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KIDS ON FILM

'Nightmare' Steps Off Screen and Hits Home : In "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," the steel-fingered Freddy, star of multiple previous horror flicks, returns to haunt the real life of the series' heroine, Hollywood actress Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) and her son, Dylan. (Rated R)

October 20, 1994|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section

For moms who want to be scared beyond their worst nightmare, it probably can't get any better than this: scene after scene of the widow Langenkamp unable to help her child from real and/or imagined horrors. They include a plunge into hell--where the young boy knows she was his last possible hope, then watches screaming as she appears to die.

But what parent needs it?

Some kids, on the other hand, really love this stuff. For them, it could have been a lot better. In fact, they said it was better in the earlier Freddy movies, which they thought were scarier, funnier and more original.

"It was hard to understand," said Matt Schandler, 13. "You couldn't tell if it was a dream or it was real."

And compared to some other horror movies that are also in their umpteenth incarnation as sequels, this Freddy film didn't always cut it.

" 'Friday the 13th' was scarier," Matt said. "That was more suspenseful. This was, like, mostly dreams."

But Chad McDonald, 11, who had seen every Freddy movie on video, said, "This one was probably the second best. The last one, No. 6 ('The Final Nightmare,') was probably the best because it was more of a comedy.

"This one, it never really showed (Freddy) 'til the end."

To Chad's mind, the best part was a scary voice singing a song from the last Freddy movie: "One, two, Freddy's coming for you."

His second favorite part was in the hospital, where Freddy takes Dylan's baby-sitter and, similar to a scene in the original Freddy movie, puts her on the ceiling and "kills her and stuff."

Ohhhhh-kay.

But ultimately, Chad said, sequels are boring.

"This was like they put all the movies together. In 6, they took the song, and they took a lot of parts from 1, some parts from 4."

If Wes Craven does it again, Chad said he'll see the movie, but only if it is different from this one.

"They need to have something kind of new."

However, this sequel, a movie within a movie, worked for some kids precisely because it hit closer to home. Not only could many still relate to Dylan's night terrors and fears of the dark, they could also understand the terrifying earthquakes and aftershocks depicted in the Los Angeles setting.

"I liked it better than the other ones," said Casey McGuire, 13. Seeing actors playing themselves being affected by the parts they have played "made it scarier," he said. "It keeps you more on the edge of your seat."

In addition, he liked the special effects, such as the scene in which Freddy's tongue extends to several feet and wraps around the mother like a boa constrictor.

Trevor Friedrich, 10, said his favorite part was when Freddy's hand kills a man when he's driving a car. But all things considered, he prefers Jason and the "Friday the 13th" movies, such as "Jason Goes to Hell."

The boys all said the "Nightmare" movies have never given them bad dreams. But one 6-year-old came out growling and snarling like Freddy, who lived in the bottom of the young boy's bed. "I hated it," he hissed.

Let's hope he, too, can make it through the night.

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