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Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) – Deconstructing the Elm Street sequel

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those franchises that, despite its roller-coaster of quality across the series- is just too damn iconic to fall out of the favor of us horror fans. Wes Craven’s imagination birthed one of the most recognizable villains in horror history AND spawned a franchise that would include 8 movies and one crossover film pitting Freddy against Jason. From 1984 and all the way up until today- audiences remain invested in the potential for such a unique and powerful monster. And we still are holding out hope for a new silver screen outing soon. So, whether you’re re-watching the original film for the millionth time- or you’re slogging your way through the 2010 remake for… some reason- the fact remains that Freddy and his status as a slasher icon will never truly die. Unless… Chapter six in the Freddy saga- Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (watch it HERE) sees a teenager from the future being sent back in time to the previous decade to help Freddy elevate his reach further than ever before. It’s a movie that stretches the goofy about as far as it can go- and then snaps the line in half and charges right through it. This was the first film in the series to be directed by long-time producer of the franchise, Rachel Talalay- and her vision for this movie was to create a funnier than ever finale for Freddy to fade out into the fog and conclude his reign of terror. Unfortunately, audiences weren’t exactly expecting Freddy’s last gasp to be so… silly. Weather you’re like me and actually appreciate when this series gets a little bit weird, movies like Dream Warriors and New Nightmare are the kind of films that blend the horror with the meta humor and in-jokes- but this movie is even too much for me.

In the past, we usually spend our time on the show discussing what makes a classic or cult classic movie so worthy of the hype that we put on it. But in the case of this movie- It’s not that simple. See, I don’t know many people who like this movie, and personally I just don’t connect with it. In some cases, like our previous episode with Leprechaun in the Hood– it can be so silly and campy that it’s entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” way- although I think that phrase has become very broad and now just seems to apply to any movie that sucks. In the case of Freddy’s Dead– I just want to deconstruct why I think I don’t like it. So, once again- Tyler, Lance… You’re uninvited to dinner this weekend.

Anyway, strap yourselves in folks because today we’re going to rewatch 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and see if I can figure out exactly why after so many wild and wacky movies, this was the one that killed Freddy Kreuger. I’m Kier with JoBlo Horror Originals, and you’re watching Deconstructing.

So, in case you’re rusty on the plot of this insane movie- here we go. In the near future- The entire town of Springwood is missing their children and teenagers. Why? Because Freddy has killed them all. Would’ve been a cool scene to open the movie but instead we just see it like… typed out on a computer or something… So, that’s that.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) – Deconstructing the Elm Street sequel

Anyway, there’s one surviving kid in this future hellscape and Freddy intentionally spares his life and sends him 10 years into the past. The reason he’s done this will become clear later. After arriving in the past, our teenage John Doe is immediately scooped up by the police and taken to a psychiatric doctor as his entry into the past has left him with amnesia. This doctor happens to be the one person that Freddy is trying to find. Convenient. Well, this doctor is in charge of a group of troubled teens including Ricky Dean Morgan as Carlos, Breckin Meyer as Dylan, and Lezlie Deane as Tracy. And of course they’re now joined by Freddy’s time nomad known as John Doe and he is played (very badly) by Shon Greenblatt. Sorry, man.

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The kids begin being haunted and harassed by Freddy as he picks them off one by one. This movie really comes down to a few things that I think contribute to what I would consider a massive failure of an ending to the franchise. So, where we would usually break down the film into our four key categories- today we’re going to shake it up and look into the four pillars that I think hold this movie up as a hot dumpster fire. The categories for today are: Story, where I break down the story beats and why they don’t work for me, Performances, where I discuss the good and bad turns from the cast, Entertainment Value, where I put the bullshit aside and focus on whether or not this movie delivers on the viewing experience, and finally we’ll cap it off with The Coffin Nail, where I decide what single element of this movie completely blows it for me. So, if you’re ready than make sure you like the video and try not to let Freddy into your dreams- and let’s hit play on The Final Nightmare.

STORY

Now that we know the plot of the movie- let’s talk story. So, John Doe is the future man with amnesia and he’s the only surviving teen in Springwood who was sent back in time with an ambiguous purpose from Freddy. This is automatically a completely trivial and convoluted way to set up the story. Like, it starts 10 years in the future- then in the first 3 minutes the movie is pushed back to the present day. And the character can’t remember anything so we’re literally back at square one and the first 5 minutes of this film is rendered completely worthless. John Doe gets immediately linked up with the exact group of people that Freddy needs to find and all we learn about these characters is that one is a psychiatric doctor with ambiguous childhood trauma, 3 teenagers with ambiguous behavioral issues (and ambiguous childhood trauma), oh and of course, we also get Yaphet Kotto as the quirky sleep scientist who seems to be the only guy in the movie that has shit to do at his job. Everyone else is just walking around or driving across town in the middle of the day.

The big reveal is Freddy’s plan which is kind of just spat out in exposition. Basically, Freddy kept one kid alive from the future to send him back to the present day so that Freddy could track down his long-lost-child and use her to raise hell on every elm street in the country. Or something like that…? I don’t know, this movie doesn’t really explain it and that’s about as much information as there is. The red herrings are also constant from that moment forward. First, we have a hilarious scene where the tragically over-acting John Doe learns that Freddy has a kid and instantly thinks he is the kid. Spoilers- It’s not him. Then, they say that Freddy’s child is a girl and we immediately think it’s Tracy who had been set up throughout the movie to have some kind of trauma involving her dad. It’s also not her. Well, there’s only girl left in the movie that it could be- it’s Maggie. By the time this reveal comes and the full truth is clear- we already know who it is because you literally eliminated every possible suspect before we even got to this point! WHO THE FUCK DID YOU THINK WE’D SUSPECT?

