Wednesday, 31 October 2012

30 Years On: Tenebrae Revisited

Now regarded as one of Dario Argento’s most accomplished films, Tenebrae was originally met with venomous hostility upon its release in the UK. It found itself heavily edited, prosecuted, banned and relegated to the 'video nasty' list. The twisted tale of an American mystery thriller novelist who becomes caught up in a slew of sadistic murders, seemingly inspired by his latest book, the film was Argento's return to the giallo after the excessive gothic horrors of Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980).

Head over to The Quietus to read my retrospective on the film, in which I discuss its origins, its initial reception and critical mauling, and how it has been subsequently revaluated as a self-reflexive commentary on not only Argento’s own body of work and the conventions of the Italian giallo, but on the alleged effects of violent entertainment on audiences.

Happy Halloween! 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween Photography

"Everyone's entitled to one good scare."
Throughout 2012 I’ve been taking at least one photograph everyday and uploading them here. My reason for doing this, aside from it sounding like a fun and creative challenge, is to try and hone my photography skills and become a more prolific photographer.

As it’s approaching All Hallow’s Eve, and because I’m a major horror geek, I decided to take themed photographs throughout the month of October.

Venturing out into the chilly autumnal air, I have wandered through cemeteries by night and day, loitered around abandoned buildings and wafted through forests at sunset; all the while photographing my surroundings. At other times I’ve attempted to recreate shots from various horror films, stage spooky scenarios of my own, or just photograph some of the myriad Halloween decorations currently adorning my house.

You can check out my efforts over at Camera Obscure.

Here are a few to whet your appetite. Happy Halloween!









Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Audiodrome Podcast: The Music of John Carpenter

John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, circa 1981.
This month marks the first anniversary of the Audiodrome: Music in Film series over at Paracinema.net. As such, we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. When the idea of producing a podcast was suggested, we decided to focus on the work of a composer who has not only a long and wide-ranging career in film soundtracks, but whose work is distinctive, original and enjoyable to listen to.

John Carpenter is not only a renowned filmmaker responsible for some of genre cinema’s most influential and entertaining titles – he is also an accomplished musician. Experimenting with analog synthesizers and digital synthesis at a time when the technology was only just beginning to be explored, his trailblazing early soundtracks highlight him as a true pioneer of electronic music.

Head over to Paracinema.net to download the podcast, and treat your ears to the moody music of Mr Carpenter, as well as my very own dulcet tones. But you probably shouldn't let that put you off. 

And while you're there, why not pick up issue 17 of Paracinema Magazine. Inside you'll find the likes of “Endemic Madness”: Subversive 1930s Horror Cinema by Jon Towlson, You Can Clean Up the Mess, But Don’t Touch My Coffin: The Legacy of Sergio Corbucci’s Django by Ed Kurtz and one of my own essays, an examination of the Gothic influences of Sergio Martino’s giallo Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Dir. Samuel Bayer

When a group of high school friends begin to die while they sleep, level-headed Nancy soon discovers that she and her friends are being stalked in their dreams by the vengeful, now demonic, child killer their vigilante parents murdered years ago. Can she stay awake long enough to put a stop to his bloody killing spree and save her own skin?

One, two, Freddy's coming for you. Again.

In 1984 Wes Craven unleashed his long cherished, low budget slasher movie A Nightmare on Elm Street upon unsuspecting cinema audiences, and single-handedly created one of the most enduring and terrifying movie monsters of all time: Freddy Krueger. The definitive bogeyman for the MTV generation, Krueger reappeared in no less than seven sequels and a spin-off TV show as the series grew in popularity; each one upping his clownish antics and making him more ‘palatable’ for the multiplex crowd. Over the last few years an astounding number of horror films from the Seventies and Eighties have been revamped for the i-generation. It was only a matter of time before A Nightmare on Elm Street would receive the same treatment, which comes courtesy of Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes. Amongst the films they’ve recently remade are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, The Hitcher and The Amityville Horror. They announced a remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street as far back as January 2008, with Bay expressing an interest in returning the series to its dark origins.

