Joe’s Blog

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

June 29, 2011 2:13 pm

nightmare on elm st

“1…2… Freddy’s gonna turn poo…

3…4… please God, no more”

I heard the Elm Street remake was awful, and quite frankly I expected nothing less. But it’s ineptitude and crassness surprised even my cynical little mind.

 Chucked at the screen by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes (already responsible for the Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacare and The Hitcher remakes) and a director of Blink 182 videos, it takes the usual route of taking everything that made the originals so special, and then throwing out everything that made the originals so special and replacing it with needless origin plots, CGI gore, lots of orange and brown filters and a lack of any discernable film-making talent.

 The basic story of teenagers terrorised by Freddy in their dreams is retained. It’s a pretty scary concept, so it’s not difficult to see how that could still work. But it falls into the trap of not deciding whether it wants to be a straight remake, or whether its wants to be its own creation. For me, the few remakes that surpass their originals are those that disregard almost everything bar the thinnest narrative thread (The Thing, The Fly). What the recent crop of remakes do is retain the story, but also all the iconic links to the past. Jason’s mask, Freddy’s jumper, Leatherface’s… uh… leatherface… Yes, maybe without them the characters would not be the same. You mean, they might be NEW characters, in NEW films?

 Where Nightmare (and Halloween before it) get particularly grating and smug, is in playing with the heads of those familiar with the originals. I’m aware these films are not for me. I know they are made for ‘the kids’ who haven’t grown up with these characters (in the same way that Daniel Craig Bond films aren’t made for the audience that went to the flicks to watch Goldfinger). That’s fine, I’m not young anymore I can deal with that. So why go to the trouble of replicating scenes from the original and then going “AH… you thought we were going to do that… but we’re not! Cos we’re clever, we know what you’re thinking. We’re so BLOODY clever that we can even surprise you jaded, desensitised fanboys.” Either that, or we get the standard “Oh, it’s a little nod to the fans”.

 Well, it’s not a little nod to the fans, it’s a big middle finger to the fans. It’s a big, fat, smug kick in the balls to say “Look, this is what you like isn’t it… but, NO… we’re not giving you that… hahahaha! You’re old! It’s not for you!”

 Which, as I say, is fine. But don’t then do rounds of interviews talking about how much you respect the original, how much you want the fans to enjoy it, and how “the story is even more relevant today than it was then”. A story about a peadophile killing kids in their dreams is ALWAYS going to be relevant, because it taps into primal fears. But you’ve still got to be able to tell that story well… campfire ghost stories wouldn’t have the same impact if Joe Pasquale was telling them.

 I realise this has turned into a bit of a generic rant now, so I’ll try and steer it back on course.

 So they mess with the story for no good reason other than to make it a bit newer. It’s a bit like when sequels introduce back story that really should have been known in the first film (eg Halloween, Star Wars), so Freddy was actually abusing these kids when they were little. So that’s the sins of the parents visited on the children out the window. We do get to see the parents retribution this time, though oddly its played out as one of the teenagers Freddy induced nightmares. Why would he choose that as the basis for a nightmare?

 It plays its card far too early too. As is the norm, we have to have a gory death scene early on which ends with the title appearing on screen in a knife swish sound effect (see also the Saw sequels). But it tries the old “oh good, I’m awake… oh no, I’m still asleep and this is still a dream” trick, never bettered than in An American Werewolf in London. And then it does it again. And then it does it again. THREE TIMES in the first 20 minutes. It’s a movie cheat that’s difficult to pull off successfully once in a film, let alone three times in the first act.

 They also show Freddy far too early. To be fair, the make up job is rather good. It’s still a tad rubbery but he’s a bit more believable as a burns victim than the classic look. Problem is, when he’s onscreen, he’s far too brightly lit. Freddy is supposed to be a character that’s in your dreams, in the dark. Surely one of the reasons why the character worked (at least in the first film) was that you didn’t really see what he looked like. You saw flashes, and shadowed glimpses, and your brain filled in the rest. Looking grotesque isn’t enough. Surely not knowing how grotesque someone is is scarier?

 So, it was an ordeal. And not in a good way.

 Halloween may have been horrible, but it tried to have some original ideas. Friday the 13th was a mess, but was only as bad as most of its originals sequels. Texas Chainsaw Massacare just missed the point of what made the original work.

 This is just a cynical, disrespectful, lazy, smug, hateful ‘film-making’ of the lowest order. It genuinely made me angry. But $120 million at the US box office alone tells us that Freddy 2 with probably with us shortly.

 Bloody kids…

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