Post modern horror really came into its own, in the self referential, self aware, horror film ‘Scream’ (1996). Well, that was when people stood up and took notice of it.
In reality though, the post modern horror really showed up in ‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’ (1994); which was the seventh film in the ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ series. Although, the series is immense and has its highs and lows, the three films in which Craven were involved, are the best. He directed and wrote the original, produced and wrote on the third, and directed and wrote ‘New Nightmare’.
Even if we look at the original film, we can see that the exploration of reality and its effects plays heavily in the film. For example, the stars of the original movie are affected by the wounds that are inflicted in their nightmares.
This breaking of reality and post modern film is taken to a whole new level in ‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’ (I’ll warn you, this can get confusing). In the film, we have actress Heather Langenkamp playing herself (she played the protagonist, Nancy, in the original film), we also have John Saxon, Robert Englund and even Wes Craven playing themselves, along with a whole host of other actors.
The premise for the film, is that Freddy Kruger has been ‘forgotten’ and so has to come into the ‘real world’, to get his power back through fear, and be able to live on in his stories. Heather, who was stalked in reality by a crazed fan, is being stalked in the movie by someone claiming to be Freddy, the villain of the film in which she starred. Heather confided this to Craven, and he took full advantage of it, by putting it into his script. In one scene, we see the script Craven is working on in ‘New Nightmare’, it includes the exact conversation he has just had with Heather in the movie.
What then plays out, is Langenkamp and Saxon turning into their characters from the original film, as father and daughter, Nancy and Lieutenant Thompson. Craven even kept the same wardrobe pieces from the original, for the cast to wear. The film essentially takes place in the real world, even though the whole thing is fiction.
The film is enjoyable and anything with the princess of horror – Heather, is fine with me. For people who aren’t fans of the series, it still works. What the film really shows, is that ‘New Line Cinema’ and the actors really cares about the ‘Nightmare’ franchise and the original story. Robert Shaye, producer of all the ‘Nightmare’ films went on record as saying that the film was a sort of apology to Craven. As Craven felt very annoyed about the way the Kruger character was treated in lots of the sequels. The character has often been described as going from something truly terrifying (the original) to something quite amusing and an anti-hero (look at Nightmare 4 and 5).
The first self referential, post-modern horror film, to my knowledge, which really exploited its success. It is then, no surprise that Craven went on to direct the ‘Scream’ trilogy, which is extremely self aware as a genre film. ‘Nightmare’ is even mentioned in ‘Scream’ in the opening sequence, with Drew Barrymore.
Heather Langenkamp - we're not worthy!