Rather typically, New Line employed several writers to work on the screenplay. Wesley Strick was commissioned after he’d submitted a script for a proposed prequel to Se7en. Eric Heisserer, who wrote the remake of The Thing, redrafted it, and when Bayer became involved with the project, he too worked on the script, delving deeper into the background of Freddy Krueger. Whereas recent remakes of his other titles such as Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes were shepherded towards production by Wes Craven himself (acting as executive producer and creative consultant), Platinum Dunes completely left him out when it came to remaking A Nightmare on Elm Street. With a budget of $27 million (a far cry from the original’s meagre $1.8 million), the filmmakers planned return to the dark and filthy core of the original film and focus on the themes of generational conflict, isolation, the pain of adolescence and parental abandonment which made that film so potent. For the most part, Krueger remains in murky shadow and the crass humour, dilution of adult themes and general daftness that plagued later titles in the original series are thankfully absent from this reboot.



One of the most controversial aspects of the remake was the decision not to cast Robert Englund as Freddy, the role he became famous for. No stranger to genre cinema, or indeed portraying dark and disturbed characters, kudos must go to Jackie Earle Haley, who manages to imbue Krueger with an increasingly unsettling and nasty countenance. Freddy's iconic appearance as a horribly burned and mutilated man sporting a fedora, grimy red and green striped sweater and bladed glove, remains intact; though the make-up ensures he actually looks like a real burn victim, complete with missing ears. He’s chilling, but also generates a sliver of sympathy. Only a sliver, mind. Whereas in Craven’s original film, we only heard about Krueger’s past life as a child killer; here it is explored in flashback, and interestingly, the script momentarily introduces a certain degree of ambiguity regarding his guilt as the ‘Springwood Slasher’. A few lines spoken by Krueger from other films in the series, such as ‘How’s this for a wet dream’ and I’m your boyfriend now’ are reused here, with much darker, seedier implications.

A few interesting elements are added to the mix, such as the concept of 'micro-naps', during which the brain, after seventy-plus hours of sleep deprivation, shuts down for several seconds at a time to recharge, and one dreams without realising it; even if awake. The idea that the brain keeps functioning for a few minutes after the heart stops is also exploited in a chilling scene which suggests that even when a character has died in reality, Krueger can still torture them in their subconscious dream-state before the brain completely shuts down. Mention is also made of what will happen if the teens’ insomnia continues for too long; they fall into the permanent sleep-state of a coma, where the chance of escaping Krueger’s claws by waking up is not a possibility. There are even allusions to fairy tales such as the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, who stole the children of an entire town as revenge for a misdeed.



There’s much more of a mystery element involved too, as the teens gradually realise that their parents are keeping something from them. Hints that they actually knew each other in childhood and perhaps suffered some kind of trauma together pepper the early scenes. Some attempts are made to flesh out what are essentially two-dimensional stock characters, but the only two afforded any kind of characterisation are Rooney Mara as Nancy Holbrook, and Kyle Gallner as her boyfriend Quentin. Both are not your typical slasher teen heroes; they’re arty, moody, sensitive and awkward. But they are resourceful and loyal to each other. The generational conflicts explored in the original return, with the revelation that most of the teens come from single parent families and are suffering from all manner of psychological impairments such as depression and ADD. Their parents and doctors provide them with all manner of medications. Despite the nasty revelation that Krueger was a child molester (something even Craven was never that explicit about) and has been trying to terrorise Nancy long enough to keep her awake so she’ll fall into a coma where he can have his wicked way with her; it still somehow lacks the power of the original film. There is a genuinely unpleasant undercurrent but it never feels fully exploited. The lame set up for a sequel isn’t even worth talking about.



