Fred's Dead, Baby: 'Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare' Review
I've said it countless times before: Freddy Krueger is my favorite slasher of all time. Be it the darkly comic Freddy of the original Nightmare to the sinister real life Freddy of New Nightmare, he is the quintessential bad boy of horror. Unlike Jason or Michael, Freddy got to verbalize and stalk his prey, toying them with them at every chance he had. However, as the films went on, Freddy became more of a comic jokester rather than the sadistic murderer that he originally was. It all came to a head with the release of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, a film that existed due to the vastly diminishing returns of the Nightmare franchise and it's pretty apparent why.
Freddy's Dead follows John Doe, the last teen in Springwood, as he is manipulated by Freddy into allowing him to leave the teen less town. Once out of Springwood, Doe happens upon a shelter for wayward teens where is meets Maggie, the resident psychologist, along with some other troubled teens. They team up to try and stop Freddy, all the while trying to suss out the mystery of who Freddy's offspring is. It's a paper thin plot that does little to serve as a worthy send off for Krueger.
Robert Englund, however, chews the scenery as Freddy Krueger; he continues to show why no one could ever step into his shoes. While this incarnation of Freddy is a tad too light and jokey for a fan of the original Wes Craven version, it works with the tone of the film. He is more cartoonish in his appearance as well with his face looking less horrific and more like something seen in a pulp comic book. Gone is the ragged witch look makeup style of Nightmare 2 replaced with a twist on his incarnation of the wise-cracking clown of Nightmare 4 onward. He ends ups being more interested in cracking jokes than actually menacing the teens.
The rest of the cast is varying degrees of quality. Lisa Zane is alright at Maggie who later turns out to be Freddy's long-lost daughter. Her later scenes with her murderous daddy come too late in the film and are so rushed that any intended weight falls flat. It's a shame since it's an interesting idea to have Freddy felled by his own offspring, one that should have been the main focus of the film. Yaphet Kotto is in the film as an associate of Maggie's but, like Zane, is criminally underutilized since he's involved with the mysterious Krueger child storyline. The rest of the cast includes a very young Breckin Meyer, Tom Arnold and Roseanne, and a cameo by one of Freddy's first victims, Johnny Depp.
The one thing that most fans of the franchise will remember either begrudgingly or fondly is the use of 3D in the film's climax. Yes, it's completely campy and hasn't aged well be it due to the use of early CGI along with the red-blue 3D glasses. It's frankly the worst part of the film, and that's unfortunate since it is the climax. What should have been a meaningful and exciting end to the Springwood Slasher ends up falling flat due to the distracting use of tired 3D gimmicks. It's indicative of where the series ended up that stylistic choices were important than telling a coherent story even if they do quickly flesh out the story of how Freddy became the monster he is.
Freddy's Dead isn't the worst of the Nightmare films, that honor goes to Nightmare 5. However, it is a rushed affair that does not do the character that Wes Craven created six films before justice. It must have been even more disappointing for fan's of the franchise when the film came out back in 1991 as it was touted as the final ride for Krueger. If this had stood as Freddy's last appearance it would have been a massive dud of an ending for one of horror's legendary icons. However, New Nightmare would come along and totally wash the bad taste of Freddy's Dead out of the mouths and minds of franchise fans, myself included.