Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare 25 Years Later

by Adam Riske
A lousy movie that was instrumental to me loving horror.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare celebrates its 25th anniversary on September 13th and it’s one of those movies I’ve seen probably a dozen times even though I don’t like it too much. There are aspects about the movie I enjoy. For example, I think the first dream sequence where John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) falls out of an airplane and then down a really steep hill is pretty cool, the opening Goo Goo Dolls song is good and it has some fun cameos and 3D shit along the way. Plus it makes great use of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” which I’m sure was not written, recorded or listened to by anyone on drugs. I’m always drawn back to Freddy’s Dead thinking that I liked it in a guilty pleasure kind of way, and then I’m always slapped across the face during the viewing that the movie is not very good at all. Do you have movies like that?
I think the reason I still want it in my life is that everything around the movie, aside from the actual movie, drew me in so much that I have nostalgia for the film as a result. When Freddy’s Dead was released in 1991, I was only 9 years old, so I was too young to see it in theaters (the first horror movie I saw in theaters was actually three years later with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare). I don’t think I caught up with Freddy’s Dead until cable, actually. I can’t remember. But I was fascinated by everything around its release. I loved both the teaser poster and the theatrical poster to Freddy’s Dead, which I saw numerous times in theater lobbies during the summer of 1991. And I was beside myself with excitement (for other people) because they were going to get to see part of the movie in 3D. How cool is that?!! The fact that I couldn’t see the movie for myself wasn’t going to damper my enthusiasm for the theatrical run of Freddy’s Dead.

So I found other ways of enjoying the Freddy’s Dead experience. I used to watch a television show (which I wish still ran) where it was solely one to two minute clips of the top ten box office films of the previous week with a banner showing the title of the film and its gross for the weekend. I was big into this back in 1991, which is probably when I first became aware of box office. More importantly, it allowed me to watch a parental-approved cut of Freddy’s Dead piecemeal for a few weeks. I can’t tell you how crushed I was when the film fell out of the top ten and I was left clipless back in October 1991. Another way I got my Freddy’s Dead fix was when my mom would take my sister and me to Walgreen’s or the grocery store and I would check out the magazine rack and fumble through pages of Fangoria. There were tons of Freddy’s Dead stills to be found in those issues. This was a key step in my horror fandom evolution, because I became used to the gory stills of most early ‘90s horror movies. By the time I saw the movies years later I knew not to be scared and that the images weren’t going to jump up and bite me. It’s similar to how I prepared myself for the Universal Monsters through the Crestwood House book series. I see horror parents always trying to “get their kids into horror,” but I don’t think a horror fan (if they have it in their DNA) needs any help. They’ll find it when they’re ready. They don’t need to be pushed or introduced. I was ready from seeing pictures of the Crypt Keeper in my parents' cable guide and Freddy’s Dead reports in the fall ’91 issues of Fangoria. That’s when I knew horror was for me. You first start fascinated and scared but eventually the interest trumps the fear.
And I did cheat in my Freddy’s Dead exploration. What I mean is my parents would take me to see Suburban Commando or Necessary Roughness and I would eventually get to the point where I’d say “I need to go to the bathroom.” I would get up and leave the theater, but on my way back to theater I was supposed to be in, I would stop at the theater showing Freddy’s Dead and peek in for about 30 seconds. I would never go into the theater, but instead would just stand in the doorway. Fun fact: I used to do this for a lot of horror movies back in the 1991-1994 time period and I never, even once, peeked in at a “horror moment.” It was always when someone was talking or doing something else altogether innocuous. It built up my bravery for the day I would be ready to sit in a theater and watch a horror movie with friends.
I’m reminded the climactic battle between Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and Maggie (Lisa Zane) in Freddy’s Dead, where Freddy says to her: “Go ahead... put it on. It's in your blood. That's it. Put it on. Feels good, doesn't it?” In the context of the movie he’s talking to her about his razor-finger glove, but out of context he might has well been talking to me about embracing my love of the horror genre. Thanks, Freddy, for 25 years of prime time…bitch.

11 comments:

  1. This is awesome. Reminds me of my obsession with Hellboy before I was allowed to see it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have a similar relationship with Jeepers Creepers. I saw it with a bunch of friends, at the age of 12, and had to keep leaving the room because it was too scary - much to my own embarrassment. It fascinated me though, and sent me on the long, twisted road to becoming a die-hard horror fan. I've probably seen it ten times since that fateful night, and I still think the first half and the end scene are genuinely good, but the rest is pretty rough. I bought the Scream Factory Blu-ray, and was pleasantly surprised at how candid the director is about how the movie goes downhill after the midpoint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like Jeepers Creepers. I also agree that it starts out really strong and then loses its way (the cat lady) only to be redeemed by a pretty great, ballsy ending.

      Delete
  3. This is great - for some reason when I saw the headline I was thinking you had told a story about sitting through the whole movie wearing the 3D glasses (it's only 3D for like 15 minutes) but maybe that was someone on Killer POV? Or was it Mikey P...? Yeah, let's just say it was Mike, that schmuck loves Friday the 13th Part VII.

