20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger was surely the most iconic horror character of the 1980s. Generations of film fans have had their imaginations captured by this scar-faced slasher who returns from the grave in the dreams of his victims.
However, as scary as Freddy had been to begin with, the sequels that followed sapped away the fear and amped up the wisecracks, until 1992’s initial series closer Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare left him a rubber-faced clown.
When Freddy’s creator Wes Craven returned to the franchise with 1994’s New Nightmare, fans were ready for Freddy to return to his roots – but they weren’t quite prepared for the fourth-wall-breaking film they got.
Here are some things you might not have known about this most unorthodox of horror sequels.
20. Wes Craven originally pitched New Nightmare for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, but the idea was rejected
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare arrived almost exactly 10 years after the release of 1984’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street, also written and directed by Craven.
Beyond this, Craven’s only other involvement in the series was on 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, for which he co-wrote the first draft of the screenplay with Bruce Wagner.
However, this script was then heavily rewritten by Dream Warriors director Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont – but the film could have been even further removed from what ultimately reached screens.
Craven’s original Nightmare 3 pitch involved stepping outside of the movies and seeing Freddy’s impact on the people making the films – in other words, very much what New Nightmare wound up being.
However, studio New Line Cinema rejected the idea at the time, feeling it was a bit too out-there for late-80s audiences.
19. Craven made the film to explain why the world needs horror movies
Hand in hand with the somewhat abstract narrative approach of New Nightmare, Wes Craven wanted the film to offer up a defence of his life’s work, in an abstract kind of way.
The central conceit of the film is that the Freddy of the movies became such a part of the popular consciousness, the character attracted genuine demonic forces.
Then, with the films no longer in production, that demonic manifestation of Freddy starts to break through into reality.
This, Craven said, was his way of explaining that without the catharsis offered by horror movies, society’s rage and fear is liable to turn inward and do greater damage.
The sadly missed filmmaker famously argued: “horror movies don’t create fear. They release it.”
18. A real earthquake hit LA during production, and footage of the devastation is used in the film
New Nightmare was always scripted to show Los Angeles hit by a series of minor earthquakes as Freddy breaks through into reality.
But as it turned out, a real earthquake hit LA whilst the film was in production.
The Northridge earthquake occurred on 17 January 1994, a magnitude 6.7 event that resulted in 57 deaths and close to 9,000 injuries.
As the idea was for New Nightmare to present the ‘real world’ as opposed to the alternate reality of the earlier Nightmare on Elm Street films, it seemed logical to incorporate this reality.
As such, some of the footage of the damage caused by the natural disaster in the film is genuine.
17. Numerous film industry figures appear in the movie as themselves
New Nightmare’s ‘meta’ premise centres on actress Heather Langenkamp, who portrayed famed ‘final girl’ Nancy in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
The film sees Langenkamp portray a fictionalised version of herself, as she is asked to star in a 10th anniversary Nightmare sequel (and considering that’s exactly what New Nightmare is, this is pretty much the definition of ‘meta’).
Of course, Langenkamp isn’t the only person involved in the Nightmare series to play herself in the film.
Three more key figures from the series – writer-director Wes Craven, actor John Saxon who played Nancy’s father, and of course Freddy actor Robert Englund – also have significant roles as themselves.
We also have appearances from former New Line Cinema boss Robert Shaye, producers Marianne Maddalena and Sara Risher and journalist Sam Rubin.
16. Winona Ryder and Drew Barrymore were considered for the role of Julie
The supporting role of Julie, the nanny of Heather’s son Dylan, is taken by actress Tracy Middendorf.
As New Nightmare was her very first film, Middendorf was a total unknown – and some considerably bigger names were considered for the role before her.
Reportedly, Winona Ryder and Drew Barrymore were both approached to play Julie.
Neither actress was able to take the role due to prior commitments: 1994 saw Ryder make Reality Bites and Little Women, whilst Barrymore appeared in Bad Girls and Inside the Goldmine.
This was surely for the best, as having such a well-known actress in the part would have been distracting – though Craven would later utilise Barrymore’s star status to shock audiences in 1996’s Scream.
15. Heather Langenkamp is married to an Oscar-winning SFX artist in real life
Another true-to-life aspect of New Nightmare’s story is that Langenkamp is indeed married to a make-up effects artist.
However, her real husband is not the fictitious character Chase Porter, played in New Nightmare by actor David Newsom.
Langenkamp’s real husband is David LeRoy Anderson, with whom she runs special make-up effects company AFX Studio.
Anderson has been married to Langenkamp since 1989, and is a two-time winner of the Best Make-up Oscar, for 1996’s The Nutty Professor and 1997’s Men in Black (sharing both Oscars with Rick Baker).
