1994’s “NOES 7” (aka “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”) came 3 years after the final, miserable sequel, and I’m hardpressed to call it horror at all. The movie is more suspense/thriller doused in heavy post-modernism. Before making the Teen Slasher genre hip again with “Scream”, writer/director Wes Craven returns to the franchise that made him famous and gives it a brand new tweak. Now, instead of being set in the world of Elm Street, we’re in the “real” world. This allows returning “NOES” veterans Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Robert Englund, and even guru Wes Craven, to play themselves — but not themselves.
According to the movie, the “NOES” franchise was initially created by Craven not to entertain, but to keep an “ancient evil entity” trapped. By telling the story, this evil can’t enter the world of the living to do harm. It’s ten years after the original “NOES” and Freddy has become a big joke (see the sequels, natch), and the evil is once again seeking to enter the world of the living to ply its trade. Having enjoyed tremendous success with the Freddy incarnation, the evil has retained the Freddy “disguise”. And now he’s coming after actress Heather, who is presently married with a son (Miko Hughes). This time around it ain’t no movie — well, actually, yes it is, but you know what I mean.
The truth is, only true fans of the franchise will appreciate all of the in-jokes in “NOES 7”, especially when we see real-life producers of the series appear as themselves. Of course not a single one of them can act, but that’s beside the point. The real treat of “NOES 7” is watching fan favorites Langenkamp, Saxon, and Englund playing themselves, and yet not playing themselves. And it’s probably no coincidence that you can’t get anymore “movie-ish” than the names of Heather’s husband and son, Chase and Dylan, respectively. Have you ever met anyone named “Chase” in real life?
Of course this is still a movie, and all of the conventions of the Teen Slasher still matters. Heather, convinced that Freddy is real after all, tries in vain to convince everyone else; they in turn think she’s bonkers. The adults, aside from those connected with the franchise in some way, suffers from the requisite Stupid Adult Syndrome. Of note is the doctor character, who occupies a lot of screen time, perhaps to represent all the Stupid Adults that the series has offered up in its 10-year, 7 installment run. God knows there have been plenty of them.
Once again proving that the “NOES” series has never been about bodycount, “NOES 7” offers up a miniscule number for gorefiends. One character dies in a car accident, while another gets butchered something good by an invisible Freddy. The movie is actually not that violent, and even the blood that manage to make an appearance is so cherry-red that no one will ever mistaken it for the real thing. There are some attempts at horror, mostly by having young Miko Hughes talking in a strange “Freddy” voices and stalking his mother with knives taped to his fingers. And yes, it’s as scary as watching “The Smurfs”.
“NOES 7” isn’t a total loss. As mentioned, seeing Langenkamp, Englund, and Saxon back together again is a real hoot. The appreciation for this sort-of reunion is doubled when you’ve just seen one terrible sequel after another, as I have this past week. And it deserves special mention that Heather Langenkamp, whose acting prowess I criticized in her re-appearance in “NOES 3: The Dream Warriors”, has improved by leaps and bounds as an actor. She’s completely believable, and soulful, as the haunted Heather. With so many bad actors working in the business today, I’m always surprised that good actors like Langenkamp has gone ignored.
Don’t come into “NOES 7” for blood and guts, or even scares and thrills. It’s neither very bloody or very scary, but it does make for a fine capper to a highly imaginative franchise. It’s good to see both Craven and Langenkamp back, both terribly important additions that only true fans of the series can appreciate. We’ve missed them for so long.
For those of you who have been living under a rock — Freddy isn’t dead after all (as if you didn’t know). He’s returning sometime in 2003 in “Freddy vs. Jason”, where the knives-for-fingers maniac will go mano-a-mano with machete-wielding hockey reject Jason. I expect a lot of wisecracking and very little scares, although the bodycount should be fairly impressive.
Wes Craven (director) / Wes Craven (screenplay)
CAST: Heather Langenkamp …. Herself
Robert Englund …. Himself
Miko Hughes …. Dylan Porter
Wes Craven …. Himself
John Saxon …. Himself
Tuesday Knight …. Herself