    ANYway - love your theatre hijinx - I was 11 so much older and wiser than you and allowed to see the movie for realz and I thought it was awesome. Now it might be my least favourite of the franchise, but you're right, there's some good stuff in there. And yeah, flipping through the Fangorias, that brings me back too - the magazine is a big part of my youth and burgeoning horror fandom, but I don't think I ever bought an issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I don't think I ever bought an issue of Fangoria either. I bought one of those "special issues" on Demon Knight but that was an issue of Starlog.

      Delete
  4. I actually have a fairly similar and recent relationship with Batman V Superman. I have seen both cuts of the film and love the ultimate cut so much more than the first, even though I still recognize a lot of its problems, I still love this movie. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I had only recently become interested in DC comics when this movie came out and there were elements in the movie that caused me to seek out further knowledge of characters, which would then lead me to a plethora of DC comic characters within the universe. I owe this movie quite a bit when it comes to my now love for the DC universe, even though I think I want to love this movie more than I think I should. Affleck's Batman at least kicks ass in it. Great article!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I will never forget the joy I had watching this with my friends for my 9th birthday. They went with my dad to the video store without my knowledge to pick out a movie for us to watch for my birthday that night and they came back with Freddy's Dead: the Final Nightmare. My dad knew I always liked Freddy cuz he showed me the Nightmare movies at a very young (obviously too young) age. I used to make him rewind the opening bus scene in Nightmare 2 over and over again. It scared the hell out of me when I was 5, but I liked it. I liked that feeling of being afraid of something at a young age. Yup, I was a weird kid. Anyways, they brought over Freddy's Dead and I was like, huh, I've never seen it and my obsession with Freddy had gone away the past couple years so I was skeptical. We watched and found ourselves laughing a lot and it was a great time and I must say a memorable birthday sleepover.

    Watching it today, it's hard to really justify some of the gags in it. I feel Rachel Talalay(sp?) may have taken a little too much control over the back story, taking it in a direction that was both good and bad. I liked some of her choices, but it almost justifies Freddy's actions a little too much. Very Twin Peaks at times, but she admitted that in the doc. It's bottom of the barrel for the Nightmare series, right down there with Dream Child and Freddy's Revenge, but it always brings me back to that birthday party and being a kid. Great article, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Just popped in Freddy's Dead for the first time in a long time. I've decided that my favorite part of the movie is the closing credits sequence. It's a pretty awesome montage set to some top notch 90s alternative rock. Just kidding, not my favorite part, it is pretty great though. That ending is so bad, the crappy 3D, the final fight between Freddy and Katherine is so unsatisfying and breaks too many rules for me. If she brought Freddy into the real world, why is he still able to be a chameleon changing from unburned to burned Freddy, then he's climbing on the ceiling before he closes the gate, it's like they just didn't think about that because they wanted to use certain effects. I like the back in forth between Freddy and his daughter, but not all of it works. There's some good lines here and there, but then Lisa Zane starts throwing ninja stars and you're like, what the hell is happening? Why is she so good at this? Freddy getting killed with his own glove seems right, but they went too gimmicky with the rest of the fight. Gotta love when Yaphet Kotto suddenly summons superhero strength to rip that door off just in time for them to get out of there.

    Still love the power glove line and whole scene really, just because I loved Nintendo growing up. I also like when The John Doe gets cut from his parachute and Freddy does his best Wiley Coyote impression, wheeling in a bed of spikes. Still makes me laugh.

    I had to go back and rewatch before the end fight, so Katherine wakes up and says, 'things still feel like they did in my dream..it's not over.' So, are they in limbo, in some in between space between reality and a dream? Who knows? And it makes the ending that much worse to me that they couldn't even decide. It helps them get away with a lot of explaining though, like my complaints from above.

    Sometimes I'm as frustrated as Wes Craven with the later Nightmare movies and their lack of loyalty to the original source material, but what can you do? I still find something to enjoy in all of them being a huge Nightmare fan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! re: the wheeling in the bed of spikes. Freddy's expression is very funny.

      Delete
  7. Yeah, Freddy's Dead was a big deal when it came out. I was a sophomore in college at the time, and my dorm's RA (also my friend from HS, college roommate, and best man at each other's weddings) arranged for a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon in the dorm's common area, capped off by a trip to the theater to see Freddy's Dead.

    And ... it was pretty disappointing. I mean, it is what it is, but I wanted more and better. I was a huge Nightmare fan, I had dressed as Freddy for Halloween more than once, and crafted my own homemade glove from leather, copper tubing, sheet metal, and rivets (which looks pretty legit btw; I still have it). I was hoping Freddy's dead would be a return to scary Freddy, or have a good story to tell, or provide a fitting farewell to one of the great movie monsters of all time; instead it was more of the same as parts 4 and 5. Oh well.

    Good article, thanks for writing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And ... parenting tip: If you want your kid to become a horror fan, let them see something scary when they're young, accidentally on purpose.

      You know, just casually have The Exorcist on as they're walking around the house. I'm think if you are scared by a movie at a young age, you will spend the rest of your life trying to conquer the fear by subjecting yourself to scary things on purpose. Seems to be a common thread with horror fans, we were all scared by something at a young age. For me it was American Werewolf in London, specifically the nazi demon nightmare sequence. Nowadays I name American Werewolf as my favorite horror movie.

      Delete