Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street remake review

After much deliberation on my end, I decided to finally watch the new Nightmare on Elm Street revamp. I must say this before I rip this film into a new asshole, is there anyway I can jump in some teleportation chamber and retrieve the 90 minutes of my fucking life that I wasted watching this cinematic turd back? Is it possible? Because if it is, please guide me in that general direction.

When I heard that a remake of the original Nightmare on Elm Street was in the works, I was naturally against it. Why remake a classic horror film that doesn’t need to be remade? I’m generally against most remakes- particularly now, when it’s the easiest way to get a film made. There are exceptions (I think the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers is better for instance than its 50s counterpart) but the ratio of shitty remakes outweighs the good ones. So, I didn’t understand why this film needed to be re-imagined for a contemporary audience. Then, when I heard that Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company were signed up- I knew this film would was destined for a few Razzies. However, I don’t even think this film is worthy of Razzie status. It’s that bad.

Of all horror movie icons, Freddy always held a very special place in the twisted nugget that I call my heart. I was never really scared of most horror villains like Jason because even as a kid, I used to think that those stupid teenagers deserved to get diced. I mean, would you ever seriously consider spending summer at some place that has been lovingly referred to as “Camp Blood”? I can just imagine the conversations that the families had before they shipped their kids off for the summer:

“Well, honey, there was that one mongoloid behemoth who wears a hockey mask and hacked a thousand kids with a machete and assorted weapons for the last decade…”

“Hmmm, valid point but take a look at the brochure! The water looks beautiful even though it’s mysteriously filled with severed body parts. I say, we send little Jimmy off.”

So, none of those movies disturbed me (I did like Halloween and Halloween II just because I used to watch it on USA all the time to the point of obsession) but Freddy always terrified me. Of course, it has to deal with, not being able to control your dreams and being at your most vulnerable. So, I’ve always watched the Nightmare movies religiously- and had nightmares about being killed by Freddy since I was young. My grandparents didn’t really care that I was watching the films, they knew I could handle myself. And, I must thank them, because I think it made me a tougher person.

Or desensitized. One of the two.

Okay, back to the heart of the matter. Freddy Krueger is one the most recognized figures in cinema and Robert Englund did a remarkable job bringing him to life. And quite frankly, he breathed life into that character in a way most actors would be unable to. And, the original Nightmare to me is one of those rare beasts where everything clicks. Sure, it’s a very low-budget production but the storyline, the directing, the atmosphere, the acting- it just worked. Where the budget may have hampered lesser directors, Wes Craven was able to make things work in his favor. Who the hell didn’t freak out when Tina was killed by Freddy and dragged up the wall? The genius of that first kill was the way it was set up and you couldn’t see the horror about to happen. And what I loved about the original was the subtleties that Wes placed in the film. It was hard at times to differentiate what was real and what wasn’t.

And, I agree with Craven’s distaste in how the movie made Freddy the stand-up comedian/Looney Tunes character of horror movies. I think the only really great Nightmare films are the original, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (which I do wish that some aspects of Craven’s original script including Nancy surviving stayed intact, while I do applaud for Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell for what they brought to the table as well). The rest are a very mixed bag but I always thought Craven’s original idea for the character was perfect- he’s just a monster. The epitome of just everything vile in a human being. So, to see him being one of the most requested costumes for Halloween says a lot about the psychology of most people.

I have been a huge Nightmare fan- from the films, to the horrible Freddy’s Nightmares series, to the various TV shows you would catch Freddy in. Hell, I even called that really lame Freddy 1-900 number when I was calling various 900 numbers as a kid.

First and foremost, to call this remake bad is doing a disservice to bad movies everywhere. The opening credits of the film were bad enough- don’t expect the creepy opening with Tina running from Freddy in the boiler room. Nope, we get a guy in a diner who gets killed who we really don’t care about. Then, we follow this one character, Kristin, who I assume is supposed to be loosely based off the Tina character in the film. Nancy is around, but it doesn’t appear that the writers care about her until the 50 minute mark of the film.