Lensed by director of photography Jeff Cutter, who photographed Jaume Collet Serra’s creepy Orphan, as well as several Mark Romanek directed music videos, A Nightmare on Elm Street looks as strikingly beautiful as the other Platinum Dunes reboots. It's obvious that director Samuel Bayer comes from a background in music videos (he’s responsible for the likes of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Marilyn Manson’s Coma White and Disposable Teens) as he laces the film with striking and daring imagery such as the snow-covered bedroom and the hallway floor that turns to blood. Some visceral and imaginative sequences where the lines between reality and dreams are manipulated, result in an off-kilter experience, however, despite having state of the art technology not available to Craven in the Eighties, the remake never really exploits it enough to create the spectacularly surreal dreamscapes it could. In fact, some of the CGI looks downright shoddy, particularly the shot in which Krueger appears through the wall above Nancy’s bed.

The score, courtesy of Platinum Dunes stalwart Steve Joblonsky, was recorded with the Hollywood Studio Symphony. Subtle references to Charles Bernstein’s original darkly synth-laden, nerve-jangling score are scattered throughout proceedings, namely in the haunting lullabies accompanying images of spooky children playing jump-rope. It’s a deeply unsettling and atmospheric work, which compliments the nightmarish visuals. Chilling use is also made of The Everly Brothers’ song All I Have to do is Dream.


While nowhere near the disaster it could have been, this remake, with everything it has going for it, just can’t muster the intensity it should. Despite a creepy atmosphere and some haunting visuals, plus decent performances and the unsettling incarnation of Krueger, it feels too formulaic and lacklustre to make any sort of dramatic impact.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Freddy vs Jason

2003
Dir. Ronny Yu

With the memory of Freddy Krueger suppressed and vanquished from the youth of Springwood – rendering him powerless and incapable of claiming any more victims - the dream-dwelling killer resurrects the brutish Crystal Lake marauder Jason Voorhees and manipulates him into going to Springwood to carve up a few teens and strike fear and chaos into the community once again.

As the bodies pile up, talk of Krueger once again haunts the suburban homes of Springwood, gradually increasing the dream demon’s powers. He soon realises however, that Jason’s bloodlust can never be quenched, and once the hockey-masked maniac starts killing, there’s just no stopping him. There’s eventually a big show down between the pair and some sassy teens get stuck in the middle of it all…

I reviewed Freddy vs. Jason a couple of years ago when I trekked through the Friday the 13th franchise. After re-watching it recently, I concluded that my opinions hadn’t really changed. You can read my review here. In short, it's a lacklustre though still fairly enjoyable romp that perfectly encapsulates how far both film series’ have come since their initial instalments back in the early 80s. Friday the 13th began as a cheap exploitative shocker boasting a murderous matriarch, while A Nightmare on Elm Street, took the form of a seminal, genuinely nasty and terrifying fright flick that exploited primal fears and featured a bogey-man who killed teenagers in their dreams. Many years, and sequels later, and both are now box office blockbusters that seem as at home in your local family multiplex as slush puppy machines and popcorn.

In lieu of a review in this particular post, here are some Freddy-orientated images from the film to enjoy.












Wine of the Month

I realise it’s been a while since I featured a wine of the month. That’s not to say that I haven’t been drinking any nice wines of late; I’ve probably just been too drunk to formulate a coherent recommendation. Anyhow. As I’ve been watching the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series this month, I thought I should stay sober long enough to recommend Raso de la Cruz, a fruity Tempranillo-Cabernet, expertly blended by Marks & Spencer (I'm not fussy, really). And at £6.99 a bottle, it’s cheap and cheerful, too.

A deep-red and fragrant wine, Raso de la Cruz is packed with flavours of morello cherry, crushed black pepper and wild Mediterranean herbs. The distinctly fresh acidity is matched by fine tannins and a lightly spicy finish. In the parched climate of CariƱena, old vines have adapted to survive by digging deep into the soil to reach natural reserves of water. The resulting fruit is highly concentrated, giving vibrant wines which are intensely fruity.

