May 5, 2010
Director: Samuel Bayer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara
Release Date: April 30, 2010
Some Like It Hot
Another horror movie, another horrible remake. This seems to be the mantra of contemporary Hollywood. I can hear the executives at their corporate board meetings now: “Who cares if the movie is terrible? They’ll flock to it in droves.” The public has yet to prove these richer-than-cream bigwigs wrong, so no self-respecting film aficionado should expect anything but recycled schlock from the latest in a long line of gory retreads… right? Shockingly enough, “wrong.”
Lo and behold, A Nightmare on Elm Street. High art it ain’t, but it’s got one thing the original incarnation doesn’t: characterization. It’s minimal, but it’s there.
If you read my recent review of Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher classic, you’ll know that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as (seemingly) everyone else on Earth did. It felt a little too goofy and unfocused for my liking. Samuel Bayer’s take on Freddy Krueger, though plagued by the same A&F models that just about every other modern horror movie features, actually paints a portrait of the knife-gloved child killer that’s much more serious (and stomach turning) than anyone likely expected.
The basic story of this particular remake—as is the case with pretty much every other remake—is a complete rehash of its source material. Nancy Holbrook (Nancy Thompson in the original) and a score of other beautiful teens dream of a burned man in a fedora who goes by the name of Freddy. This guy’s background is a complete mystery until it’s revealed that the parents of these high schoolers burned him for allegedly abusing their children. Whether Freddy actually did or did not commit the crimes he’d been accused of is speculation until late in the film, but when all is revealed you’ll likely find yourself respecting the filmmakers for opting to abandon the “camp” that’s defined Wes Craven’s Nightmare series for so long.
One thing they didn’t abandon, though, are the iconic scenes that caused the original film to stand out for so many. Everything you’ve heard is true: the “body bag,” “fountain of blood,” “emerging-from-the-wall,” so and and so forth scenes are all present and accounted for. In fact, they’re often mimicked verbatim. This is distracting from time to time, as I found myself involuntarily comparing these scenes to their presentation in the original (and then waiting for others to manifest themselves at the appropriate times). The good news, though, is that for every mimicked scene there are fresh takes on the sequences that put just the right amount of spin on their original counterparts for them to stand alone. A handful of these are spookily surreal, and they make the jump into the 21st century of filmmaking quite nicely.
Still, it does get old watching Freddy scrape his steely nails across leaky pipes every time someone finds themselves in his boiler room. The third time time it happened, I caught myself yawning and checking my watch.
Then comes the cheap scares. These, of course, are annoyingly engaging. They cause viewers to watch the film in an uncomfortable purgatory, waiting impatiently for the “pop-up” in the mirror or the “sudden turn around.” On the flip side, some of these actually lead into well choreographed bits, so it ends up being a trade-off of sorts.
Whatever your stance, it’s clear that Bayer and company wanted to breathe new life into one Freddy Krueger. They’ve partially succeeded; because of this, it shouldn’t be too shocking that this Nightmare isn’t a total waste of celluloid.
out of 5
Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.
Check out a trailer for A Nightmare on Elm Street: