Welcome back to the Nightmare of Film Street Video Vault. You’ve arrived at a special time! We’re celebrating Women in Horror Month, honoring the amazing women who have terrified us with their talents over the decades.
We have a classic in store for you from a veteran director who has been helming films for over thirty years. With titles like Ghost in the Machine (1993), Tank Girl (1995), and last year’s A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting (2020), we decided to take you back to her very first film, which is ironically meant to be the end of a franchise. It’s a film where she cut her teeth on bladed gloves, dirty fedoras, and striped sweaters, so get ready to put a horror icon to bed with Rachel Talalay’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
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BACK OF THE BOX REVIEW
Also known as A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: The Final Nightmare, Freddy’s Dead tells the tale of the homicidal dream demon, Freddy Krueger after he has slaughtered very the last child in Springwood, OH. To quench his lust for blood, he ventures on to a different small town where his long-lost daughter, Maggie, works as a therapist for troubled youths. The always scheming Krueger attempts to recruit his offspring for yet another murderous rampage and some fresh blood, but daughter dearest has made plans for daddy. When father and daughter meet in a three-dimensional showdown, Kreuger is finally faced with a fate that’s to be sealed once and for all.
THE CHILDREN OF ELM STREET
As Freddy says in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, “Every town has an Elm Street” and with every Elm Street comes a new batch of fresh blood for the dream killer to plunder. Of course, the titular character is played by the one and only Robert Englund (Urban Legend, 1998). His daughter Katherine Krueger aka Maggie Burroughs is played by Lisa Zane (The Nurse, 1997), and rounding out the Krueger family tree is Freddy’s deader half, Loretta Krueger played by Lindsey Fields (Carpoolers, 2008) who buys the farm after discovering her husband’s “special” room. Even Freddy’s abusive, alcoholic adoptive old man, Edward Underwood makes a drunken appearance proving that where there’s a whip, there’s a way and he’s played none other than shock-rocker Alice Cooper (Prince of Darkness, 1987).
No Elm Street film would be complete without its slew of victims and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare has plenty of those, although the body count is considerably less in this installment. Carlos Rodriguez, played by Ricky Dean Logan (Back to the Future II & III, 1989-90) learns the perils of super-hearing while Spencer Lewis, played by Breckin Meyer (The Craft, 1996) figures out that video games can be hazardous to one’s health. The unfortunately named John Doe, played by Shon Greenblatt (Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, 1989) gets the point of falling into bed, and there to help put an end to the nightmares is Doc, played by genre legend Yaphet Kotto (Alien, 1979). A couple of other fun cameos involve Tom Arnold (True Lies, 1994) and Rosanne Barr (She-Devil, 1989) as a childless couple searching for stray children they can take home. The then-couple did the cameo because they were fans of the franchise but the entire day it took to film their short scene didn’t sit well with the comic duo.
LONG CLIMB TO THE HELM
While director Rachel Talalay may be the first woman to direct an installment for a major horror franchise, this wasn’t her first time on Elm Street. The fledgling director worked her way up the New Line Cinema ladder starting as an accountant where she was promoted to assistant production manager on Wes Craven’s A Nightmare of Elm Street (1984).
She followed up as a production manager on A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), line producer on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), and producer on A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). To say she knew her way around the House of Krueger would be an understatement and when Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare came to be New Line president Bob Shaye (Freddy vs Jason, 2003) had no choice but to tap Talalay as the film’s director.
10 WAYS TO KILL A FRED
The final cut of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is a far cry from some of the original concepts. Some tried to bridge the series continuity while others went in completely original directions. Michael Almereyda (The Eternal, 1998) wrote a version that sees Alice Johnson’s son Jacob from the Dream Child now at 16-years-old. Alice, now in her 30’s is killed by Freddy and Jacob goes after the Springwood Slasher with the help of Taryn, Joey, and Kincaid from the Dream Warriors. Things get weird from here, even for an Elm Street movie. You see, the group becomes “Dream Police.” No, not the 1979 album from Cheap Trick kind of Dream Police, but a little more something like this. Taryn becomes “Blade Cop” obviously, Joey the “Sound Cop,” and Kincaid is the “Power Cop.” Thankfully we never saw this version, although I’m sure there are some folks out there that would watch the ever-living crud outta this movie.
Future Lord of Mordor, Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, 1987) was even hired to write the film with his idea involving Freddy growing weak within the dream realm because the children of Springwood were no longer afraid of him. In fact, the kids were so unafraid of the killer that they would recreationally take sleeping pills in order to enter the dream world just to mess with him. The script was ultimately passed on but it would have been a great way to bring Freddy back into the shadows, thus making him more sinister than the comic book character seen in the final cut.
THE FUNERAL OF FREDRICK CHARLES KRUEGER 1942-1991
As Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was hitting theaters, a comic book companion series was also being released. As a publicity stunt, New Line Cinema held a mock funeral for the spectral serial killer at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Many of the franchise’s actors were in attendance including Robert Englund, Alice Cooper, Shon Greenblatt, Ricky Dean Logan, Breckin Meyer, Lisa Zane, and Lisa Wilcox (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 & 5, 1988-89). Director Talaylay, comic book writer Andy Mangels and then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley were also in attendance. Mayor Bradley even declared the day “Freddy Krueger Day,” though the stunt was met with some backlash having glorified a mass-murderer. Actor Englund spoke about the criticism in a 1991 Los Angeles Times article by Bob Pool, stating that “we have to separate crime reality from movie escapism.”
From its gimmicky-gimmicks such as the 3D finale to the accompanying comic book series, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is a perfect send-off for a character that has become bigger than life, fictional or otherwise. While it would prove to most certainly not be the Final Nightmare, it certainly closed a chapter in the character’s storyline that saw him go from shadowy stalker beginnings to wise-cracking Super Freddy by the end. No other series could have gotten away with the antics so decidedly bat-crap crazy as this one did. Why? Because it’s based in the dream world where anything can happen and that’s exactly how it went. A young woman went from a production accountant to a director that not only laid to rest one of cinema’s most prolific mass murderers but also shattered a couple of glass ceilings in the process.
That brings us to the conclusion for this month’s Video Vault. Whether you’re discovering, rediscovering, or giving it a second chance, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is a classic in its own right. But the question is, what do you think? Does Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare leave you feeling like you’re playing with power or more like you’re sleeping on a bed of nails? Let us know on our official Nightmare on Film Street Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and Discord accounts. But if you’re not into the whole social media thing, subscribe to our Neighborhood Watch Newsletter where you can get all things horror delivered directly to your inbox. Until the Video Vault opens once again, keep your fedoras slung low and your khaki pants boiler room fresh!