This is a real brief guide regarding how I tend to review movies. Over this weekend I finally had my dream horror movie catchup fastival. One of the first I wanted to watch was the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Continuing with the wave of horror movie remakes (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Halloween etc.) we finally come to the immortal classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (NoES). While I have never been a very big fan of this franchise, I always respected it for being one of the only slasher franchises that kept the storyline continuous. All of the original films had some level of connection which made watching them as a series very nice (See Halloween series if you want to watch the opposite). However, this continuity really started to take its toll on old Freddy. Towards the later films he began to fade from the “terrifying killer” to “one line deliverer.” Of course everyone loves the infamous line from the original “I’m your boyfriend now Nancy!” but towards the end the writers just seemed to be trying too hard. So despite my lesser enthusiasm I was dearly looking forward to watching this. Sadly I was very disappointed.
Doing a good remake is a very tricky task. You want to reintroduce a new audience to something already done, while not alienating the original fan-base. You want to add new twists and turns to the story without taking away from the original, while making the villian (in the case of the horror remake) even more sinister than the last. Unfortunately I felt like NoES failed on almost every front. Sure you have new fancy special effects, but Hollywood needs to learn that special effects are a dime a dozen now. With a copy of Final Cut and some training you could easily redo almost half of the special effect shots in this movie. Since the effects become a moot point you have to rely on the writing which I felt was just paced too fact and disjointed. Within the first 30 minutes of the film we are aware of Freddy and the main cast is fighting him, yet at no point was there a moment where the cast has to accept the unbelievable. It was basically like “There is a guy in our dreams and he is scaring us” “Obviously he can kill us in real life! What do we do?” In fact with the exception of the parents of the main characters no one even questions Freddy’s existance. This really detracted from the sense of dread and hopelessness that you could find in the originals. This remake really needed a scene where several people (students perhaps) ridicule and attack the main characters for being freaks and strange. When you combine the horror of being attacked in your sleep with the feeling of loneliness when no one believes you, that is where Freddy becomes scary.
Speaking of Freddy, I do have to give kudos to Jackie Earle Haley, who dons the fedora and glove in this film. Gone was the wacky, zany Freddy Kreuger of old. Half the time in the old films I half expected him to close on a victim and squirt them in the face with a flower squirt gun or just grab their nose and pinch instead of kill. Mr. Haley really works hard to make Freddy into a harder more violent killer and succeeds quite well. Here is where the Freddy praise ends however because that makeup job they did was a total and utter dissappointment. They try very, very hard to make Freddy look like a more realistic burn victim and the end result is a cross between a lizard and someone with about 3 lbs. of painted gauze on their face. In several dialogue scenes you could almost see Mr. Haley struggling to speak in the mask. I cannot express how much of a disappointment the make up was. Sometimes in remakes you should just leave some good things alone.
Which brings me to the story. Throughout the film you can literally feel the writers trying so hard to pull away from the original storyline. This results in a portion of the film that is very interesting, but sadly short lived. It is a classic “Oh my gosh! He might not be!” but instead of taking a bold stance and moving the film franchise in another direction, that moment is short lived. What we are left with is a very cookie cutter horror movie: Female lead goes from weak to strong, side characters are killed off in various ways, something in the past comes back to influence the film etc. The most egregious of this is the ending with the classic “INSERT SNARKY PUT DOWN WITH BITCH ADDED AT THE END” line to finish off the killer. There is truly nothing more annoying to me than that stupid catch line before the end. I freaking hate it especially with the “bitch” tagline at the end. It completely takes you out of the film and reminds you you are watching a movie, and a bad one at that. Short lived seemed to be the theme of the new ideas in this film. If my memory serves me correctly there was a lot of buzz about some prequel action in this film. This was a huge draw for me; to see how Freddy became Freddy. We got about 2 scenes and 15 minutes of prequel which really added nothing new. To me this was the final straw for this movie. Not only am I seeing nothing new, the opportunities to do so presented themselves and the writers/director refused to go there.
The bottom line:
A Nightmare on Elm Street felt to me like the absolute weakest of the horror remakes. Not only was nothing new, the majority of it was worse than the originals. Uninspired, tepid script writing and too much reliance on special effects really drove this into the ground.
but only if you have nothing else…