Everything that Wes Craven did so well in the original is completely stripped away- to the point where you wonder if there is any plot at all to this absurd waste of film. Again, the original Nightmare was a very surreal type of film. Compare the subtle creepiness of Nancy dreaming in class- and following Tina in the bloody body bag- to the supposedly scarier remake. Oh, wow- it’s terrifying because Tina is spewing up blood in this body bag and we will let people know it’s a dream because there’s POOF- a cloud of smoke that leads us into the dream, right?

Wrong. It’s not scary and the piss-poor cinematography doesn’t help either. I can’t blame Samuel Bayer for this completely. I do appreciate his work in music videos and I think he’s talented- but bathing the screen in green doesn’t make it scarier. It just helps re-establish my knowledge that this is indeed a movie. And a poorly made one to begin with.

So, by the time the third act occurs, it seems that the writers remember that Nancy is the heroine of the film. But, Rooney Mara is not even in the same league as Heather Lagenkamp and is unable to make this Nancy an engaging character that the audience can even get behind. To be fair, I can’t blame Rooney for that because the writing is so atrocious. If there is a narrative to this movie, it is lost on me. As you would expect from a Platinum Dunes production, the pacing is off and the any story takes backseat to some lazy gore that is supposed to be mistaken for terror. Sorry, the only thing I am terrified for is any hapless sucker who ponies up their hard-owned money for this garbage.

Now, more sequels of this abomination to the Nightmare on Elm Street brand…now, that is scary.

Apparently, the writers felt it was more interesting to forego actual characterization for our lead protagonists and focus on some backstory for Freddy. Instead of being a child murderer, Platinum Dunes felt it was necessary to make this Freddy incarnation a child molester instead. In the original, Krueger was a child murderer and it was scary solely based on the revelation coming from Nancy’s mother when she shows her daughter Freddy’s glove in the basement. I know in later movies, it's implied but they never overtly go the sexual molestation route. I always felt it was scarier than Freddy was able to invade his victims in a different manner- by exploiting their dreams and using their desires and fears against them. There's none of that cleverness in this remake. Freddy just lures his victims in and then kills them in long drawn-out and predictable dream sequences.

Here, we get a genuine mystery about Freddy’s history with flashbacks of him with the kids. Most of the film then becomes was Krueger burned alive mistakenly? Was he an innocent man? Oh wait, Krueger did molest the children. Excuse me, but who gives a shit?!

Freddy now doesn’t seem scary or horrifying, he just comes across as creepy and not in the good way. They even bastardized the classic “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy” line from the original, as the new Freddy is about to sexually assault or kill Nancy. There was no need for a sexual gimmick for Freddy. He was just a child murderer.

It was nice to see Clancy Brown as one of the parents but his talents were severely underused in this film. Also, it’s just sad how most of this current generation are unaware that during the heyday of the 80s, Clancy was known as the fucking Kurgan. Again, to use Clancy in such a manner is criminal.

I thought Jackie Earle Haley did a decent job as Freddy, but he cannot fill Robert Englund’s shoes. I think if this movie proved anything it’s that Robert was able to bring that character to life in ways that most can’t replicate. But, the new Freddy make-up looks absurd and Jackie did as much as he could but an actor can only do so much when the writing is so bad. And it truly is. You could care less about any of these characters- they’re all one-dimensional and interchangeable. Gone is the suspense of the original- instead, we just watch Krueger hack away in the same predictable manner.

Compare the shock of Tina’s original death to the new one where we watch Tina be suspended in mid-air and then bounce off the walls like a pin-ball. Wow. How impressive. Insert yawn.

The thing is the original Nightmare film had heart and talent behind it. This new one is an insult to everything to a true Nightmare fan. Please rip this film from the projectors- you will be doing your fellow movie-goers a favor.

And now to cleanse myself of this filth, I’m going to rewatch A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and also check out the Nightmare documentary, “Never Sleep Again”.

Do yourself a favor kids, watch the classics. And Hollywood- try not fucking with the classics. One of these days, hopefully you will learn the lesson.

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