“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you!” A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most successful horror franchises ever with more sequels than Rocky… giving Freddy Krueger, the burnt man with a fedora and bladed claw an all-access pass to our dreams for almost three decades! After Freddy’s “colleagues”, Halloween’s Michael Myers and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees recently received their own remakes, it was almost inevitable that Krueger would also be given a face-lift, courtesy of Michael Bay.
M-m-michael Bay… the guy who directed The Rock, Bad Boys and Transformers you say? That’s the one… Bay‘s either a big fan of horror or money, because he’s made a hobby of systematically resurrecting ’70s and ’80s horror classics and turning them into over-produced, creepy remakes over the last few years. The hit list includes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th and now A Nightmare on Elm Street. The scariest thing about them… the film-maker’s insistence that they be categorised as horror.
Catch the rest of the review and the trailer after the jump…
Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake placed more emphasis on the face behind the mask, while the Friday the 13th remake got a less imaginative redux with Michael Bay as producer. While most of Bay’s horror remakes have proved watchable and fairly entertaining as stand-alone features, many have not retained the same spirit and flair as the originals, opting for a more contemporary stylish look and feel. The same can be said for A Nightmare on Elm Street with renowned music video director, Samuel Bayer and Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger, (Watchmen’s Rorschach) at the helm of a largely unknown cast.
Robert Englund will always be the Freddy Krueger and there have been some noticeable modifications to the new prototype. Apart from the burn scars, Freddy’s face doesn’t look the same… he looks like the son of an alien rat with 3rd degree burns or Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. Jackie Earle Haley has the right look for a pedophile, but having a short Freddy is like having a tall tokoloshe – not cool! He’s still got the homemade garden glove with shears on one hand, possibly inspired by the late Michael Jackson, Wolverine or Keith Kirsten. Then the stripey red and black top is obviously a tip of the hat to Beano’s Dennis the Menace with the slasher mit substituting for Gnasher and Gnipper. The scary look is complete with an Indiana Jones style fedora to keep the Sun… to keep his hair… what’s that hat for anyways?
The Nightmare franchise has mainly worked because of its dream state, where reality and the subconscious melt into one another – giving Freddy the opportunity to switch between the real and the unreal. As a composite “creature” Freddy’s pretty scary… especially when you consider the consequences of his Michael Jackson influences, especially that one-handed crotch grab. However, as a horror the remake isn’t… and becomes quite repetitive with familiar sound effects and jump cuts nullifying the fear factor. Poor guy, can’t say he’d be that terrifying if he did a little song and dance before slicing-and-dicing.
Scratch Freddy’s back and he’ll scratch yours.
The remake starts early with this dream state uncertainty, diving straight into the deep end and continually smothering and resuscitating the audience with slasher moments until the grand finale. Samuel Bayer does well to maintain the steady flow of horror as the speed bumps get bigger and bigger and the nightmares build to a crescendo. The struggle to stay awake makes the characters immediately identifiable with the majority of the audience, who having seen the Nightmare series in the ’80s, have become somewhat immune to the psychotic slasher. It’s true, Freddy’s become a Hollywood icon, eliminating most of the mystery and fear associated with the character and making him almost as lovable as Barney the Dinosaur.
The A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) remake tries to give audiences a back story to explain who Freddy is and why he is what he is. This is a typical mistake for over-produced horrors, which try to tie up every loose end. In fact, the only unknown is how Krueger manages to haunt his victim’s dreams from what must be some kind of purgatory. This is possibly why ’80s horrors are reverred – the unexplained, the uncertainty and the unknown all create the perfect climate for fear. These classic horror films didn’t intend to justify their existence, they were primarily concerned with trying to make you jump or scream.
It’s perceived by film-makers like Michael Bay that modern audiences want a back story to put horror in context. This takes away from the element of surprise and dulls the scares. If the scariest thing about a horror is that you feel sorry for a bloodthirsty nursery school gardener, then you’ve got to ask yourself – why bother? A Nightmare on Elm Street’s production values and execution raises the bar from a visual effects and aesthetics perspective, but a grainy picture, creepy characters and slightly shaky camera usually works better for horror, take Paranormal Activity for example.
And you thought dropping the soap in the shower was bad…
Bayer’s remake can be commended for its use of lighting and special effects, which help create a taut, realistic atmosphere with grounded visual effects. This is where many horrors fail horribly, relying too heavily on visual effects or stretching their budget too thin for the effects to be taken seriously. The new Nightmare also succeeds with Freddy’s surround sound chuckle, which feels like its coming from inside your head. There’s also a fair amount of gore for horror fans and the movie’s pacing keeps you entertained.
The performances are pretty ordinary with good-looking stock characters in reserve. A stronger lead actress than Rooney Mara would’ve given the film more edge, but then again the teens are just there for eye candy and the slaughter. Rob Zombie and ’80s horrors are more open to tasteless nudity and Nightmare botches the nude scenes by going in the opposite direction with obvious avoidance techniques, taking away from the roving voyeuristic cinema eye. The remake will pass the time for anyone, who hasn’t been exposed to the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but comparisons with the original just find this film wanting on all fronts. All in all, the new A Nightmare on Elm Street is a competent, formulaic albeit unnecessary modern horror remake.
The bottom line: Competent.
Release Date: 16 July, 2010
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