With Freddy’s Dead, Freddy completes his transformation from horror icon to cartoon character. Even Robert Englund, in his autobiography, Hollywood Monster, describes the sixth Nightmare as akin to a “Bugs Bunny” cartoon and admits that the filmmakers “jumped the shark on this one.”
But this isn’t just jumping the shark. This is the Fonz finding out that the shark was responsible for the death of his long lost twin brother, and that by jumping over the shark, Fonzie can bring his brother back as a ghost who will inhabit his beloved motorcycle, after which Fonz would travel America, solving crimes with his talking haunted motorcycle. That’s how over-the-top crappy this movie is.
What’s most frustrating about Freddy’s Dead is that, on paper, it had a hell of a lot of potential.
It’s ten years later (later than what or when isn’t exactly clear) and Springwood, Freddy’s traditional hunting ground, has been wiped of all its children and teens, while its adults have gone mad. A single teen Springwood escapee remains plagued by nightmares and, with the help of a therapist and the requisite trio of misfits, returns to the near-deserted town, now a hotbed of grief and crazy, to seek answers both to his own history and that of the murderer Freddy Krueger.
Coulda been Freddy meets Silent Hill, right? The problem is that, while a dozen different scenes—from their initial entry into the town and first few encounters with the crazed townspeople—could’ve been incredibly creepy, every one of these scenes is played for laughs. The tone of the film is all wrong. The filmmakers here have embraced Freddy’s pop-culture persona and revel not in eerie atmosphere and creative kills but in Hanna-Barbera-style humor and lame one-liners.
Remember Tina being thrown about her bedroom as an invisible Freddy ripped her to shreds? Remember Freddy literally bursting out from within Jesse? How ’bout Phillip being yanked around by his own veins? And Debbie’s arms tearing open under the weight of a barbell, remember that? Or Dan morphing with a motorcycle? Those were cool scenes, each from one of the preceding Nightmare films.
So what does Freddy’s Dead have to offer?
Well, let’s see, Roseanne and Tom Arnold make an appearance. Yes, that Roseanne and that Tom Arnold. There is an exploding head but it’s accompanied by a string of cartoon sound effects which beg for a laugh rather than a scare and fail to elicit either. What else? There’s an embarrassingly dated and stupendously long scene in which Freddy traps one of three thoroughly unlikable kids in a video game. Yes, it’s as awful as it sounds (and yes, that’s Johnny Depp, making a brief cameo). Oh, and the kid finally dies by . . . falling into a pit at the bottom of a set of stairs.
Midway through, the film turns a little darker. We learn that Freddy had a kid, that he was a family man and that, at least to him, he was pushed into killing the children of Elm Street. Again, there’s potential here, like a glimpse of glove prototypes hanging from an uncooked Freddy’s workshop, but it all seems a little forced and just can’t make up for the goofiness of the preceding forty-five minutes.
What we learn about Freddy isn’t much, and some of it (such as his powers being derived from a trio of badly CGIed demon-spermatozoa) we simply want to ignore.
The sad thing is that I really want to like this one because it was directed by Rachel Talalay. Talalay has been with the franchise from the beginning, starting with the first Nightmare, and worked her way to the director’s chair. She deserved the gig, and she deserved a good movie. But bad is bad and, unfortunately, she made a bad movie.
If you really, really, really want to see Freddy before he was toasted, check it out; otherwise, skip this one and go straight to New Nightmare or Freddy Vs Jason.