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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