Every bad review you’ve ever read about this is true. For some reason, I never watched it when it came out, despite being a huge fan of the first four movies (and able to sort of tolerate the fifth); but boy oh boy, this is the absolute pits. Incomprehensible, ugly, stupid, and pointless are about the nicest things I can find to say about “Freddy’s Dead”, but I’ll try and write something entertaining anyway (and there’s a shedload of fun trivia too, which might liven things up a bit).
No attempt is made to put this movie in the same timeline as the rest of the series, should that sort of thing interest you. Alice survived parts 4 and 5, and then actress Lisa Wilcox left the series for good (smart girl, Lisa) so they just decided…I’m not sure what they decided. Anyway, if we can trust any of the information this movie gives us, Springwood “ten years in the future” is a desolate wasteland where every child and teenager but one has been killed.
I’m going to stop right there for a second. What? How is this town not the most famous place in the world? Every child? But I can’t stop too long as I’ll lose momentum and this review will just be me, sat in a corner sobbing. So, that one remaining kid takes part in the least funny, least scary, least coherent dream sequence in the history of this series, as Freddy tortures him (at one point, doing a shockingly bad riff on “The Wizard Of Oz”) before throwing him out of the dream – illustrated by a sort of breaking glass effect – and into a whole different town, telling him to “fetch”. What? Best get used to Freddy not being limited to dreams any more, too, as he can just manipulate reality now. I think. It’s honestly difficult to tell.
The kid in question, John Doe, is found wandering the streets with amnesia, and is taken to a sort of children’s refuge / psychiatric hospital, where Lisa “sister of Billy” Zane and Yaphet Kotto are working. Rather than treat John like you would any deeply disturbed kid, she believes his dream stories about Freddy Krueger because she’s had them herself, and decides to drive with him back to Springwood – in the centre’s van, along with three stowaways (one of whom is Breckin Meyer, making his movie debut and actually being the right age, unlike the 30-year-old-looking “teenagers” in the van with him). The movie gives them zero character, so I won’t bother learning or writing their names.
So the bulk of the movie is these five pretty rotten actors wandering around Springwood, which doesn’t resemble a town as much as it does a Freddy Krueger Theme Park. Making cameos around this time are Roseanne and Tom Arnold as two crazy parents, wondering why their child is missing; and Johnny Depp (billed in the credits as “Oprah Noodlemantra”) doing a PSA on TV. Freddy kills a few of them, before we figure out that one of the remaining people is his child, and he needs them in order to…nope. I got nothin’.
The timeline is almost deliberately confusing. Towards the end of the movie, Zane manages to get inside Freddy’s mind and we get what amounts to the first real backstory for the character. Dressed in 1950s gear, we see him as a man in his early 40s, with a wife and kid. That he was a FATHER, a matter of public record, was never mentioned at any point in the series, and it makes his desire to take over the foetus of Lisa in part 5 completely pointless. This movie is set in 2001, or 1999 (definitely “10 years in the future”, either from the year the film was released or of the previous movie), and if we’re very generous and say that the flashback was the mid-60s, it still makes his kid at least 40 years old, and given the person playing that kid was 27 at the time, it doesn’t really hold up (and also means the red herring about one of the teenagers maybe being Krueger Jr isn’t much of a red herring). There’s also the whole thing of how Krueger, seen to be violent and withdrawn as a child, was able to hold it together enough to have a family while slaughtering children, which seems a touch on the unlikely side.
You might get the occasional whiff of unoriginality from “Freddy’s Dead” – which is because it plunders ideas from its predecessors like it was going out of fashion. You get the “dream warrior” stuff from part 3, the kid stuff from part 5, and the “driving weirdness” bit from part 4, among many many others. Unfortunately, they didn’t bother ripping off any of the kills from those movies, giving us instead unfunny, unscary death scenes which were so bad I wondered if someone was playing a joke on us. The scene where Freddy puts one of the kids inside a “Super Mario Brothers” ripoff and then “plays” the character is just awful, and can’t even keep its own continuity in place – sometimes Freddy is controlling the kid, sometimes the kid’s Dad.
Director Rachel Talalay now works in TV (including several recent “Doctor Who” episodes), and this was her first movie. She, rather oddly, turned down two different scripts, choosing the guy who’d written the unbearably bad part 5 (giving it a polish herself). Those two scripts? Multi-Oscar winner and all-round good guy Peter Jackson wrote one, where Freddy was old and weak, and kids would have drug-fuelled “dream parties” where they’d go and beat him up. That is a great idea! Then, indie film legend Michael Almereyda wrote one which features “Dream Cops”, and tied the action to the rest of the series, which honestly sounds a bit complicated but is oh-so-much better than what they ended up with.
It turns out, Freddy hasn’t been haunting kids’ dreams because he represents the guilt and fear of the parents of Elm Street; he was actually given the power by three ancient Dream Demons at the moment of his death – which is sort of a bummer, as he probably should have asked them to not tie him to one town. If anyone remembers part 5, and how he was supposed to represent the Dark Portal to dreams, or whatever, then you know more about this series than the people who made it.
But this isn’t the only reason! His kid was taken away from him in 1966 (according to the blackboard in the movie) and he decided to wreak his revenge on other peoples’ children – even though the film itself tells us he’d been killing long before this. Is this special secret double revenge?
It does seem like New Line were genuine about this being the end for the character, with no fake-out Freddy’s-still-around non-ending, and “RIP” appearing on screen along with Freddy’s face. Of course, it made a profit, and art is a very distant second to money when it comes to movies, so we got “New Nightmare” three years later (which, to be fair, doesn’t feature Freddy as part of its actual “real” cast) and then “Freddy vs. Jason” in 2001. This actually makes it the least bad of all the slasher films and their “movies after the one with final in the title” crimes.
I don’t think I can say enough bad things about this. Part 5, miserable as it was, at least had some sort of reason to exist as an Elm Street movie – this manages to be terrible from beginning to end and substitutes “wacky” (in the worst possible sense of the word) events for plot. It was awful, and I’m genuinely sad I watched it.
Rating: thumbs down