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English-professor-turned-horror-auteur Wes Craven brings both careers to play in this ingenious reinterpretation of the Nightmare on Elm Street series as a modern-day fairy tale--a sort of Hansel and Gretel for big kids. Heather Langenkamp, star of the original film, plays Heather Langenkamp, an actress and mother wracked with nightmares as Los Angeles is rocked with unexplained earthquakes. Meanwhile, her son starts sleepwalking and croaking Freddy Krueger threats. Is it a coincidence that Wes Craven (playing himself) is turning his own troubled dreams into a new screenplay, which he calls "a sort of nightmare in progress"? According to his visions, the imaginary Freddy has become the embodiment of ancient evil and is trying to break out of his movie prison and into the physical world. It's a rather literal and glib explanation, but words have never been Craven's strong suit. His central thesis, the cultural importance of stories, is more resonant in the web of imagery arising from dreams, movies, and the subconscious. Robert Englund and John Saxon play themselves and their movie characters (though this Freddy is decidedly less wisecracking and more demonic). It's a thoughtful, imaginative, and often gripping modern horror film that echoes with suggestions of The Exorcist and Poltergeist. Though less of a fun-house thrill ride than previous Nightmares, it's scarier and smarter than any of the other series sequels.

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TUN5022 Wes Craven's New Nightmare: Nightmare on Elm Street 7 VHS (1994/Robert Englund $5.99