Well, after writing about A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2 and trying to build a credible case for its uniqueness making it a lot less awful than is made out, I thought perhaps I should write another little article. Just like with societies, it is hard to know what is good or even average without having something bad to compare it to. This is where the sixth film in the series, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, comes in handy. I think in order to understand what a piece of shit it really is, one needs to understand the full meaning of the description given in the Wikipedia. In the presently-available Wikipedia entry, Freddy’s Dead is described as “a 1991 American slasher comedy horror film”. Although it is up for debate whether this is really two or three distinct genres that the film is unsuccessfully trying to blend, a big part of the problem is that the people responsible for making the film do not understand how to do any of these genres well, leave alone all three at once.
If you have seen An American Werewolf In London, then you have already seen an example of a combination of comedy and horror done well. And the reason the combination worked there is because (get this) the horror element was taken perfectly seriously. The four actors that can be considered principals are quite clearly taking an absurd situation as seriously as they can, even when they are acting out scenes intended to induce laughter. Griffin Dunne, the gentleman playing the character of Jack, performs the thankless task of explaining the plot and the conflict the central character, David, is facing. But the manner in which lycanthropy is treated seriously by the story, and the conflict between survival instinct and doing the right thing is treated seriously by the characters, means that jokes such as David’s conference with the departed spirits of those he has dined on whilst in wolf form are all the more hilarious in an inobvious way. Put simply, An American Werewolf In London is a good film because it respects the intelligence of the audience.
Freddy’s Dead, on the other hand, suffers from what I will call the Michael Bay problem. Bay, you will recall, reacted to disparagement of his latest Transformers film by asking if it was such a bad thing to make films for teenage boys. My response to that, in comment where one story repeating this statement was printed, was that Bay does not make films for teenage boys, he makes films for morons. There is a difference.
If An American Werewolf In London and the original Nightmare On Elm Street are films for audiences with many thousands of brain cells to rub together, then Freddy’s Dead is a film for morons. If you knew that was coming, then you know what I mean about the film. The film begins with a textual prologue in which it is explained that in the small American suburb of Springwood, Ohio has suffered a mass of unexplained deaths and suicides that have led to the teenaged populace of the suburb being reduced to zero. We are not even into the story proper and already we are opening up plot problems the size of nuclear submarines. Leaving aside the probability that parental units would be leaving this suburb en masse, the death of every person within a specific age group, especially one of which the near-entire McJob market is composed, would provoke quite a response from governments. And by governments, I mean federal. The FBI, for one, would be looking so closely at Springwood, Ohio that Freddy would not have an opportunity to scratch his arse without at least one agent knowing.
This is because with the extent to which society has grown, the death of an entire demographic in any society will cause a major disruption in a society’s economy. This, incidentally, is the reason why societies do not allow their unemployed to just simply go and starve to death. But anyway, the point here is that for a story involving the deaths of at least several hundreds of individuals, the scope is so limited as to be laughable. All we have in this story in terms of an investigative team to move the story forward is a pair of doctors whose specialisations are never exactly specified. One is a glorified cameo by Yaphet Kotto, who clearly appears to be contemplating firing his agent. The other is played by Lisa Zane, who fights her hardest to keep from displaying that trademark “help, I am in a bad film and I know it” look, and mostly succeeds.
Unfortunately, the best actor of the lot, Robert Englund, comes off really badly in this film. Part of it is because the writing on this film crosses the line from sucking to being flat-out offensive. I will go into more detail about this shortly. But for now, suffice to say that Robert is bundled with all of the worst lines in the film. Every time he is in front of the camera, he is obliged to speak, and what he says is so excruciatingly stupid at times that one cannot help picturing original Nightmare director Wes Craven putting his face into his hands whilst watching this film.
There are scenes in the film that, when one is thirteen years old and has not really learned enough from life to know otherwise, look creative or good. The first is of the character called Carlos, played by Ricky Dean Logan. Carlos’ main distinction as a character is that at an unspecified point in his life, his mother “cleaned out his ears” in such a manner that has left him virtually deaf without a hearing aid. After a particularly obnoxious and cruel recreation of this event, Freddy uses this need for a hearing aid to have any sense of the sound around him to kill Carlos. The other scene is just so flat-out offensive it defies description. In it, Lezlie Deane‘s character, Tracy, is having a nightmare in which her deceased father is soliciting her for sex. No, I am not making this up. During this scene, we hear Deane use lines like “daddy, you’re dead”. It is not unreasonable, given the way the character is written and performed, to believe that Deane‘s character even killed him. But these elements are not why the scene offends me so. The reason it offends me so is because the father/Freddy metamorph, after being telegraphed to the audience as Freddy, says (as Tracy’s father) “no honey for daddy?” (again, exact quote) then (as Freddy) “what’s with kids today, huh? No respect.”
