Every Town Has an Elm Street Part 8 (A Nightmare On Elm Street, 2010)

nightmare-reboot-posterThe best two things about the reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street?  Jackie Earl Haley and the opening credits.

Otherwise, as with other recent franchise rebooting remakes it is pretty by the numbers.  It jumps in quick, and a bit disjointedly.  Kids apparently hang out late night en mass at the diner where Nancy works.  A kid falls asleep and then appears to kill himself.  The kids go to the funeral and it’s off to the next death.  This is inspired by the highly effective sequence in the original where Tina dies in bed with her boyfriend.  But where that was gritty and uncomfortable and painful…this sequence feels safely faked.

While the police are quick to arrest the boyfriend of the dead girl, he gets a chance to warn Nancy.  Unlike the original, the kids figure out instantly that if you die in your dream you for realz!  The first movie had Nancy and Glenn (Johnny Depp) trying to determine the truth of the situation, but not sure they could trust Tina’s boyfriend.  Here it’s no challenge and they are on their way to figuring out the truth about Freddy.

Kids die, but it is hard to care, because they lack distinctive identities.  Though, in one well written moment, after destroying a kids heart, Freddy gently explains that a brain can function for seven minutes after the heart stops.  Freddy notes, with relish, that they still have six minutes to play.  End scene.  And had the entire film played out like this?  It would have been one of the most unnerving films of the year.

After all, Jackie Earl Haley makes Freddy menacing.  At no point is he campy-even when delivering a typical Freddy-esque line.  Haley was perfect casting, and yet, he is working with a cast that is Twilight-lite.  Sure, you have good character actors in the adult roles (always nice to see Clancy Brown in a movie).  But much like another remake of a Wes Craven Film (The Last House On the Left) the improved effects and technology results in a glossy and less effective film.

One thing that stood out was the trailer suggested Freddy was possibly an innocent victim, and while the film briefly flirts with this, it quickly makes it clear that Freddy was a child molester.  Not a child killer, mind you.

Frankly, I think I would have given the film more credit had Freddy been an innocent.  If Freddy had been a kind and gentle man who loved kids, only to be killed by a mob of angry folks whose righteous anger was fueled by a falsehood that led to the cruel death of a decent man… and that action created a monster worse than what they thought they were ridding the world of?  That would have been a rather daring take on the character.

But instead, the filmmakers go for gloss and a safe veneer.  Unlike the Friday the 13th remake (I’ll discuss that one later), the film is more conservative in things like gore and nudity.  This of course is not really a bad thing, they tried a less exploitation fueled approach, and I would have applauded them for it had they made a more effective film.  But instead, it just makes it clear what a bland approach was taken here.

I mentioned the opening credits, and they are downright beautiful and artistic.  We see shadows of children playing, hands stretched to mimic Freddy’s infamous claws.  It’s highly effective imagery and a real shame that the new film could not match up to it’s opening credits.

Every Town Has an Elm Street part 7 (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, 1994)

wes-cravens-new-nightmare-movie-poster-1994-1020399753So…Freddy’s Dead ended the franchise on a disappointing and sour note.  Three years later, Freddy was back.

Sort of.  As far as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is concerned?  It is outside the continuity of the six films that came before it.  Wes Craven crafted a clever horror film with thrills and also a philosophically challenging work of Meta fiction.  What does horror do to the people who create it?  How does it impact the people who watch it?  What separates the real from the fantasy?  Wes Craven returned to make a horror film to make you think.

I must admit that I just cannot take the snarky tone I did for the other sequels.  I really want to avoid spoilers as well, because of the entire series, this is the most clever and really worth giving a watch.

When New Line brought Wes back as writer and director, they did not stand in his way, and with clear reason.  What Craven delivered was intelligent, scary, chilling and exciting.  The film opens to reveal there is a new Nightmare film being made.  Heather Langenkamp (as herself) is not initially aware of it, because her special effects man husband has kept it hush-hush.  Heather is invited on a talk show where she meets up with Bob Shaye (former head of New Line, again playing himself) who tries to sell her on coming back to the role of Nancy.  She declines, but starts to find her world seemingly encroached upon by Freddy.  And it seems to be impacting her young son.

Craven explains that the original series tapped into an ancient evil.  It’s an evil that is kept at bay by being the inspiration in stories.  Apparently, it became very attached to Freddy, and the only way to cage the beast is for Craven to tell a new story.  He explains it much better in the film.  Heather finds herself going head to head with the Freddy monster (who is more beefed up and ominous than in pervious films-his claw is a boney extension-resembling the movie posters of earlier Elm Street films- and he wears a flowing trench coat) in several confrontations that culminate with a final battle in Freddy’s lair (which is a fantastic looking set).

Part of what works so well is that most of the cast is playing themselves (Langenkamp’s husband and son are fictional and portrayed by David Newsom and Miko Hughes-you might recognize him as the creepy little kid in Pet Cemetary).  Some are even duel roles (Robert Englund plays himself and Krueger, John Saxon plays himself and Don Thompson from the first and third films).  The effects are really nicely done, as is the set design.  Well worth renting.  Heck, Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars.

