Cinepub


Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) by Jamie

AVAST, HERE BE SPOILERS.

Ah, Michael Bay. You seem to be set on ruining the things that I loved growing up. If you’re not turning the Transformers into nothing more than giant scrotum jokes and robots humping Megan Fox’s leg then you’re using your production company, Platinum Dunes, to systematically remake the horror films that morphed me into the slightly twisted and desensitized me from violence. From ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ to ‘The Amityville Horror’, it seemed as though nothing was safe from your evil clutches.

This all culminated with the one that was the biggest personal insult to me, last years remake of ‘Friday The 13th’. Jason was always my favourite of the slashers and I was actually genuinely excited to see this film in the cinema. I went into it with the feeling that you couldn’t possibly ruin a series which, arguably, had been ruined several times before. See ‘Jason Takes Manhattan’ for more details. Of course I was wrong to have hope. I left that film feeling angrier than I thought I could feel about a film. What had happened to my hockey masked hero? Little did I know that I could actually feel angrier than that but I did when a certain cinematic shitstorm called ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ hit the screens.

But then came the news of another Michael Bay produced horror remake, a remake of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. At first I was dubious. There came the news that Robert Englund wouldn’t be reprising his role as Freddy, that someone else would be donning the fedora, stripy sweatshirt and clawed glove. Of course I could understand. You want to reboot something then you want someone different in that role but for many of us, Robert Englund was Freddy. It was as simple as that.

Then there came hope. It turned out that Jackie Earle Haley would be stepping into the shoes of everyone’s favourite child murderer… Wow, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Still, things seemed to be looking up. Haley was certainly the best thing about ‘Watchmen’ and it seemed as though he was pretty much perfect for the role.

Other pieces of news started to break out. The film-makers said that they’d want to take Freddy away from the jokey character he had become in the later ‘Nightmare’ movies and return him to his dark origins. Not that I don’t enjoy the comic Freddy for what he was but there definitely was something genuinely scary about that first ‘Nightmare’ film. Plus it seemed like they could really do something impressive with the nightmarish dreamscapes that modern CGI would allow. Once more Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes had gotten my hopes up. But would it turn out that once more my hope was misplaced?

Well in a word, yes. The filmmakers took what is a fucking solid concept and completely screwed it up. I didn’t get as annoyed by this as I was by ‘Friday the 13th‘. Rather, I was just bored. When a movie’s main conceit is that your main characters will die if they fall asleep, it’s probably a good idea not to make the audience feel as though a little nap would be more enjoyable than watching the film.

The main problem was that the slightly surreal elements of that first ‘Nightmare’ film have almost been completely stripped away. Yes, there’s the scene where Freddy is coming through the wall but it’s honestly nowhere as impressive as in the original. There’s also a scene later on where a floor becomes a lake of turgid blood which then pools and falls through a ceiling but other than that there aren’t really any examples of Freddy drastically fucking with reality like he used to. There’s no scene where a telephone suddenly sprouts a tongue. There’s no shower of blood exploding from the mattress of a bed (though the scene I mentioned earlier of the blood falling through a ceiling is supposed to be reminiscent of it and again, it’s nowhere near as impressive). There’s not even an attempt to replicate one of the most iconic scenes from that original film where Freddy is walking along with his extra long, Stretch Armstrong arms. Everything just seems too realistic and honestly what is the fucking point?

There’s also issue of the new Freddy, both in redesign and story. I know they were trying to go for a face that looked more like an actual burn victim but what they actually came up with was something that looked like more like Lion-O from the Thundercats or maybe some kind of diseased Na’vi. Just something about the design of the nose and eyes made Freddy seem particularly feline this time around. He does still have his fedora, stripey sweatshirt and, of course, the clawed glove so that’s something I suppose. As for what they attempt to do with the story, well, it’s just bizarre.

You see about an hour into this film they toy with the idea that perhaps Freddy was innocent of his crimes. The problem is that whether or not this is true actually gets resolved pretty quickly afterwards. Of course it does because, well, you’ve only got a half hour left and you still need to fit in the final battle with Freddy which should take up at least ten or fifteen minutes. So yeah, not really enough time to develop this theory. If they’d introduced the idea a bit earlier in the film, there’s a chance that I’d give a fuck about it either way but as it is it just seems kind of empty and pointless. I should also point out that this time round, Freddy is a paedophile. They always danced around the idea in the original films simply because it was a different time and for some reason people found a child murderer more palatable as a villain than a child molester. So yeah, Freddy is a paedophile and this time he’s taking his revenge on the children who ratted him out.

That’s another problem with this version of the story. In the original Freddy was killing the kids as revenge for what the adults of Springwood had done to him. In this version he’s taking revenge against for what the children had caused to happen to him. It removes the whole ‘sons and daughters paying for the sins of the mothers and fathers’ element that the original had and that just plain sucks. It also makes it hard to see just where the planned two sequels for this film are gonna go since the film ends with only two of the original group of kids surviving.

So what about the performances? Well, the kids are there to serve their purpose and do little else. At no point do you really feel any empathy for them, don’t particularly care whether they live or die. I can remember the actual shock and sadness I felt when Jonny Depp’s character died in the original. He was a character that you had come to know and like and his death came as a genuine shock to me. There’s none of that here. Kids are brought on to be killed or fight Freddy as needed and you don’t connect with them at all. Character development is practically non-existant even for the two main characters.

As for Jackie Earle Haley, well, he tries bless him but that’s a pretty big glove he’s got to fill. I tried hard not to think about Robert Englund when I was watching this but it was impossible. The man is Freddy Krueger and he always will be. Haley said that he wasn’t going to let Englund’s performance influence his but that’s clearly something that ended up going out the window. There are the little, swift movements that Haley performs with Freddy’s gloved hand that are just too reminiscent of Englund’s Freddy to have not come from his performance. Towards the beginning of the film Haley does manage to be quite creepy and menacing but by the end it seems that the film-makers forgot that they were going to take away the comic of elements of Freddy because by that point his wise-cracking and punning it up just like he used to. It’s a complete shift in the character and it just doesn’t gel. Either stick to your guns and make Freddy a grim and dark character or have him quipping from the start. You can’t have it both ways especially after the earlier statements you had made.

So what can I say to wrap things up? Honestly, the film was just another subpar remake of a horror classic that we all know and love. Yes, there were times that Jackie Earle Haley worked but at the end of the day it’s impossible not to judge him against Robert Englund, no matter how hard I tried, and he’s just not Freddy. What they needed to do was either completely change the tone of the character, like they said they would or acknowledge Englund’s influence. You can’t just try and do both and hope that people won’t care. So, yeah, it’s fair to say I disliked this film and really apart from the few times that Haley shines, there really is no reason to watch it. One pint out of five. Laterz.

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