I grew up in the hey-day of Freddy’s reign of cinematic terror. Despite being in R rated films, the guy was very much marketed towards children, with 900 numbers to hear scary stories (with parents permission, lol) plush dolls, and trading cards. It was absolutely reprehensible and irresponsible, but I loved it. When they started advertised Freddy’s Dead in my local arcade I was extremely excited and as somehow able to talk my dad to take me and my best friend to go see it on opening night. This was an amazing experience for my ten year old self, especially with the 3D finale. Although I liked Freddy’s Dead in 1991, time has hardened my opinion of this film.
The film is really is a lot of fun if you take it for what it is. Freddy returns to Elm St. after killing off all the Elm St. kids (except one) to get reacquainted with his lost child and sets up a well-played red herring that a young John Doe (Shon Greenblatt, Newsies, Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town) is the prodigal son. However, it turns out that Freddy’s offspring is a daughter housing orphans and troubled youth (a gold mine of potential victims to be gruesomely murdered). Freddy’s kid, Maggie (Lisa Zane) and her teenage wards are forced into battle against her father and secrets of Freddy’s past and source of his powers are revealed.
Part of the fun of the A Nightmare on Elm St. series is the dream world’s Freddy and the victims use to combat each other. On that front, Freddy’s Dead delivers. The Twin Peaks influence is obvious from the start of the film and it tries to be as trippy as possible. The dream sequence where drug addicted Spencer trips out to Iron Butterfly’s biggest hit (and Homer Simpson’s favorite hymn) before being dismantled stands out as highlight of the film. The acting is pretty good for this type of film, especially with Yaphet Kotto (Alien, The Thomas Crown Affair) in one of his finale roles as Doc. And of course, there is Robert Englund, playing Freddy for the (third to) last time. Freddy’s Dead also features neat little bits of stunt casting from a returning Johnny Depp as Glenn in the before-mentioned dream sequence, as well as shock rocker Alice Cooper as Freddy’s dad (who else could it have been?). Tom and Roseanne Arnold are also in the film because reasons. The humor interjected in A Nightmare on Elm St. 3: The Dream Warriors helped elevate it into a cult classic. But it wasn’t just the humor that made that film work, it was the story-telling and sharp script. While Dream Warriors set the template for later sequels, the camp humor is what largely got carried over into the series. Freddy’s Dead starts off with Kruger by parodying the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, kills someone using a Power Glove, and basically spends the whole time being as over the top as humanly possible. This type of humor worked at the time, but it’s amazingly obnoxious now.
And then there is the ending. Freddy reveals that he made a deal with dream demons, these little floating burnt sperm looking things, in order for immortality. Maggie brings Freddy into the real world and shoves a pipe bomb in his chest, which blows him up, killing them dream demons which inhabit him and putting an end to his diabolical ways. Not only is this anti-climatic, but also the way he died in the first film where Nancy burned him to death after bringing him into the waking world. It stands to reason if the demons can be blown up, they can also be burned, not to mention using a pipe bomb is completely lazy.
Despite that, I don’t hate the film as much as a lot of other people do. It’s very 90’s and the nostalgia factor for that time period tempers my thoughts on it. Yeah, it could have been a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse too. Despite the lack-luster ending there is an amazing montage of all the great moments from the series during the end credits that also makes the film worth a watch, if only once.