There's also another added element that can be felt and that has been used numerous times: Craven's use of meta-humor; a way for filmmakers to call attention the tropes and cliches in their own movie, as well as in other movies. Today on Halloween, I'm going to review Craven's first foray into horror/satire, Wes Craven's New Nightmare. It's been a full ten years since Heather Langenkamp (who plays herself) took on the iconic role of Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and New Line Cinema calls her for a pitch meeting to reprise her role in a new installment of the Elm Street series. At the same time, Heather has been having dreams about gruesome murders on set, as well as seeing Freddy Kruger in her dreams, terrorizing her and her son, Dylan. It isn't until her co-star Robert Englund, the man who plays Kruger and writer/director Craven himself begin having nightmares about this new Kruger that Heather realizes that she is being drawn into Freddy's world - this time, the glove-wearing serial killer is playing for keeps.
Perhaps what's most enjoyable about this fresh take on the series is the how Langenkamp, not the new iteration of Freddy Kruger, nor Robert Englund himself, is the star of the movie. The earlier scene where she appears on a talk show, only to get upstaged by Englund in full Kruger costume is commentary about how this horror favorite has become the star of the franchise. We don't even see this newer, meaner Freddy until midway through the second act, and by the third act, where he becomes the primary antagonist, the focus is still on the fictionalized Heather character and her journey to come to grips with how she'll always be tied to the franchise, for both the good and bad. It's a stellar performance by her, plain and simple.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare is a perfect example of the legacy of the famed horror filmmaker, and what makes him so special: lacing the fears of the characters as a backdrop for a physical manifestation of what they fear, sharp moments of comedy and commentary, and well-rounded performances by the actors, including Craven playing himself. There have been other films and filmmakers who have used the horror genre as a launching pad for larger ideas, and a few of them I consider to be solid to modern-day horror classics, like Craven's own Scream, Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods, and You're Next! Sometimes you get stuff like The Purge and Diary of the Dead, which aims to be clever in it's social commentary, but ends up being muddled and/or not completely fleshed out. And then you get icky, pointless and mean-spirited crap, like the final movie I'm reviewing for Halloween Horror Week: Tom Six, you're no Craven, Goddard, or George A. Romero, and your disgusting meta torture flick Human Centipede: Full Sequence proves it.
*** 1/2 stars out of ****