Every Town Has an Elm Street Part 6 (Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare, 1991)

nightmare_on_elm_street_6_posterYou know…the movie poster claims they saved the best for last.  I am not sure in what weird coked up world this would qualify as the best.  You see apparently, the sixth and final movie in the seven movie (eight if you count Freddy Vs Jason) series originally carried on from the fifth film.  It would focus on Alice’s son Jacob (now sixteen) and would have seen the return of Kincaid, Joey and Taryn (from the Dream Warriors) as Dream Police. According to director Rachel Talalay, this was not a good script and the new script that gave us the final product “saved the day.”  Seriously, that original script had to be incredibly bad for this movie to have “saved the day.”

Oh, I’m sorry; I may have tainted your view of the film a bit unfairly.  The film we got begins with the Last Kid in Springwood, called (rather creatively) John Doe (Shon Greenblatt) trying to outwit Freddy Krueger in a series of nightmares.  In the end, Freddy hits him with a bus, which does not kill the kid, it just shoots him out of Springwood.  This leaves him an amnesiac that ends up in a youth shelter run by Dr. Maggie Burroughs (Lisa Zane) and Doc (Yaphet Kotto).

Maggie discovers some clippings referring to Springwood, and thinks it might help John if they visit.  On their way, they discover three stowaways trying to ditch the youth shelter.  Spencer (Breckin Meyer) who would rather sit around smoking weed and playing video games than live up to his dad’s yuppie lifestyle, Tracy (Lezlie Deane) who was molested by her father and Carlos (Rickie Dean Logan) whose parents beat him severely enough that he was left deaf.  Yeah, which one of the three is not like the others?

Once they get to Springwood, they run into its scary citizenry…such as Tom & Roseanne Arnold.  There are no children, just adults in a Freddy obsessed psychosis.  Little known fact, in 1492, Freddy Krueger discovered America.  Anyways, unable to leave Springwood, the kids enter an abandoned house.  Guess whose?

Once in the house (yes, Freddy and Nancy Thompson’s old home), the kids start falling asleep.  The dreams are so over the top in this one, they kind of make the previous films look like they lacked imagination.  You have Spencer killed in an old school video game (almost like a lame version of Donkey Kong) and Carlos killed via blades scraping a chalkboard.  While this is happening, John and Maggie have been doing some research.  Apparently, Freddy had a kid who was taken away from him.  John suddenly realizes he is Freddy’s.  I mean, Freddy has not actually killed him, it must be true.  Freddy would not have any other motive to let John live…right?

Oh, you are so wrong…as John finds out when he tries to save Spencer.  John finds out he was merely a pawn to get Freddy’s real kid back to Springwood…his daughter.  Guess who his daughter is…go on…guess!  Yup!  It’s Doc!  Okay, just kidding.  It’s Maggie (since she is the only woman in the movie long enough to qualify as a central character who is remotely close to being of age to be Freddy’s kid)!  And as she and Tracy drive home, they shatter the barrier and set Freddy free.

Freddy, it turns out, is almost as powerful as God.  When Maggie and Tracy return, no one can remember Spencer, Carlos or John Doe.  Freddy has wiped all memory of them from existence.  Except for one other person; that other person would be Doc.  See, Doc is in touch with his dreams, see, and he can, like, totally control them.  This will come in handy, and makes it much easier to convince him that there is mad man killing persons in their dreams.

Freddy comes to Maggie in a dream and reveals he is her father.  Freddy then thanks her for helping him get out of the boundaries of Springwood.  Yeah, total thanks, Maggie…thanks for loosing the crazed dream killer on the world!

In the meantime, Doc has done some research into mythology.  Apparently that did not work, so he makes up mythology about Dream Demons who keep helping bring Freddy back.  They devise a plan that includes Maggie pulling Freddy from the dream world into the real world (that again?!).  But first she has to find Freddy-which involved entering his mind.  Yeah, it makes as much sense while you are watching it.  This sequence occurred in 3-D, which just never worked when I watched the DVD with the 3-D glasses at home.  I should try it with the hi-def TV.  But I digress, this was a good nine to ten years after the 3-D fad had died out.  I mean, Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th 3-D and Amityville 3-D were all between 1982 and 1983.  I thought New Line was a bit more forward thinking.

So, we get to see Freddy’s sad pathetic life. Like when the kids teased him as the son of a hundred maniacs.  It’s not like he did anything wrong, well, other than bludgeoning the class pet to death.  And then there is Alice Cooper.  I am a fan, so I will give the abusive step father memory a pass.  Then Maggie has all sorts of happy family memories flood back to her, for instance, that one time?  When her dad Freddy totally killed her mom because she found out Fred was killing little kids?  I mean, look at it from Freddy’s side, folks.  She totally was being nosy and not letting him have his guy time!

Freddy tries to win Maggie over, which can’t be that hard for a murdering sociopath, but she stays strong and pulls Freddy into the real world.  Fred dukes it out with Maggie, Tracy and Doc.  Maggie manages to stab Freddy in the gut with his own claw, which I guess is supposed to be poetic.  Then she jams a lit pipe bomb in Freddy’s chest.  She gives him a kiss and runs away. Freddy’s last words?  “Kids…”  Okay, that is really just a “last word”.

OK, I will grant that this is a nice inversion of the franchise rules.  If Freddy dies in the waking world, he is dead in the dream world.  So, the film has a brief moment of clever success.  And it has one of my favorite lines of the series.  After Freddy gets free from Springwood, he says to Maggie, “Every town has an Elm Street.”  The film might-and I repeat- might make for good “get together with friends and mock without mercy” movie night… but that may also be overly generous.

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