While the stalker angle was inspired by a real-life incident involving Lagenkamp and someone who started stalking her following the cancellation of the show Just the Ten of Us, it's hard for me to watch these sequences now and not think of the real-life story of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 star Mark Patton.

For those who don't know, Patton's life and career were changed forever by that film's homosexual subtext and some of the circumstances of the movie's release. There was a debate at the time over whether the film's not-so-subtle themes were an inside attempt to mock Patton (a gay man), but the entire experience further complicated Patton's already complicated efforts to make it in Hollywood as a gay actor during the societal stigma of the AIDS crisis. As brilliantly detailed in the documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street, Patton long struggled with embracing his role in Nightmare on Elm Street 2 which had simultaneously become this source of pride and joy as well as this part of his life that had caused him to confront the horrors of the film industry as well as deal with some in the franchise's "fan" community who mocked him, sent him hateful messages, and generally suggested he and his movie didn't really belong in the series.

Though New Nightmare was written and released before Patton's story had fully played out (Craven has even said he wrote a version of the New Nightmare idea as his original idea for Nightmare on Elm Street 3's script), the concept of struggling with how to accept being part of a franchise that invites success and pain into your life is a horror that certainly isn't limited to Elm Street.

The real-life stories of actors like Kelly Marie Tran remind us that even dream roles can sometimes turn into nightmares if a franchise's fans decide to set their sights on you. When viewed through that context, it's easy to see why Heather Lagenkamp's New Nightmare character isn't jumping at the chance to play Nancy again. Things worked out better for Lagenkamp in real-life, but too many people have had to struggle with living as both themselves and their characters due to the reactions to the films they were in.

That's what makes New Nightmare such a brilliant bit of meta filmmaking. For as great as Scream is, its "metaness" is often delivered with its tongue in its cheek and in a way that wants to make the audience think it's smarter than the movie itself is actually being. Sidney talks about running up the stairs instead of out of the front door and then does just that. Randy mentions the killer getting up for one last scare before the killer gets up for one last scare. The movie often acknowledges the absurdity of the typical slasher playbook then runs a page from it. We're meant to buy into the idea that acknowledging a cliché is roughly equal to subverting it. While that approach can be fun, there are times when you can't help but wish the movie would use its awareness of what usually happens to do something truly different.

New Nightmare is not immune to those winking at the screen moments, but Craven's script benefits from experience and perspective that Kevin Williamson's Scream screenplay doesn't always utilize. New Nightmare condemns and celebrates the horror genre while blasting franchise culture even as many of those involved with the film both on and off-screen celebrate their return to that franchise and desire to "get it right." All the while, it manages to tell a distinctly "Nightmare on Elm Street" story that feels at home with the rest of the series, even as it plays with the foundational components we were led to believe made those movies work. New Nightmare uses meta storytelling as a way to be more reflective than referential.

It would have been possible to tell the fictional part of New Nightmare's story with fake people and a fake franchise, but by invoking the Nightmare name, the movie establishes a strong emotional connection that makes it easier to process and appreciate its boldest ideas. It forced us to examine the unique role of the Nightmare franchise on our world while telling a story where that franchise (and its slasher star) are both a literal and metaphorical demon.