Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Director Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) helms the sixth and supposedly final entry in the traditional Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Amazingly, the film is fairly successful despite itself. The elements that are good — and there are quite a few — are classic components of the most entertaining entries in the Nightmare saga: outstanding dream sequences, the best movie makeup money can buy, and intriguing plot devices. Unfortunately, most of the creative decisions made on behalf of this particular film fall flat: the 3-D ending is a snoozer, the comedy is trite, and the acting (save Robert Englund) is wooden. On the plus side, and despite the well-meaning but misguided attempts of the filmmakers involved, Freddy’s Dead is far from the worst entry in the series (apologies to Renny Harlin).
The plot of Freddy’s Dead is a bit strange, but manages to build on the lore of the Nightmare stories through perfectly paced flashbacks and dream sequences. Apparently, Freddy Krueger has a kid. And part of the fun of Dead is figuring out which character is the foul-mouthed maniac’s little bundle of joy. Meanwhile, Freddy attempts to lure teenagers back to Springwood after the town has apparently lost its entire population of children and is infested with lunatic adults (including Roseanne and Tom Arnold). The "who's Freddy's kid" angle adds a bit of mystery to the typically stagnant Krueger mythos, and also means the writers, Talalay and Michael De Luca, flesh out the film’s characters a bit past the typical "dead teen" stereotype to fuel the suspense. While not completely successful, this plot construct keeps each frame just spicy enough to hold your interest.
So the film is somewhat suspenseful, but is it scary? Not on your life. At this point (probably before this point if you ask a less biased reviewer), the Nightmare canon is definitely showing a lot of wear and tear. Let’s face it, when Freddy appears in homage to The Wizard of Oz, at least one eye roll is mandatory. The days of a truly marauding, shadowy Krueger have long since expired. Like many of its inferior siblings, Freddy’s Dead features an overly comic killer. This screwball comedy routine wouldn’t be so bothersome if it was actually funny. But obvious one-liners and obscene gestures do not a good laugh make.
As for the acting, let's just say there's a very valid reason you've never seen most of the actors in this film since, OK? 'Nuff said.
But it's not all bad. Talalay, having worked in numerous capacities on other Nightmare films, seems to go for broke here. There are fantastic special effects sequences that are more imaginative and creative than anything else in the series (check out the infamous "Power Glove" or ear wax sequences if you need proof). And although some of the gory stuff falls into the realm of tacky misfire, most of it stays afloat. These visually creative extensions of standard Freddy fare keep the film pumping along at a nice clip for about the first hour. Before the 3-D.
I suppose it's because of Nightmare 5's dismal box-office performance that New Line felt the need to really "quirk up" the series, but with outdated 3-D? It just seems so desperate. What should have been an explosive send-off for one of cinema's most cherished villains fizzles like a wet firecracker. It's a shame, because if the climax had met the standards of the set-up, this film would exist as more than just an above average sequel.
As-is, Freddy's Dead has its share of flaws, but doesn't do the series any real disservice. If you enjoy the other Nightmare films, you're sure as hell gonna like this one. It's just too bad it doesn't live up to its potential. Except for the closing credits, that is. Make sure you stick around. They exemplify how iconic a character Freddy really is with a truly classy tribute. I almost tear up every time I watch them. Honest.