Raso de la Cruz is best served with ‘rustic’ dishes such as paella, pan-fried chorizo, chicken and tomato casserole, or a selection of cold meats and cheeses. Apparently there’s a knack to pairing up wine and cheese; harder types of cheese (Cheddar, Parmesan) work well with tannic wines such as this one: tannins are the various chemical compounds in wine that affect its colour, aging ability and texture. The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry feeling in the mouth when drinking certain wines. Creamy cheeses (Brie, Manchego) however, usually go better with acidic wines (Chardonnay).

As you know, the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, with their consistent dilution of the menacing figure of Freddy Krueger to a multiplex-friendly buffoon, are increasingly cheesy. This wine works marvellously well with the series, moving from the initial maturity of Craven’s first film, through the unctuousness of Freddy’s Revenge and the acrid, rubbery schlock of the later sequels; all the way to the robust complexity of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. 

Enjoy. But do so responsibly.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

1994
Dir. Wes Craven

An unspeakably evil entity, first given form by the character of Freddy Krueger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, has chosen that character as its portal into the real world. All that stands in its way is Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy Thompson; the first person to ever defeat Freddy Krueger. Can she play the part of Nancy one last time to stop the evil from entering our world?

After they killed off Freddy Krueger, and thus bringing an end to what was probably their most lucrative franchise, New Line began thinking that maybe, just maybe, they’d done it prematurely. They requested a meeting with Wes Craven to reconcile their differences and ensure the disgruntled director was satisfied with the business side of the Elm Street franchise. Once all was fine and dandy, head of New Line, Bob Shaye, asked Craven if he would ever consider helming one more Elm Street film, dangling the carrot of free reign and creative control under his nose in the process. The filmmaker admitted it would be tempting to get his hands on the series he instigated, but would only do it if they could make a truly original film that stood apart from the others. Inspired by Robert Altman’s The Player – a Hollywood satire in which various actors appeared as themselves, Craven set about writing a screenplay that would not only reduce the series to mere fodder for his latest tale, but also address the state of contemporary horror and the idea that it has a negative influence on its audience. Also central to his concept, was a dream he had in which he and various people involved with the Elm Street films were at a party. Robert Englund was dressed as Freddy Krueger and clowning around in much the same way Freddy did in the films; however Craven gradually became aware of a ‘shadowy figure’ in the background of the party, moving in parallel to Englund.



With New Nightmare Craven was able to comment on the state of contemporary horror, the nature of horror film productions and on fear itself. The shadowy figure he’d seen in his dream was representative of the dark side of human nature; Freddy Krueger just gave it a face and made it relatable and comprehensible enough for people. Craven once noted: “(Horror films) somehow gave shape and form and name to this unknowable, very frightening and very destructive thing. They somehow contain it, not to the extent that they stop it, but to the extent that they make it a bit more bearable. So Freddy, by being in the series of movies, captures a bit of the evil and makes it knowable to us.”
Once New Line stopped making the Elm Street films, this entity had no face, no form, and was free to roam the world. Its only limitation is that it must somehow get past the actress who played the character who first defeated it. Having actress Heather Langenkamp back on board was central to Craven’s vision of the film. After her involvement with the Elm Street films the actress had gone on to star in a successful sitcom and had an unsettling experience with a stalker. Here Langenkamp plays herself as an actress and young mother who struggles to reconcile her mixed feelings about her involvement with horror films. In a way that mirrors actual events, it’s also revealed that she is being menaced by a stalker; a direct result of her involvement with horror films – in more ways than one. She delivers a believably nervous performance as a young woman terrified that she’s losing her grip on reality, and one who will go to great lengths to protect her young son. New Line producers and former cast members from the series return to play themselves, notably Robert Englund, Wes Craven, Bob Shaye and John Saxon, who is revealed to be a paternal figure to Langenkamp in ‘real life.’ It’s a nice touch, but one that soon becomes more ominous as events proceed and the boundaries between dream/cinema and reality break down.



