhere within this movie. Englund jumps the proverbial shark with this performance making Krueger a total, cringe inducing cartoon that really craps all over the entire franchise. The make-up job also follows that mentality with a horribly cheap and rubbery prosthetics job constantly exposed in bright light.
The visual effects, in general, are largely bad. They tried to use some low budget CGI, but it looks no better than mid-grade optical effects, at best. There are a few shots that are fine, but the visual effects do take an obvious nose dive decline in quality from the last few films. Mixed with the poor 3D sequence, it just becomes cringeable to look at. The dream demons themselves are horrendous and laughable in their brief appearance. The practical effects from master John Carl Buechler are very good in most respects, but the film is so terribly light on kills and good imagination that there’s hardly much of a showcase for Buchler’s brilliant talents.
I really like the soundtrack for this film to the point where I tracked it down years ago on CD. It has many great tracks mainly from the Goo Goo Dolls, and a solid end titles track from Iggy Pop. I can’t say I’m all that keen on how, early on, the film drives this soundtrack right into the blatant forefront. Every few minutes another song kicks in undermining the score. For certain types of films, this sort of thing works, but for what should be a horror movie, it doesn’t at all. Of course, even the score that this film has is almost entirely dismissible and hardly noticeable.
The third act of this movie is such garbage. First off, the horrible 3D gimmick of Maggie putting on 3D glasses to enter Freddy’s mind is face palmingly bad. Again, Freddy’s a horribly bad joke in this movie, and so, I don’t give a damn about his back story at this point. Maggie is a hollow, boring protagonist that I care even less about. So, I simply don’t care about her traversing through Freddy’s memories, or seeing how he became a serial killer or a dream demon. The only highlight is Alice Cooper appearing in a cameo as his father, but it’s nowhere near being a saving grace. The entire fight between Maggie and Freddy is just crap. It’s essentially a street fight with conventional weapons with absolutely no fantastical qualities whatsoever. After all of the supernatural, paranormal, metaphysical ways they’ve defeated Freddy in the past five movies, these filmmakers resort to a damn pipe bomb. Maggie pulls him into the real world, and blows him up with a pipe bomb. You have got to be kidding me. How creatively bankrupt must you be to go forward with that, and have it end with Maggie being all smug about it? I’ll take the toxic waste bath in Jason Takes Manhattan over this insulting garbage. At least that showed a semblance of imagination and effort.
Any of the lesser grade sequels could at least be chalked up to poor execution, but this movie is a disaster from the concept and script onward. I don’t think this is a well directed movie by Rachel Talalay at all. It’s not well conceived, not well written, and it’s not well acted where it counts. Freddy’s Dead bares no resemblance to a horror movie at all. It doesn’t even put forth the smallest effort to establish a mood or atmosphere conducive to scaring even the most timid audience. There’s so much cartoony garbage stinking up the movie that you couldn’t break out of it if you tried. This movie SUCKS SO FUCKING BAD! I strongly avoid using that kind of profanity in my reviews, but when a movie elicits that strong of a negative emotion from me, there is no way I could express my vehement disdain any other way. It’s like a middle finger pointed straight at the audience in crappy 3D. This film also has no sense of transition. There are a few scenes that just abruptly end, jarring us into the next scene without a single mind towards a segue. You feel the scene is building towards something more, but it takes a sharp turn into a completely different scene. This is bad plotting, poor pacing, and just sloppy editing. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare has no qualities that could possibly redeem it because it was so royally screwed from its inception.
From here, the only salvation for Freddy Krueger was Wes Craven and Jason Voorhees. The first was a creative salvation, and the second was a financial salvation. Sure, this movie was a box office success, but there is nothing within this film that deserved that success. It is one of the absolute worst sequels I have ever seen, regardless of genre. I would log it next to Alien vs. Predator because it is that insulting in its ideas, and piss poor in its filmmaking competency. Also, this film absolutely did not need an obnoxious cameo by Roseanne and Tom Arnold. They standout like a sore thumb, but thankfully, it’s only for a minute. However, it’s just another stamp of the filmmakers not taking this film seriously or respecting where this franchise came from. Even separated from the franchise, this is still a terrible movie through and through. So many of those creatively involved with it should be ashamed that they did this to Freddy Krueger. Instead of shifting gears and bringing the icon back to his serious roots of horror, they plunge off the deep end, and drown him in a comedy sewage. I could go on and on calling this film every bad name in the book, but I think I’ve said plenty. Thank goodness that Wes Craven would bring respectability back to the franchise with New Nightmare, which I did review last October. Skip this movie and watch that one. It’s a massively, exponentially superior film on every level.