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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Freddy’s Dead’ a Nightmare for the Audience

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Much skepticism has greeted the producers’ promise--cross their hearts and hope to die--that “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” would absolutely be the last sequel in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series. After all, Freddy Krueger buys the farm at the end of every one of these deja vu-like recurring installments, as any teen’ll tell you. (And didn’t the rival “Friday the 13th” multi-parter have its own “Final Chapter,” oh, about four chapters ago?)

But hey--they may not be kidding. A proverbial whimper of a finale, “Freddy’s Dead” (citywide), the sixth in the series, feels like the product of people who have no vested interest in keeping their franchise alive. Kids won’t likely be kicking down New Line’s doors demanding a Part 7 after this hollow return to the series’ low-budget origins. You notice almost immediately how underpopulated the movie feels--by ideas, by special effects, even by phobic young cast members waiting to fall asleep and be slaughtered.

Flash forward to 10 years in the future: Springwood, Ohio, is now a virtual ghost town populated by a few psychotic adults and no youth, thanks to Freddy’s tenacity as a child-butchering angel of death. Not that he’s through. Mysteriously drawn there by forces beyond their understanding are three kids from a nearby youth shelter and their guidance counselor--one of whom, signs indicate, is Krueger’s child by a previous life.

The comic highlight comes when Yaphet Kotto, as a dream therapist, coyly signals moviegoers to put on their 3-D glasses for the 15-minute finale by handing soon-to-be-zonked Lisa Zane a pair of special shades to hold onto during her trance--hokey, red-and-green cardboard glasses just like ours, except without the detachable root beer coupon.

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William Castle would be proud--of the hucksterism, not the 3-D itself, which is pretty primitive stuff, all washed out of any color beyond, well, guess which two.

Former series producer Rachel Talalay took over as a first-time director here, and it feels like a debut--weirdly stylized in the wrong ways, full of hand-held close-ups that diffuse what minimal suspense there is, and as choppily edited in the waking sequences as in the dreaming ones. Talalay does cut down a little on the campiness that infected the last couple of cheeky “Elm Streets,” but makes no attempt to resurrect the real teen dread that made the original such a terrifying urban myth.

Insult is added to injury when a closing MTV-style montage plays next to the end credits reprising all the most gruesomely fascinating effects from the previous five movies, effectively reminding Freddy fans just what was missing in this underbudgeted, underimagined capper. “Freddy’s Dead” (MPAA-rated R, despite less gore than its predecessors) really does play like Freddy’s, or someone’s, death wish for the whole enterprise.


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