The film begins with a scene that reworks the opening of the original film, in which an unseen figure fashions a steel-clawed glove in a grimy workshop. It’s suddenly revealed that what we’re seeing is actually the filming of a new Elm Street movie, with director Wes Craven calling for more gore. Freddy’s updated claw – a mechanised steel hand – abruptly goes on the rampage killing the SFX crew and turns its attention towards Langenkamp, who suddenly wakes up from what is revealed to be a terrible nightmare. This bravura scene is typical of what we can expect from New Nightmare; it constantly subverts expectations, toys with perception and deftly blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Indeed New Nightmare goes further than this; it blurs the lines between reality and cinema.

“Every kid knows who Freddy is. He’s like Santa Claus, or King Kong.”

Craven takes sideswipes at not only New Line and the Elm Street franchise, but the conservative notion that horror cinema is harmful to its audience. The doctor who tends to Heather's young son Dylan (Miko Hughes) believes that he is developing schizophrenia due to trauma induced by watching his mother's horror films. Craven also comments on the way in which horror film audiences have, rather disturbingly, embraced the figure of a dream-stalking child killer as a sort of heroic icon; a barbed reference to how New Line diluted his initial creation. In a shrewdly telling scene, Langenkamp is being interviewed on a TV show about her work on the Elm Street films, when Englund suddenly appears as Freddy and completely steals the spotlight, whipping the audience into an excited frenzy. After the show he’s mobbed by teens wanting his autograph as Langenkamp patiently waits on the sidelines. The contrast between this wise-cracking, jester-like Krueger is worlds away from the incarnation that later stalks through New Nightmare. Englund portrays him as a much more menacing figure and even his appearance is strikingly different and much more sinister than that of his earlier incarnations.



New Nightmare is peppered with references to the original movie, certain shots are recreated, lines of dialogue repeated and glimpses of it appear on various characters’ TV sets. A throwaway line uttered by Tina (Amanda Wyss) in Craven’s 1984 film, in which she claims that the strange dreams she and her friends are having may be because of an impending earthquake, is picked up again by Craven. A series alarming occurrences take place, including the real Los Angeles earthquake, which is seamlessly woven into the plot and clearly marked as an antecedent to the appearance of Krueger, who is emerging into the real world. Cracks in the walls of Heather’s house mirror slashes created by Krueger’s clawed glove. There are also allusions to classic horror films such as Nosferatu and the creepy fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, such as 'Hansel and Gretel.' Fairytales are traditionally believed to have been constructed to help us deal with the trials and tribulations of life, shaping our outlook and prepping our resourcefulness. Great storytellers help contain and make manageable the primordial fears addressed in such tales, and, as Craven himself once said, they help ‘put the genie back in the bottle.’ There was a distinct air of the fairytale in Craven’s original film, with its teen protagonists on the cusp of sexuality, experiencing the traumas of adolescence and realising that their parents can’t help them from a bogey-man who stalks them in their dreams.

Throughout the film, Craven addresses the argument that horror films can be harmful to those who watch them, but also slyly reveals that, within the context of this particular story, they can also have a harmful effect on those involved in the production process. Craven appears as himself and he’s working on a screenplay inspired by his nightmares which mysteriously begins to pre-empt what is happening in reality. At one stage we see his computer screen and the screenplay he’s writing; what we see on screen are the lines we have just heard him and Langenkamp speak. We then fade to black, just as it said on the screen. Much later, we see Heather reading the script to her son as though it was the fairytale she was reading him earlier.



While there is a lot of reflection on the workings of horror cinema, New Nightmare also works as an effective exercise in cinematic terror. Heather and her son are terrorised by Krueger in their dreams and eventually the waking world as fantasy/cinema and reality merge. The stakes are increasingly stacked against her as she finds herself ostracised; her friends and colleagues insisting that what she’s experiencing is due to her nervous disposition. She has to delve deep to find the strength that she originally imbued Nancy with in order to fend off her demons – real and otherwise. Everything has a subtle, underlying menace, from the overly enthusiastic limo-driver who insists that Freddy should never have been killed off, to the talk show host who seems a little too keen to chat about Heather’s son and her private life, and the doctor who quietly insists horror films have caused Heather’s son to have a nervous breakdown. The tone is much darker and more serious than it’s ever been in an Elm Street movie, as it unfurls as a low key exercise in perfectly crafted tension and atmosphere. Events build steadily to a climax which unfolds in a hell world inspired by Dante’s Inferno, with Greco-Roman artefacts meshing with more traditional Elm Street imagery such as a vast and steamy boiler room filled with fiery furnaces. It helps cement the notion that the evil personified by Freddy is an ancient one. Certain digital effects are a little dated, but they’re sparingly used.

