Sunday, March 14, 2010

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

"They saved the best...for last."  Riiiiight.  That statement isn't correct in any way, shape, or form.  Not only is this not the best Freddy Kreuger movie, it's not even the last.  Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is the sixth installment of the A Nightmare On Elm Street series, and it takes the nightmare-dwelling slasher flick star and propels him into the future...for no particular reason.  No surviving characters pop up in the film, so the placement in the future is completely arbitrary.  Unless, of course, this "ten years later" refers to ten years after someone watching it...which means it is dependent upon viewers to happen.  So, if I was the last person to ever watch this movie, then in ten years, I would be indirectly responsible for the events in this film!  God, that's a depressing thought; I'd sure hate to share the blame for this crap with director Rachael Talalay (who also directed Tank Girl).  The sad thing is that there is an outside possibility that I will be the last person to watch this movie.

So, who wants to hear the plot?  Anyone?  Show of hands?  Yeah, me neither.  While the plot is unimportant here, there are a lot of revelations that add (and detract) from the Freddy mythos.  For instance, we learn that a young Fred Kreuger was still a sociopath; we watch him kill a schoolroom gerbil with a large hammer.  Why was there a large hammer available to young Kreuger?  Um.  Maybe it was "Bring Your Favorite Weapon" day for show-and-tell?  We also see Kreuger teased by kids chanting, "Son of a hundred maniacs!" over and over.  Leave it to the innocence of schoolkids to turn a tragic origin, where a child's father could be any one of the hundred violent inmates in a psychiatric ward that repeatedly raped his mother, a nun, and turn it into a fun little chant!  Kids say the darndest things!  And who told the kids about that, anyway?  Did somebody's parents teach them the joys of taunting rape victims?  Presumably, yes.  Later, as a teen, Freddy takes to self-mutilation as a way to handle (and enjoy) the physical abuse that his adoptive/foster father (played by Alice Cooper) heaps upon him.  Oh, and Freddy murdered his own wife, after she discovered evidence that he was murdering the kids of Elm Street.  Oh, and he did it in front of his heretofore unmentioned young daughter.  Now, from a writing perspective, it's a totally valid idea to create some history for Freddy's character that helps explain why he was so evil, and maybe even make him a little more sympathetic.  A good way to do this would be to show him being tormented as a child in school, or to see him being beaten by the only father he knows.  A bad way to do this is to show him being a sociopath from day one.  I'll give the screenwriters credit for making an effort, even if they totally undercut themselves.

Well, I would give them credit, but then they decided that, when Freddy was about to be burned alive, he was approached by Dream Demons who promised Freddy eternal life and the ability to continue being evil in exchange, nothing.  Demons: not driving as hard of bargains as you might expect.

Another good idea stems from the fact that no returning characters, aside from Freddy himself, are in this film.  This allows the writers to show a Springwood, Ohio (where Elm Street is) where Freddy has run amok, killing every child but one in the town.  This, reasonably, drives the parents crazy.  However, nobody outside of Springwood seems to know about the tragedy of the town.  Not very realistic, but this is a movie with a recurring nightmare man, so I'll let that pass.  This means that nobody knows about Freddy or how to defeat him, which leads to a novel concept: if you grab Freddy in your dream and wake up, you can bring him into the waking world with you. Outside of dreams, Freddy doesn't have power, so he can die.  Although, if you fail to kill him, can Freddy return to dreams?  I don't see why not.  And Freddy still has a lot of dream powers in the real world, for some unknown reason, including physical transformations, healing, and more.  But a pipe bomb?  That'll kill him.  Seriously.  So...plot holes?  Got 'em right here! 

Freddy's ultimate plan in the film is to manipulate events so that his daughter will return to Springwood.  Once there, Freddy will hop inside her and...control her?  Or live in her subconscious?  Or what?  That's left a little fuzzy.  Regardless, she will act as a transport for Freddy, so he can find children of different towns and create new Elm Streets.  After all, he cackles, "Every town has an Elm Street!  MWA HAHAHAHA!"  Why couldn't Freddy leave Springwood?  Isn't he demon-powered?  Well, yes, but Dream Demons aren't allowed to cross the street without holding the hands of a grown-up.  What?  I can't make up dumb rules, too?  Why does Freddy need to establish more Elm Streets?  He hasn't been limited to Elm Street since Nightmare Part 2

This Nightmare has only three kills in it, so there's not a lot to distract from the plot.  On the plus side, one of the deaths shows a head exploding.  Anther has a young Brekin Meyer (mediocre actor and co-creator of the excellent Robot Chicken show) being controlled by Freddy, as Freddy plays a Nintendo-style game console.  Brekin's death isn't noteworthy, really, but Freddy does manage to fit in a Nintendo Power Glove joke, which I rather enjoyed.  There are a few cameos that are noteworthy, too, aside from Alice Cooper.  Being the "final" Freddy movie, Johnny Depp made an appearance, since the first Nightmare was his first movie.  Also, Tom Arnold and his then-wife, Roseanne, popped up as Springwood residents; Roseanne impresses as an obnoxious woman with a loud mouth, showcasing the acting chops of a bar of soap.  Former James Bond villain Yaphet Kotto also has a small role in the movie, but he's basically a plot device, so he didn't add much.

Overall, this is a bad, bad, movie.  It's not as bad as part 5, though.  It sure isn't good, either, but there are some bright spots.  The poor plot manages to make the smart choice to ignore continuity with the preceding films, which allows viewers insight into Kreuger's character.  Not great insight, but more than ever before.  I'll be honest, if it wasn't for the Dream Demons, I would say these character insights weren't terrible.  Yes, this movie has a bunch of characters that you don't care about.  Yes, this movie has a movie monster that is not scary at all, but instead aims at being allegedly funny.  But the saving grace for the film is Freddy himself.  Robert Englund is not a great actor, but you can tell that he loves every second of every scene of every Nightmare.  If this was, indeed, The Final Nightmare, I will admit that he had a pretty good performance in a film otherwise devoid of anything approaching acting.  So, that's one star for Englund, one star for a moderately creative (if terrible) character history for Freddy, and one star for a Nintendo Power Glove joke.

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