Friday, April 30, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

The Platinum Dunes guide to creating a successful remake is as follows: find a beloved older horror movie (older in this case being anything before the 90s, when the company’s target audience started being born), and strip away any and all intelligence or filmmaking skill. Then they can successfully call it a day. It’s a pattern first devised with their debut offering, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which may well be the single worst horror remake I have ever seen), and has only been refined further ever since.


This is the worst kind of a remake, really, as in addition to being a much dumber film, it also tries to simultaneously change around the storyline while still shoehorning in all of the major hits of the original film, even though the changes to the story often make the highlights stolen from the first film incomprehensible. Now, instead of being a child murderer, Freddy Krueger is a child molester, completely negating any and all reason for him to have his iconic knife-covered hand. Of course, they couldn’t really do a proper remake without the glove, so he has it here too, for no discernable reason whatsoever. Then there’s the fact that the nightmare world is pretty much just the iconic boiler room where, as we all remember, he was burned alive by the parents of his victims…except he’s murdered in some kind of warehouse/factory looking place in the remake, so the nightmare world being a boiler room only makes sense as a lame bone thrown to fans of the older series. And don’t get me started on how the mechanics of the parents covering up their crime is supposed to work with the closing of the nursery school, because as much as I try to wrap my head around it, there’s nothing involved there that makes anything approaching sense.

To be fair, they do have one interesting potential plot twist, in that they briefly flirt with the idea that he may have been falsely accused and murdered, and is now enraged at the children that betrayed him so. That would have made him from a villain into an outright tragic figure (though it would have made a sequel pretty difficult to pull off). Of course, they very quickly find that, no, he really was guilty after all, and here’s some pictures to prove it. And also, there’s the glove that he apparently made for no reason at all. Lame.

Of course, the plots got pretty convoluted in the original series of films anyway, so how are the main issues, the kills and Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as Freddy? Well, the kills are pretty damn lame and uninspired (there is nothing in the film that can match, say, Johnny Depp’s death in the original), with lots of CG blood flying around looking like CG blood, and every last one is done with the glove, so there’s not a single bit of variety to them (though they do steal Tina’s death from the original, with her flying through the air, it’s not done nearly as well). Haley’s performance is harder to judge. I’m not really sure if he actually turned in a bad performance, or if the script never gave him any chance to give a good one. When he’s under the makeup, he’s pretty much relegated to growling in his Rorschach voice, and looking like nothing more than an X-Files alien that’s been badly burned. The flashback scenes that show him when he was still alive aren’t really any help either, as they’re mostly done in voice-over, so we only get brief glimpses of him. It’s not the way to really build a terrifying villain.

Of course, the rest of the acting in the film is pretty poor, with just about anyone that’s not aggressively annoying to watch getting killed off in the first half of the film, something that is a surprisingly common problem with horror movies. The two teens that last the longest, Nancy and Quentin (played by Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner) are so goddamned obnoxious that the movie almost has no chance at all with them leading the show.

The film has a good deal of other problems as well. For one, we spend too much time in the nightmare world, as the cast passes out every few minutes even at the start of the film, leading me to assume there’s something in Springwood’s water supply that causes mass narcolepsy. Then there’s the climax, when they pull him out of the dream world and into reality, goes into that delightful editing style where we do lots of quick cuts while throwing the camera around the room, so we frequently have no idea what the hell is actually happening. This is called building tension, I suppose. Then there’s the dialogue, where we have frequent exchanges like the following:

GIRL: Dreams aren’t real.
GUY: This dream is real.
GIRL: This dream isn’t real.
GUY: This dream is real!

It took two people to write dialogue that razor sharp.

There’s very little here to recommend itself. There’s quite a few spots where I laughed, though most of them were at the movie’s expense, not because of any intentional humor. It’s Samuel Bayer’s debut film, and while I hope he improves with his next movie, Fiasco Heights, the fact that it’s a) another Platinum Dunes release, and b) got a plot description on IMDB that goes “the story centers on a notorious hitman who teams with a failed private eye in search of a missing woman and an invaluable briefcase,” I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Rating: *

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