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STUDIO: New Line Cinema
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
- Alternate Opening
- Alternate Ending
- Additional Scene
Classic horror film remade by a music video director. It doesn’t end well.
Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy and Thomas Dekker
Freddy Krueger was more than a child molesting monster. He was a horribly burned anti-hero of the 1980s that enjoyed murdering teenagers in Springwood. Over a few years, he’d moved from inventive murders to discovering the humor in homicide. Fans of my generation grew up with Krueger, as he returns to the screen time and time again. After New Nightmare, we suffered the light years. Nearly a decade passed until we had Freddy vs. Jason. That monster mash should’ve been our tip-off regarding the future state of Krueger in cinema. How do you sell a maniacal Morpheus to the Adderall generation?
When I first heard that Samuel Bayer was chosen by Platinum Dunes to tackle the updated A Nightmare on Elm Street, I remained optimistic. Bayer had made his mark on music videos throughout the early 1990s and he developed a style that was pleasing to the eye. Sadly, this was all that Platinum Dunes wanted from their prospective celluloid jockey. The script is a paint-by-numbers job that makes half-hearted homage with excuses to slip budget-minded CGI into every scene. Sprinkle that with teen flavors of the month and you get this film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street starts off in this odd position of introducing the audience to secondary characters in a quick visual dump. We get a brief intro to the cast and a quick kill to set the scene for our update. Contrast to the opening of the first film. During the opening which sported my favorite New Line Cinema logo ever, you get a breakdown of how Krueger constructed his glove. It was an iconic image of horror in the 1980s and it set the scene for what would follow. The opening nightmare in the original was thrown at you from the start.
Wes Craven didn’t stop the scene for forced introductions; he made you feel that opening nightmare as sheer terror. The Platinum Dunes take wants to speed through the horror, as they feel it doesn’t play well. Pacing is an art that is lost on modern horror, as the economics of the business seem to push the next scare jump more than plot development. After we meet the new Springwood teens, we’re thrown back into the Modern Opening Nightmare and we get our first glimpse of Jackie Earle Haley as the new Krueger. Playing it up with Christian Bale’s Batman voice, Haley shows the world that CG and detailed makeup has come a long way since 1984.
When the film moves past the death of 2010 Tina, we really begin to see the work fall apart. Instead of just playing simple homage to the Tina’s ceiling slash and spin, we have to deal with the current Rod having an emotional moment. Here’s a hint, guys. If we don’t give a fuck about the characters from the get-go, the audience won’t give a shit about them showing human feelings. The current crop of film-watching teenagers has been trained to follow a pattern, while older fans are just watching to see how bad you screw up the original template. That’s two strikes against your creative endeavor, yet Platinum Dunes still feels obligated to slow down the horror to squeeze in more McMartin Trial style hi-jinks into the Krueger dream haunts.
Krueger isn’t an easy character to nail down. Hell, Robert Englund lost control of the beast in later films and seemed eager to put the gloved one behind him. What Jackie Earle Haley does with the character seems to be informed by his Oscar nominated turn in Little Children more than the classic Krueger. Unless you’re a Middle Eastern terrorist or a kiddie fucker, no one in America knows how to process people as true threats. Therefore, we’ve got this weird mix of horror iconography blending with a pedestrian urge to tie a classic story to the Modern era. That requires a lot of plot development which is handled in various ass backward ways. An example would be a kid falling asleep swimming and making his way into the past to find out how Kruger got burned by a lynch mob. Yeah, that happened.
Aesthetics are such a fickle commodity when you’re dealing with horror. So much of creating monsters is dependent on designing a look that stays with the audience for years and years after first viewing. But, there are also the basic dramatic concerns of creating a story to facilitate the rise of the monster. Samuel Bayer manages to develop a wonderful aesthetic that visually follows most of what Craven created in 1984. I know that I bash Platinum Dunes a lot, but they deserve the shit they catch. Comparing them to horror factories ala American International or Bryanston Distributing Company doesn’t quite work. Platinum Dunes actively gets involved in their remakes of classic American horror for a reason. They want to create nostalgia touchstones that drain the cash out of fish-eyed teenage audiences.
The lack of imagination when coupled with the push to create ambience leaves me scratching my head. Sure, this film is an obvious cash grab. It’s just that you feel like someone is purposefully trying to keep this film from being better. Freddy Krueger isn’t that hard of a sell, plus you’ve got a generation of filmmakers that would give their left leg for the chance to work on an Elm Street film. Also, there’s the matter of the CGI use. You have a world of computer imagery to produce nightmare scenarios that were unobtainable in the 1980s, but very rarely do you see anyone attempting it with Krueger in the modern era. Whether it be Ronny Yu or Samuel Bayer, it’s either reproductions of Craven scares or half-assed attempts to bridge jump scares.
When you do watch the film, I ask the following. Try to spot any scene where the action flows freely from one moment to the next. I want you to examine this cinematic turd for any moment that doesn’t come across as forced monotony designed to fit a pattern. Horror is one of the cheapest and most effective profit-producing film genres on the market, but there’s a point when you cross into whoring out a concept. Who do you blame when shit like this happens? The new fans that will throw money at anything that arrives in theaters in time for the weekend? The old fans that are desperate to return to youthful favorites, while ignoring new properties? The studios for not taking a chance on something that they used and abused in the past? Should we just stop remaking horror films?
It is naive to assume that horror films should never be remade. Hell, we’re dealing with a genre that lives and dies by its ability to successful update nightmarish lore from prior generations. Vampires, Werewolves, Golems, Blaculas, Blackensteins, Blunchbacks from Blotre Blames are old hands that get recycled throughout the ages to fit the zeitgeist and we’ve enjoyed the results for what they were. Did the shift to film being a billion dollar industry ruin the horror retread train? You can’t say that economic whoring started in the last twenty years, so where does the blame fall? It all goes back to my initial problem with this film.
Horror thrives on imagination and when you gut inspiration from terror, all you have left is guttural response. Anyone can put on that dirty fedora and razor glove. It’s what the actor and filmmakers do with the material that makes the difference. There has to be some innovation to keep pushing the material forward. If you can’t offer up anything different than what they did in 1984, then leave the old shit alone. Make a better movie. Make something new. Just keep pushing the bar until you’ve created something that matters. The 2010 revamp of A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t matter. Throwing money at this film only serves to tell people like Platinum Dunes that recycled garbage will be bought at a premium. Ignore this flick. Take away its power and drag it out into the sunlight to die.
comes with the usual Warner Brothers Maximum Movie mode setup. This time it’s a basic rundown of how Platinum Dunes really didn’t get what they were doing with the film. The alternate opening and ending continues to show that they didn’t quite get what made Wes Craven’s original film work. The brief featurette quips are fun in that playing with the BD-enabled PIP mode, but it just feels half-assed. The A/V Quality almost saves the effort, but black levels feel too deep in dream sequences which can make spotting detail very hard. The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track is strong enough to make the music shifts during jump scares more annoying.
Freddy was not a fan of the Dillon Panthers.