Synopsis: Five years have passed since Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) was sent howling back to hell. But now, a new kid on Elm Street is being haunted every night by gruesome visions of the deadly dream stalker. And if his twisted soul takes possession of the boy’s body, Freddy will return from the dead to wreak bloody murder and mayhem upon the entire town.
When A Nightmare on Elm Street made a killing, horror fans shrieked for more. Soon the diabolic Freddy was resurrected with a vengeance – along with some of the most terrifying special effects ever to spatter the screen. Look for Robert Englund minus his Freddy face in the opening sequence. He’s a real scream!
eyelights: Robert Englund. its elaborate dream sequences. its campy quality.
eyesores: its performances. its plot holes. its déjà vu quality. its campy quality.
“You can’t scare me anymore.”
Seven years after ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘, for some reason someone at New Line Cinema decided to pull the plug on the franchise. Given the profit margin of even the weakest entries, it’s hard to understand what compelled them – it’s not as though the sequels were produced for artistic reasons.
In any event, ‘Freddy’s Dead’, the sixth entry in the series, was released in 1991.
It marked the end of the storyline that had begun with the third film, “The Dream Warriors“, which found Freddy trying to knock off the last of the Elm Street kids. Gone were the Parkers and the Johnsons, who were only loosely connected anyway, and in came kids who weren’t from Springwood.
And a no-name character.
(Well, at least he wasn’t that ghastly Jacob kid from the previous movie. !@#$)
This time, having run out of Springwood kids to murder, Freddy’s ploy is to send out this “John Doe” to the big city to bring someone back for him. His purpose is to use this mystery person to release him into the rest of the world, instead of being confined to Springwood. He plans to spread his reign of terror.
It unfolds as expected: “John Doe” unknowingly does Freddy’s bidding, he and some kids battle Freddy in Springwood, and he’s beaten.
What’s interesting about this picture, aside for the fact that it completely ignores the events of the previous three films, is that it’s set ten years after “The Dream Child”. In this version of reality, which should be 2001, but is officially 1999, there are no kids left in Springwood – Freddy’s slaughtered them all.
Springwood is a desert town filled with demented adults who can’t cope with their loss.
(Curiously, word of this has not left Springwood…)
“Freddy’s Dead” was intended to be a fun send off to the character and series: not only was it the campiest of the lot, but it featured 3D effects requiring anaglyph glasses. It was essentially channeling the quality of some of the gimmicky pictures from the ’50s, but with a more modern sensibility and effects.
For many people, ‘Freddy’s Dead’ is one of the worst -if not the worst- of the series. In fact, when I first saw it, I disliked it so much that it put me off the series – having not yet seen the original. It’s only after seeing Wes Craven’s genre classic that I reconsidered and decided to see the rest of them.
Now I see ‘Freddy’s Dead’ rather differently: Yes, it’s campy as hell. Yes, it has a total disregard for the events and concepts that made the sequels popular. Yes, it’s a far cry from the creepy original. But, as an entertainment, it’s got its moments: it’s basically a jolly romp through a bunch of set pieces.
And these elaborate sequences can be entertaining, nonsensical though they are. Case-in-point, the opening bit that introduces us to “John Doe” is just nuts, tossing him from a plane, then waking him up in a freefalling house, tumbling down a hill and being hit by a bus and thrown out on the outskirts of town.
It’s manic, zany and full of Freddy goodness, who appears as The Wicked Witch of the West and the bus driver.
Granted, some scenes jump the shark, like the one when Spencer is stuck in a video game scenario, and Freddy controls him with a remote control, walking him around reality like a game character. !@#$ It’s way worse than the martial arts sequence from “The Dream Master” or the superhero one from “The Dream Child”.
In fact, it’s so putrid that this is all I remember of ‘Freddy’s Dead’ when I think of it.
The problem is that picture tries too hard to be cool, to be current, and not only was it trying too hard for its time, but it dates it now. That video game console is a distant memory (and would have been dated in 1999/2001), the cameos by Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold and its soundtrack reek of an era long gone.
For me, though, all of this fits in with the genre at the time: horror films weren’t especially scary – they were either extremely gory or just silly. And, naturally, the writing was always weak and the actors were unwatchable. The films were mindless fodder for teenagers. That’s why I hated horror at the time.
What I dislike about this film now is twofold: 1) its performances, and 2) its plot holes.
1. The cast is terrible almost completely across the board. The only one doing a terrific job is Robert Englund, who is having so much fun with the part and doing such a great job of it that he’s infinitely watchable. Then Lezlie Deane gets by as Tracy, a tough runaway (the rest of the cast makes it easy on her).
2. Though it has very little plot, ‘Freddy’s Dead’ somehow manages to leave gaping holes along the way:
- Who is “John Doe”? If he’s been to Springwood (no one recognizes him except for the crazy lady at the orphanage) but isn’t from Springwood, then where is he from? And why did he go to Springwood in the first place?
- How could Freddy transfer “John Doe” from the dreamworld to the real world? I mean, what this suggests is that Freddy somehow transported him from wherever he was before the opening dream sequence to the outskirts of town. How?
- How did Freddy expect “John Doe” to get Maggie for him? It seems like a very random plan since the only reason “JD” met Maggie is because he got picked up by the cops and was then taken to the same hostel that she works at.
- What was Maggie’s plan when she sent the three runaways back in the hostel’s van? Did she really trust that they’d go back on their own, instead of using it to run further? And how was she and “JD” going to get home afterwards?
- Freddy’s origins are a bit sketchy. Who are these “Dream People”? How can they imbue him with power? And why him? And why would he tell them that he wants it all when he meets them? What does that have to do with anything?
The production quality is pretty decent, given that New Line Cinema were tying to end big; this is a pretty good looking picture for a low budget horror entry; some of the elaborate set pieces are well-conceived and directed. And while the 3D effects are totally unsubtle, they’re fun if taken in the right spirit.
My only true criticism is with the so-called “Dream People”, these weird floating alien skulls with tails. They are total !@#$: they’re poorly-designed and poorly-animated. What are they? Alien fish? It’s bad enough that we don’t understand what they’re about, but they’re complete garbage on every single level.
Otherwise, the picture looks good for its age.
Sadly, the finale isn’t quite up to snuff. Freddy and Maggie duke it out, but it’s kind of lame, with her snapping his hand back and killing him with his own glove. Then she blows him up. It’s rather anti-climactic, not the kind of send-off that you expect for such an icon. And then the survivors cheer. Whoop!
“Freddy’s Dead”, Maggie claims.
Or is it?
Ultimately, Freddy couldn’t possibly remain dead for long. He never had and never would. But his era was over: though ‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’ would soon follow, ushering in the second-best entry of the series, Freddy would only reappear again in his duel with Jason Voorhees and a poorly-received remake.
‘Freddy Dead’ did, in fact, kill Freddy: it didn’t please fans and it removed the franchise so far away from its origins that it couldn’t possibly recover. It’s not a terrible horror film by any means (in fact, it’s better than most of the ‘Halloween‘ and ‘Friday the 13th‘ sequels). But it has nothing new to offer.
It was time to put Freddy to rest.
Date of viewing: August 14, 2017