Friday, November 19, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) Rorschach Gets Stabby

Ah, yes. Remakes.

It seems to be all the craze right now. Like the hula hoops and the Steve Urkel lunchboxes the kids are into these days, remakes of horror films - just about any film, really - seem to be all the rage. And sometimes, rage is the emotion they evoke. Once in a while, you get a remake that's done right, say, like the remake of Dawn Of The Dead. Respects the original without ripping it off or mocking it. Others, like the upcoming remake of the slug-in-the-gut, purely visceral Martyrs, bring about question marks. Does every foreign horror film have to be remade? And does every horror film have to be remade into a vehicle for pretty, savvy teens to audition for the CW Network? Oh, well. We'll always have Paris. And by Paris, I mean the originals.

I remember 1984. I was 17, just back from a year in Sweden as an exchange student. Still feeling my wild teenage oats. You know, hula hoops and Urkel lunchboxes and all. I went to see this new movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street, after hearing about it from my friends. I wasn't sure what to expect, but thanks to one Wes Craven, I practically peed myself from fright. I'd never seen anything like it, which is a common theme with Craven's films. Freddy Krueger was unlike any horror killer before him: he fed on fear and belief, and murdered in the dreamscapes of others (or brought them into his own reality to kill, either way...). The role cemented Robert Englund as a legend in horror films, spawning several sequels and a TV show along the way.

Along comes 2010, and as I mentioned before, remakes and reboots are "en vogue" right about now. There was a collective groan from the horror community when just on the heels of the divisive Halloween remakes, a remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street was in full swing. My fears were softened a bit with the casting of Jackie Earle Haley, fresh off of his so-much-like-the-book portrayal of the superhero Rorschach in Watchmen. I grew up on Haley's work in The Bad News Bears and Breaking Away, and was overjoyed to see him make a comeback - albeit in a creepy role in Little Children - so knowing he was Freddy Krueger made some of it easier to take. Unfortunately - and not unexpectedly - the movie employed the same formula as most "savvy modern teens in horror" remakes and it didn't stand out. It just became another movie.

As viewers, we don't have to wait long for the action to start in the movie. Dean, looking worse for wear, talks to Kris about his nightmares seeming too real and that he hasn't slept in three days. He nods off and meets Freddy Krueger, struggling with him in a dream world before dying there and in the real world, in front of Kris and Nancy, a waitress at the diner where this all happens. At Dean's funeral, Kris sees a picture of herself with Dean as kids, but doesn't recall ever knowing him until high school. Pretty soon, Kris is dreaming of Freddy and allows ex-boyfriend Jesse to keep her company while her mom is away. In a death very much like Amanda Wyss' Tina in the original, Kris is tossed around by an unseen force before being slashed open in front of Jesse. Jesse runs to Nancy's house to plead his case before being captured by the police. It isn't long before Jesse falls victim to Freddy while in his jail cell. It comes down to Nancy and Jesse's friend Quentin - who has a crush on Nancy - to uncover the mystery of this burned man and why there seems to be a connection between them and other strange deaths of kids their age.

I don't always want to come across like I instantly don't like remakes. Like I've said, some remakes work. The Seven Samurai remade as The Magnificent Seven works. The Thing From Another World redone as The Thing, and the aforementioned Dawn Of The Dead retelling are really quite good. This remake, honestly, did nothing for me.

That's not to say that it was all bad. It wasn't. I liked Haley as Freddy, and I did like the little touch of enhancing his voice whenever he spoke. Gave him an "omniscient" tone, much like Tony Todd in Candyman. In this movie, there is no doubt as to what he was before he was attacked by an angry mob of parents, and that lends some disturbing atmosphere to the character. The "body bag" moment, much like the original, lent some creepiness to the scene. I also liked Rooney Mara's performance as Nancy. She was portrayed with more social awkwardness and less "girl on the edge of being popular" than Heather Langenkamp's original role. She came off smart and haunted, which was a nice touch.

Otherwise, the movie didn't stand out. It wasn't - pardon the pun - a cut above anything else Hollywood wants to churn out. It didn't have a fresh energy or a unique fingerprint. It was an imitation. Some plot holes really, really stood out, though. Memory repression? Every single kid had it? Not a single one could even suspect something had happened in their youth? No explanation, just...repressed memories. I had trouble with that one. And the story didn't pop. This happens...then this happens...then this happens. Despite some neat moments, it just didn't resonate.

As I said before, we'll always have Paris in the original 1984 Wes Craven classic. And we'll always have Memphis wrestling, which made Freddy Krueger into an in-ring character:

Until next time, fellow survivors, watch your back when you fall asleep.

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