It's the Platinum Bay remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I don't mind remakes, but this one I thought was a stiff.
Just to establish the stuff everyone knows, Platinum Dunes is a horror remake factory. That's what they do. I liked their Friday the 13th
, for instance, which didn't have to clear much of a hurdle to overtake the originals and duly did so. This isn't even the first remake of a Wes Craven horror film, with The Hills Have Eyes
and Last House on the Left both earning respect... but the difference there is that Craven was personally involved in those two. He owned the rights to the originals and was producer on the remakes. He chose their directors.
A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn't belong to Craven. Platinum Dunes chose not to bring him on board and instead did it all themselves, only to show that they fundamentally didn't understand how to make a horror film that's a bit less straightforward than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror
or The Hitcher.
Its problem, I think, is that it never finds any momentum. It's polished, but scrappy. Almost all the relationships between characters have been eliminated, by which I don't just mean "underwritten". I mean that they hardly meet or talk to each other. The youngsters are merely classmates, rather than a group of friends. They die one by one in their own isolated subplots that run in series, not parallel, without much overlapping. This makes the movie feel disjointed and random.
The parents though are arguably even worse. It's good when they do show up, because they're played by people who can act, but they do almost nothing. They lie about the past. That's it, basically. Their plot involvement is bugger all. They don't ignore their children's fears, because the children never try to convince them of what's happening. There's nothing about the children being endangered by their parents' heavy-handed protection, unless you think they should have predicted Freddy's return from the grave. The movie isn't even trying to resonate with children's fears of having their troubles being brushed aside or even exacerbated by parents who always think they know best. Nancy doesn't have a tough police chief dad any more, for instance. She doesn't have a dad at all. Her mum's a single mother.
To tell the truth, I almost got the impression that this film approves of its parents and their vigilante killing of Freddy all those years ago. The big change here is that Freddy is now a paedophile, after all.
All this sucks the life from the story. The story skeleton is there, but it's lost its meat. Nancy doesn't have to learn to rely on herself as her friends get picked off one by one, because she doesn't have any friends. She doesn't have to fight against her parents. She doesn't build any anti-Freddy booby traps. She doesn't even spend much time at home, which of course undercuts the most frightening thing about Freddy, i.e. that you're most in danger precisely when you're safe at home in bed. That house on Elm Street was a massive part of the old series's iconography, practically its equivalent of the house in Amityville. Here, they ignore it. This film is basically a rehash of scenes from the original with an almost wilful failure to reinvent the underlying themes and motifs that gave those scenes their power.
That's why the film's empty, but the acting also doesn't help. The teenagers' acting talent is in inverse proportion to how long they've got to live, which is a problem when our first protagonist is so bad that he forces the film to a halt before it's had a chance to get moving. Great performances could have saved this movie. That's still a terrifying situation to be in and each temporary protagonist is given plenty of screen time in which to spread their wings, so the right actors could have sucked the audience into the movie with them. Doesn't happen. In fact it's the opposite, although they've chosen a decent actress to play Nancy (Rooney Mara).
Then there's Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger. Obviously he has geek cred from Watchmen
and serious acting clout from his Oscar nomination for Little Children, so everyone thinks he's great. They're clearly as proud as anything to have him. Me, I preferred Robert Englund. Now the interesting thing is that as an actor Haley is clearly leagues above Englund, who wasn't actually that good in the role. However as with playing Doctor Who, you've also got to take into account grandstanding screen presence and star quality. At that, Englund did amazingly. Englund's Krueger was one-dimensional and not particularly well played, but he could give energy to a bad film just by walking on-screen. You couldn't take your eyes off him. He was a cartoon, but such a vivid one that he took the world by storm.
Haley doesn't do that. He can't do anything if he's not given the material, which he isn't being. I liked him towards the end when he's actually talking to Nancy and for once getting to play a scene, but until then the poor guy had been acting into a void. No, I tell a lie. I also liked him in his flashback scenes with children.
There isn't even much to look at. (No, I don't mean the lack of nudity.) This is one of the least visually interesting instalments in the franchise, doing even less than the down-to-earth original. There were better effects in Freddy vs. Jason
. Oh, and Haley's "realistic" (but actually toned down) burn victim make-up makes him look like Ron Perlman.
I've been hard on this film, because there's lots to be hard about. At the end of the day though, it's okay. It looks fine and it's not annoying. You don't want to kill the heroes yourself and it's still basically the same story. It's trying to be faithful. It's watchable and it doesn't feel like a crime against cinema that it did very well at the box office. It also made me jump here and there, so it's passing at least that basic test for a horror movie. It's just that I think it doesn't breathe, which is a problem that's both subtle and subjective.
To be honest, I don't share many people's reverence for the original. It's good but I like the whole series, including the later ones where they're getting ridiculous. I think that collectively they're a rich, mad horror cocktail that's like nothing else out there. This remake though is clearly a thinner piece of work.
"How's this for a wet dream?"