review for Wes Craven's New Nightmare on AllMovie

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
by Jason Buchanan review

Perhaps the most effectively frightening entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, with the noted exception of the original, Wes Craven's postmodern New Nightmare re-imagines the child-murdering Freddy Krueger as the pure embodiment of ancient evil instead of the wisecracking menace that audiences had come to expect at this point. In this respect, Craven's bid to reclaim Krueger as a truly inspired villain pays off, providing the character with a fresh sense of unpredictability that had previously waned as the series became more formulaic. Audiences content to sit back and giggle as Krueger spouted one-liners and did in teens by the handful were given a hefty dose of reinterpretation in this supposedly final installment of the series. It's difficult to fear something that has become so engrained in pop culture it has become a ubiquitous parody of itself, but inject an external and unfamiliar threat into that same omnipresent vessel and all bets are off. This is the refreshingly original manner with which Craven tapped into the universal fear of the unknown with New Nightmare. Approached from an unfamiliar angle, audiences' sense of safety and comfort are stripped away, leaving them mentally unprepared for whatever terror may lie ahead -- a real terror from which, as in the original, there is no logical and proven escape. New Nightmare may not prove quite as effective as Craven's earlier efforts, but it certainly set the stage for his massive success with Scream (yet another franchise whose effectiveness would dull with overexposure) two short years later, and re-established him as a pioneer of inventive horror-fantasy.