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And it all culminates in Maggie learning how to use Freddy’s powers against him and pull him from the dream world into the real world where the crew can take him out one and for all. And what do we feel? Completely empty. Why? Because from the very beginning we didn’t care about these characters because of the impenetrable wall of ambiguity and lack of dimension they were given. So by the end, we really just don’t care. Or at least, I don’t. And this is MY rant!

Freddy's Dead
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) – Deconstructing the Elm Street sequel

PERFORMANCES

I hate John Doe. No disrespect to Shon Greenblatt but as the central character (for the first half of the movie) it’s important to have someone who can carry this thing. I mostly blame the writing of the character for he’s so boring, but Shon is responsible for delivering these lines like he’s made out of driftwood. He’s either dialed way to high up or down way too low and unfortunately, this movie gives him the displeasure of being our straight man for the first two acts. Not to mention the incredibly confusing performance turned in by Lisa Zane as Maggie. She’s all over the place with this movie. One minute she’s playing it subtle and kind of cold- next minute she’s a chill aunt, and then by the end she’s a dream warrior with the confidence to destroy Freddy (and the franchise-). It’s crazy to me that in a film that has Robert Englund and Yaphet Kotto in it- they couldn’t find more talented leads. I don’t know. Acting is definitely not easy but these people are fumbling lines all over the place, over-reacting, under-reacting, or just completely changing their character portrayal in the middle of a scene. It’s almost as bizarre as seeing Freddy impersonate the wicked witch of the west.

There are some performances that stand out which further adds the whiplash of watching this movie. Robert Englund is wonderful as usual. He’s so comfortable in the role of Freddy at this point that we can expect him to turn in a great performance. Same goes for Yaphet Kotto, and even the three kids who are not given great material but truly play it noticeably better than the film’s leads.

The performances are important in a movie to establish believability within the context of the story. If a movie has exclusively bad performances (like The Room or Cats) it can be fun to watch and laugh. But when you’re getting some very good performances contrasting against the bad ones, you end up with a weird disjointed cast that contributes to the movie’s odd tonal shifts and lack of focus.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

Okay, now we can have some fun. As goofy and disjointed as this movie is- there is absolutely some entertainment value to be had. First of all, some of these kills are pretty rad. The entire scene where Freddy is torturing Carlos with his hearing aid is pure Nightmare on Elm Street magic. It’s bloody, brutal, visually interesting, and intense as ever due to Englund’s acting. The same can be said for the silly-yet-scary scene where Carlos is unfolding a map and the size of it turns into an inescapable labyrinth. The claustrophobia is real here. Magical media industries provided the practical and VFX and man did they do some cool stuff here. I like the supernatural stuff in an elm street movie. It’s what floats my boat. And this movie does give us some damn good set design and Freddy makeup. Adding to the entertainment value is the movies iconic needle drops and musical score. The music in this movie is either amazing or hilariously bad. The scene where Dylan is getting stoned on the couch and sucked into the TV where Freddy torments him in a Super Mario style nightmare is probably the most unhinged thing this franchise has ever done. But it is definitely fun to watch and it helps the Iron Butterfly song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” plays when the sequence begins. Only to be completely undercut by the hilarity of the Hanna Barbera sound effects. Seriously, this very large sequence turns Nightmare on Elm Street into The Mask.

Also, Rosanne and Tom Arnold make a cameo (as well as Johnny Depp) and we even get the incredible moment when John Doe finally dies and gets the fuck off my screen. So, I guess some of this movie is okay.

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Freddy's Dead Deconstructing
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) – Deconstructing the Elm Street sequel

THE COFFIN NAIL

Here’s the one element of this movie that I haven’t gotten into because I was saving it for this specific segment. To me, this movie has a lot of issues that truly make it a disappointing watch for Elm Street fans. But there is no bigger flop in this movie than the random Freddy origin they tried to give us. They show flashback dream sequences of Maggie as a young girl witnessing her father (Freddy before the fire) killing her mother and discovering his secret room of glove prototypes and weapons. The movie doesn’t do ANYTHING with this information. They merely try to connect Maggie to Freddy in as lazy a way as possible to make the story make sense. The thing is, it DOESN’T make sense. Freddy made a deal with “the dream people” to basically allow him to develop his urges to hurt people and giving him the power we know him to have. Why? It doesn’t bother to tell us. We get a shot of him getting bullied as a child, a shot of his dad trying to beat him as a teenager, and a shot of him burning and getting his powers. That’s his story. That’s it. Honestly, I’d have felt better about having no information beyond the previous movies. If you’re going to attempt to expand on Freddy’s origin- then just do it! Don’t tap dance around it at the last second just to make his death feel more impactful. It’s rude- and it completely fucked your movie.

Well folks, another episode down and another headache of a movie deconstructed. If you remember this movie fondly, I don’t mean any disrespect. I think had I had more nostalgia for this particular movie it may be on a higher level- but the truth is that I don’t enjoy it and now you know exactly why. Goodnight!

A couple of the previous episodes of Deconstructing… can be seen below,. To see more episodes, and to check out our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

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