Tragically, Langenkamp and Anderson’s son Daniel died of brain cancer in 2018, aged just 26.
14. Heather Langenkamp’s real stalker experience was incorporated into the plot
Another unpleasant aspect of Langenkamp’s real life was incorporated into the plot of New Nightmare.
Like many Hollywood figures, the actress has suffered harassment and threats over the telephone from a stalker.
Perhaps surprisingly, this abuse was prompted not by the Nightmare movies, but Langenkamp’s role in TV sitcom Just the Ten of Us.
The series ran from 1988 to 1990, and Langenkamp’s stalker was an obsessive fan of the show angry over its cancellation.
With the actress’s consent, Wes Craven drew on this experience in the New Nightmare screenplay.
13. Heather’s kid was also in Pet Sematary
One of the most memorable, striking performances in New Nightmare comes from child actor Miko Hughes.
Hughes, who turned 8 while the film was in production, plays Heather and Chase’s troubled young son Dylan.
For one so young, Hughes already had plenty of experience playing creepy kids, as he had previously appeared in the original film version of Pet Sematary.
Astonishingly, Hughes was only 3 when he gave his unforgettably creepy performance as young Gage Creed in the 1989 Stephen King adaptation.
Hughes’ other films include Kindergarten Cop, Apollo 13 and Mercury Rising. He still acts to this day.
12. The filmmakers genuine responses from Miko Hughes in some pretty messed-up ways
As gifted an actor as he may have been, Hughes was still very young when he made New Nightmare.
As a result, it was sometimes decided that the best way to get an emotional performance was to genuinely make him emotional.
Reportedly for one scene which required tears, Hughes was informed by his father immediately before a take that his mother had just died.
Once the scene was in the can, the boy was told the truth and treated to a Happy Meal, which we’re sure must have erased all that trauma…
Unsurprisingly, Robert Englund also made a point of breaking out his classic Freddy scare tactics on Hughes in the climactic dungeon sequence.
11. Miko Hughes’ took some of the playground set home and installed it in their garden
Happily, Hughes’ experience on the film wasn’t entirely traumatic; for one, his character Dylan is rarely seen without Rex, a cuddly toy dinosaur.
As the youngster is dragged into a terrifying nightmare world by Freddy, Rex becomes a talisman of sorts from which the boy draws strength.
Touchingly, Hughes still owns the original Rex to this day.
Hughes reportedly took another keepsake from the movie which is a bit more of an eye-opener: the 30-foot high playground rocket, which Dylan climbs to the top of.
The playground set was poised to be demolished after New Nightmare shot there, but instead Hughes’ family took it and re-installed it on their own property.
10. Craven didn’t invite Johnny Depp back for the funeral scene – even though Depp said he’d have done it
For fans of the Nightmare series, one of the most eye-catching scenes in New Nightmare is the funeral.
Langenkamp, Craven, Englund, Saxon and Shaye are joined by a number of other figures from the earlier Elm Street movies, including actors Nick Corri (below, top left) of the 1984 original, and Tuesday Knight of 1988’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
One notable absentee is Johnny Depp, who made his film debut as Nancy’s ill-fated boyfriend Glen in 1984’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Considering what a huge star Depp had since become, Craven was too shy to invite him back for what would have been a dialogue-free cameo.
Ironically, when Depp saw Craven again later, the actor said he’d have been happy to do it – nor would it have been Depp’s first time back, as he also had a brief cameo in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
9. The redesigned Freddy is Wes Craven’s original vision of the character
Craven never held back in expressing his distaste for how Freddy Krueger was handled as the Nightmare on Elm Street series progressed.
New Nightmare was intended to take the monster back to his roots – even though this Freddy isn’t strictly speaking the same character we know from the movies, but rather a demon that has taken his form.
For these reasons, the character was heavily redesigned for New Nightmare, in a way that actually resembled Craven’s original vision.
As well as having a distinctly different make-up and the addition of a black trench coat to his wardrobe, this Freddy’s blades are a more organic extension of his hand, rather than the usual glove.
This redesign was, and remains, highly divisive among fans of the series, with some loving the new look and others feeling it strayed too far from classic Freddy.
8. The first draft of the script included a Freddy car and a Freddy spider
Even though New Nightmare was always intended to be far darker than later Elm Street sequels, Craven initially had some outlandish elements planned.
At one point the film was going to feature a Freddy Mobile – a claw-fronted hot rod car with flames shooting out of the back, and Freddy’s signature red and green stripes on the paintwork.
There was also going to be a scene in which Freddy appeared in the form of a giant spider.
This sequence would have seen Robert Englund himself attacked and killed by the demonic Freddy in spider form, in a nightmare sequence.
Craven scrapped both ideas as he realised they were too close to the cartoonish tone of the previous sequels, which the director was anxious to avoid.