Preceding the likes of Scream, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is one of the most intelligent and provocative post-modern horror films ever produced. It stands tall over the whole series of Elm Street films, and in this writer’s humble opinion, is perhaps Wes Craven’s best film. With its foreboding atmosphere and chilling implications, it not only entertains, but also raises intelligent questions about the nature of fear, horror cinema and the darker side of pop culture.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Interview With Jack Zipes

Jack Zipes is a renowned author and expert on fairy tales. He has written a startling array of art­icles, essays and books on the subject, includ­ing The Broth­ers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Mod­ern World and Break­ing the Magic Spell: Rad­ical The­or­ies of Folk and Fairy Tales.

His latest work, The Irres­ist­ible Fairy Tale: The Cul­tural and Social His­tory of a Genre, is avail­able now courtesy of Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Press.

I recently had the pleas­ure of chatting with Mr Zipes about the his­tory and rel­ev­ance of fairy tales, their endur­ing appeal, and the influ­ence they have had on the likes of the super­hero and horror genres.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read the interview.

To pick up a copy of Exquisite Terror II, in which I examine the relationship between fairy tales and horror films, go here

To read about the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, its history and the influence it has had on cinema and literature, check out Dark Woods, Red Hoods

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

1991
Dir. Rachel Talalay

Freddy Krueger finally succeeds in killing all the children of his hometown by invading their dreams and slaughtering them while they sleep. By tracking down his estranged daughter, a tough youth councillor, he plans to escape the confines of Springwood to claim fresh victims. When she discovers who he is, and his demonic past, she vows to put a stop to his reign of terror once and for all. Will Krueger finally be defeated in the climactic (3D!) showdown between father and daughter?

"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

"No screaming while the bus is in motion!" - Freddy Krueger

Despite its decline in returns, and its lacklustre reception, The Dream Child still earned enough money at the box office to convince New Line that a further instalment of the Elm Street series might be a hit. The studio had noted the waning interest in Part 5 though, and decided that the next film should probably be the last; therefore, it needed to be big enough to give Freddy the explosive send off his fans would expect. The original idea featured Alice (Lisa Wilcox) and her son again, who, some years after defeating Krueger must face him again with the help of spectral Dream Warriors. Even Peter Jackson allegedly submitted a screenplay! The studio were taking no chances, and they threw everything they could at it, including cameo appearances by the likes of Johnny Depp, Rosanne and Alice Cooper, and an all singing-all dancing 3D finale that takes places within the mind of Krueger himself, as it's revealed he obtained his immortality from dream demons who’d been plaguing him since childhood. The original ending of the shooting script, which featured the dream demons corrupting another child, was dropped as New Line didn’t want to set up another sequel; they wanted to push Freddy’s Dead as the last film. Who the hell were they kidding?



Directed by Rachel Talalay, who’d been involved with the series since Craven’s original hit, it moves away from the gothic atmosphere of its predecessor, as well as the on-going storyline involving Alice and her son Jacob. A whole new set of characters were created with the revelation that Krueger has finally succeeded in slaughtering all the teenagers in Springwood. He uses the dreams of the last remaining teen, who is on the run and trying to stay awake, to relocate and begin his killing spree over again elsewhere. So far, things seem promising, with a daring new plot and promise of an unforgettable finale. From Dream Warriors on, the plots of the Elm Street films had essentially been hung around elaborate set pieces and fantastical death scenes. While Freddy’s Dead delves into the past of the titular killer, depicting his childhood and development into a killer, its plot is as draped around bombastic set pieces as its predecessors. It also reveals that Freddy has a daughter, who until this film had never been mentioned. It wasn’t unusual for ongoing horror franchises to introduce previously unheard of siblings who came out of the woodwork to put a stop to the bloody antics of their serial killing relative. Friday the 13th did the same thing in Part 9 of its series, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. FYI, there was nothing final about it, either! You just can’t keep a popular slasher franchise down.