Ex-fukking-scuse me? You are assuming the role of someone who apparently raped his own daughter so many times that she might have killed him, and you are on about respect? Give me a fukking break. I sincerely hope, even pray, that when Robert Englund was presented with this script, he turned to producer and director alike, and said that he felt incredibly dirty even contemplating saying these lines. Because believe me, the idea that a classically trained actor would feel in the slightest bit comfortable with this scene is too revolting to even contemplate. If you have read enough of this journal already, you know that I believe two things in terms of respect. One, it is something you have to earn. Demanding it from someone simply because you are old enough to have been one of their parents only entitles you to a kick in the teeth. Two, child abusers, and especially child rapists, demanding respect is synonymous with barking up the wrong tree.
Adding to this is that unlike Freddy’s Revenge, Freddy’s Dead had a relatively reasonable production time that allowed plenty of time to create a halfway decent script. Although I hate talking about my own writings in these contexts, I can tell you that the total time it took me to write the first draft of one novel of approximately 76,000 words was maybe a few months. And that was whilst trying to juggle things like half-heartedly trying to attend university and other such bullshit. The previous, indescribably shitty (but also far less offensive) installment in the series was released on August 11 of 1989. Freddy’s Dead was released on September 13, 1991. Given that in this instance, the producers knew well in advance that they were planning to make another film, the rushed production excuse for the second film’s schlocky nature just will not wash here.
And mind you, these are just the two worst scenes in the film. That there was so much uproar at the release of every Saw film about “torture porn” when we have shit like this just beggars belief. But anyway, one of the better moments in the film involves Lisa Zane‘s character taking Shon Greenblatt‘s with her to visit Springwood in search of some answers. Three youths from the shelter at which the Zane character works stow away in the van for the ride, wanting to get out and go… well, nothing in the film is thought out that much. But anyway, upon discovering the three youths in the van with her, Zane brings them along to Springwood, where they discover the mass psychosis spoken of in the film’s introductory text. This results in a myriad of scenes in which the various characters are confronted by people who appear to have eaten a little too much acid.
Probably the best of these scenes involves a history teacher in one of the deserted schools. Sounding a bit like Axl Rose after a cocaine binge, the teacher recites rhymes about things Freddy did at various points in history. Nonsensical as they are, the initial rhymes in this scene have a poetry to them that made them entertaining the first time around. But anyway, it is during this sequence that we are told, not shown, that at some point during the string of child murders that led to his death, Freddy Krueger had a child who was taken away from him (presumably when he was put on trial). Much of the second act concerns itself with Lisa Zane and Shon Greenblatt, or rather their characters, try to deduce who Freddy’s child is. Given how few viable suspects there are in the film, it does not take them long to ditch any pretense of suspense with this thread. But it also gives us a lot of clues concerning what the problem in the film is. In one of the few well-rendered scenes of the film, we witness the young version of Zane‘s character witnessing the murder of her mother by Freddy. This wife/mother character discovers the grisly exhibits of Freddy’s hobby in a basement of their household, a discovery that Freddy does not respond well to.
Freddy’s Dead, it can therefore be deduced, suffers from the same confusion of direction as RoboCop 2. That is, it cannot make up its mind which direction the plot should go in. The history of the Freddy character is something that a number of writers, directors, and producers have attempted to fill blanks in, with degrees of success that range from none to minimal. The problem in this film is that no matter how interesting a story you can tell about Freddy’s life, mixing it with a present scenario is just not doable within the confines of an 89-minute film. Especially not one where you have to have a certain prerequisite of childish kill scenes. And make no mistake about this. People who grew up in the 1980s dismiss Nightmare films four through six not on the basis of them having not enough of this or that, but rather because of how fukking childish they are. This is why I would rather be locked in a room for three weeks with nothing but a VHS player, a CRT, and a tape of Freddy’s Revenge than films four through six.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was easily the worst of the Nightmare On Elm Street series. As polite as he was being about it, Robert Englund made no secret of the fact that he was sick to death of playing the character. One scene in this film notwithstanding, I have to contend that he is perfectly justified in this sentiment. Anyone who has seen him in V and V: The Final Battle, knows he is capable of far better. The chances that we will ever see him in far better again, however, are a bit slim these days. That is tragic.
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