7. Several costumes appear from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven may not have walked away from 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street with the rights to his creation – but he did walk away with some of the wardrobe.
The writer-director kept many of the costumes used in the original film, and brought them out of storage for New Nightmare.
When Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon ‘become’ Nancy and Lt. Thompson in New Nightmare’s final act, they’re both wearing their original costumes from the first film.
Likewise Robert Englund, who dons the original Freddy hat and sweater in the talk show sequence, when he appears as himself playing Freddy (yeah, it gets confusing).
The only absent part of Englund’s original Freddy costume is the glove, which was lost not long after the 1984 original completed production.
6. An R.E.M. song is used for a subtle pun
Spoiler coming up now… shortly before David Newsom’s Chase is killed in New Nightmare, we hear the character singing R.E.M’s Losing My Religion.
Chase is singing it to himself in the car as he struggles to stay awake.
If you’re familiar with the song (and if you were alive in the 90s, you must be), you’ll recall it ends with the line: “That was just a dream.”
It’s also worth noting that the band name R.E.M. means Rapid Eye Movement, the phase of the sleeping process in which dreams are experienced.
All the more fitting, then, that this should be the song in Chase’s head shortly before he dies in his sleep.
5. Wes Craven’s role in the film was originally really out-there
New Nightmare presents Wes Craven much as we might have imagined the filmmaker to be in reality: a studious man, fascinated by the big questions, living comfortably as a well-paid Hollywood figure.
It’s in this context that New Nightmare’s Craven sombrely explains to Heather Langenkamp what he has come to understand about this new real-world incarnation of Freddy Krueger.
However, in an earlier draft of the screenplay, the fictionalised Craven was left wildly unhinged by his realisation of the horrible truth.
In the original script, the director was going mad from sleep deprivation, and living in a van being driven around by Michael Berryman, the actor from Craven’s earlier film The Hills Have Eyes.
This script even saw Craven cut his own eyelids off to stay awake (something a traumatised teenager is mentioned doing in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors).
4. It marks the first of four times that Wes Craven played himself
Prior to New Nightmare, Wes Craven’s acting roles had generally been limited to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos in films he directed himself.
However, New Nightmare may have given the filmmaker a taste for playing himself, as he would reprise that ‘role’ a further three times.
Firstly, Craven was one among a number of film industry figures to appear as themselves in the 1998 comedy Welcome to Hollywood.
Second, and probably best remembered, Craven played himself in 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back; returning the favour to Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, after they made a cameo appearance as Jay and Silent Bob in Scream 3.
Finally, Craven also played himself in a 2013 episode of TV series Castle; logically, the episode in question was entitled Scared To Death.
3. Craven named one antagonist after the head of the MPAA
As previously stated, Wes Craven intended New Nightmare to present his argument for the need for horror movies, in response to the critics and censors who had given him so much trouble throughout his career.
In fact, Craven took the opportunity to directly name and shame one of the key figures with whom he had clashed over the years.
Actress Fran Bennett makes a brief but memorable performance as Dr Heffner, a harsh and judgemental physician who blames young Dylan’s problems on Heather Langenkamp’s parenting, believing the actress’s horror films are to blame.
Craven named this character after Richard Heffner, former chairman of US ratings board the MPAA, who had long been a thorn in the filmmaker’s side.
As it turned out, Heffner had retired from the MPAA by the time New Nightmare was released in October 1994.
2. The credits list Freddy Krueger as ‘himself’
For the best part of 20 years, Robert Englund was the one constant link through the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
As such, there was never any question he would return for New Nightmare, appearing both as himself and as Freddy Krueger.
Once again, though, this film’s incarnation of Freddy is not quite the same as the one we know from the earlier movies, steering closer to Craven’s original vision of the character.
It’s perhaps for this reason (plus the ‘meta’ nature of the whole movie) that the end credits list Freddy as ‘himself.’
Englund would play Freddy once more in 2003’s Freddy Vs Jason, before Jackie Earle Haley took over in the regrettable A Nightmare on Elm Street remake of 2010.
1. It was the least financially successful Elm Street movie
New Nightmare was the seventh Nightmare on Elm Street movie, made specifically to mark the tenth anniversary of the series.
As it marked the return of series creator Wes Craven and original heroine Heather Langenkamp, hopes were high that it would bring back the fans in droves.
Unfortunately, with box office takings of under $20 million worldwide, New Nightmare proved to be the lowest-earning entry in the series.
Even so, the reviews were mostly kind, and many critics have noted since that the film’s meta-commentary on the horror genre points the way to territory Craven would explore further in the Scream films.
In addition, Robert Englund has declared New Nightmare to be his personal favourite film of the whole series.