Opening with a bravura scene that plays on the fear of heights, Freddy’s Dead starts as it means to go on, with an overtly cartoonish feel and plethora of big budget effects. An Acrophobic teen – who is revealed to be the last one of Springwood - finds himself falling out of a plane (accompanied by Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain on the soundtrack) and down into his bedroom, only for his house to be swept back up into the air in a twister, with Krueger flying around it on a broomstick as the witch from The Wizard of Oz. He awakens at the side of the road with amnesia, and winds up in a youth shelter for troubled teens and runaways. The on going themes of generational conflict, familial dysfunction and the depiction of parents as weak and ineffectual takes on a much more grotesque emphasis in this film, with the teens all coming from broken, abusive homes. The use of troubled teens as the main characters has shades of Dream Warriors; only on a much grittier, exaggerated scale. Indeed, the character of youth worker Maggie (Lisa Zane) is akin to Nancy in Part 3; she’s the only one who sides with the youths, while the parentally abused Tracy (Lezlie Deane) emerges as one of the series’ more proactive Final Girls. Tough female characters are common place throughout the Elm Street movies, and the series never had the misogynistic reputation some of its peers did. Freddy Krueger really was an equal opportunities kinda killer. Interestingly, as they were in Part 2, all the victims in Freddy’s Dead are male.

The depiction of Springwood throughout the series, particularly in the first film, was that of a white picket-fenced suburbia, completely at odds with the violence taking place in the dreams of its teenage inhabitants, ensuring the horror was unexpected and shocking. In Freddy’s Dead, Springwood is a ghost town, with childless parents wandering around in a daze, or playing at an abandoned funfair. It’s twisted and off and when the teens from the shelter arrive there one of them quips, ‘We’re in Twin Peaks!’ Whereas the dreams from Part 3 onwards played out in elaborate dreamscapes and gothic churches, the boiler room from the early films reappears here, adding to the grimy urban feel, which is totally at odds with the overblown comedic violence. The most disturbing scene unfolds as Tracy has a nightmarish encounter with her abusive father who morphs into Krueger. The underlying issues of domestic abuse, rape and incest are genuinely unsettling.



References to the first film abound when the gang realise they can defeat Krueger by pulling him out of their dreams and into reality. Maggie volunteers to fall asleep and track him down, donning a pair of 3D glasses to help her in her quest. Entering Krueger’s memories she sees the origins of the ‘Bastard son of a hundred maniacs’, his troubled childhood, abusive father (Alice Cooper!) and the Elm Street parents torching him in his boiler room. She also realises that her recurring dream is a repressed childhood memory; turns out she saw her father – Freddy Krueger! – killing her mother. Bombarding the audience with 3D demons and all manner of slap-stick violence, the film simply can’t manage to build any tension, despite its interesting central concept, and the final showdown is rather anti-climactic, with Maggie simply blowing up Krueger in the basement of the youth shelter.

Freddy’s Dead was designed to bid farewell to one of contemporary horror cinema’s most iconic bogeymen. While it certainly aims for an epic feel, it just can’t pull it off, and emerges as one of the weakest titles in the series. Talalay’s attempts to give it a darker, grittier edge are lost under the clownish Freddy shenanigans and ridiculous death scenes; one of which features a techy geek being sucked into a computer game and battered to death by a crudely animated Krueger. The film was a hit, unsurprisingly, and despite promising to kill off Freddy Krueger, the temptation to bring him back proved too much for New Line. What was most unexpected in the eventual follow up, however, was the involvement of the series’ original creator Wes Craven, and the genuinely intelligent, creepy and post-modern approach he would utilise to resurrect Freddy ‘One last time…’