APRIL 30, 2010
So far, I have gotten at least some enjoyment out of every Platinum Dunes production. I genuinely like their first four films (the two Chainsaws, Amityville, and of course The Hitcher), and thought Friday was problematic but at least better than the last 4-5 Jason movies. Hell, I even liked the first 45 minutes or so of The Unborn and a few moments here and there of The Horsemen. But A Nightmare On Elm Street did absolutely nothing for me. Not once in its entire 95 minute runtime was I given any reason to care about a single thing on the screen, and the only emotion I ever felt was anger every time the script by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer insulted my intelligence.
Unlike Friday, this one follows the plot of the original fairly closely in a general sense, and even recycles a few names (Nancy, and even a Jesse), and the Kris character is a complete copy of the original's Tina (right down to the body bag school hallway nightmare). Some key moments are re-staged, such as Freddy's glove rising out of the bathwater, Kris/Tina's death, and her boyfriend being blamed for it, etc. As I've said before, this is not my preferred way of going about a remake - keeping the basic concept is fine, but redoing major scenes just seems lazy. But it's twice as bad here, because a lot of the "iconic" things that they repeat don't actually make sense in the context of this story, which has some major changes (which I will now "spoil", so turn away if you don't want the film's ill-conceived "twist" "ruined").
This time around, Freddy is not a child murderer, he's a child molester. So then why would he still have a razor sharp glove? Wouldn't he have trouble doing his thing with a bunch of knives for a hand? We get a glimpse or two of him cutting the children, but this just seems like an excuse to justify the glove, since it doesn't really make any sense (why would he cause visible harm to the children if he intended to keep his sick habits a secret?). They also repeatedly bring back the boiler room, which also has no significance to the plot as Freddy died in a warehouse and took the children into a hidden room.
That's just one of the major idiotic holes in this script. We are also expected to believe that the parents would (very poorly) hide incriminating evidence that depicts what happened to their children, despite the attempt to keep them from knowing about it (one even keeps a sliced up shirt, in a box labeled "Kids stuff" or something of that nature, right in the middle of the attic). And there's an unexplained throwaway line that no one knows Freddy existed, but if that's the case then why did the school get closed down, if there was no known crime? And why didn't anyone remove things from the school when they closed it to boot? Our heroes go there at the end of the movie and there are parts of his glove in plain sight.
And why even go after the kids? The parents were the ones who killed him, but again, he wasn't a murderer this time around. In the original series, we just assume he's finishing what he started (killing off the Elm Street kids), but there doesn't seem to be any purpose for killing them here while leaving the parents alone. Then again, maybe he DID - it seems everyone only has a single parent; the Nancy standin has a mom (Connie Britton, completely wasted) but no Donald Thompson replacement. Clancy Brown is the apparently single dad of Kyle Gallner's character, but he is ALSO wasted - they should have just combined Brown and Britton into one character, so they'd only be wasting one good actor instead of two.
The kids are a dreadfully boring lot too, and for some reason it seems the more dull the actor, the longer they live. Kellan Lutz seems interesting (not to mention the only one who looks like he could take Freddy), but he dies in the first scene. Katie Cassidy (in her third remake at least, after When A Stranger Calls and Black Xmas) and Thomas Dekker are at least competent, and they have a previous relationship that is hinted at, but they die off in the first half as well. That leaves Gallner and the cute but woefully boring Rooney Mara (sister of Kate), neither of whom manage to create interesting heroes, and they barely have any chemistry either. And despite being in the entire movie, neither of them have any character development whatsoever - Mara jokingly asks Gallner what his favorite color is, and I swear it's supposed to be a "fuck you" to the audience for expecting them to try to create a character we would get to know a little and thus care what happens to them. And they're all incredibly dour people. Think about the original, with Johnny Depp screwing around with the tape player trying to convince his mom he was at his cousin's, or Nick Corri playing a prank on them - they were believable, enjoyable characters. These goons are all bitter (or in Nancy's case, just plain dull) even before Freddy comes along. I defy anyone to give me one reason why we should even care about Nancy, let alone the others.
And it might sound stupid, but the movie suffers greatly from an over-abundance of nightmare scenes. I swear, more than 50% of the movie takes place in the dream world, to the extent where it became more of a surprise when a scene was actually really happening. Not only does it get dull, it also makes Freddy less of a threat, because everyone falls asleep, encounters Freddy, and survives at least 3 times before finally getting killed (even Lutz, in his 5 minutes of screentime, manages to escape once). To their credit, they keep his jokes to a minimum (and they're a bit darker in tone to boot), but ultimately he's even less threatening than the quipster Freddy from Dream Master.
As for Haley, well, he's OK I guess. With a script this terrible, it's hard to tell if he's just a lousy Freddy or if the script prevented him from being a good one. His diminutive size is definitely a problem - not that he needs to be a hulking brute, but he should at least look menacing compared to the very petite Thomas Dekker. And the makeup is frigging awful; he looks like a hamster in a hat.
The one good thing I can say about the movie is that it's at least competently shot by Samuel Bayer and Jeff Cutter. The widescreen imagery (all of the original Freddy movies were 1.85:1) is quite nice, and there are a few nice visuals to enjoy, such as when Cassidy falls asleep in her classroom and it turns into decrepit ash around her. And the nightmare scenes are believable, instead of the high concept style of the later sequels. Had there not been about 30 nightmare scenes, it would actually be hard to tell when one was occurring, because they are thankfully grounded in reality, or at least, with fantastical elements kept to a minimum (no comic book avenger or "roach motel" scenes here).
And, not to knock anyone's intelligence, but the concept of Nightmare on Elm Street is really just too heady for Platinum Dunes' brand of horror. Wes Craven's original film is rich with philosophical ideas; this one has sound-based jolt scares every five minutes. The film does nothing to reflect the current times - Gallner's character is on Ritalin, but that's about it. Nowadays, in addition to a highly medicated world, we hear stories about kids staying up playing video games for so long that they actually die, suicides because of internet bullying, etc, all of which could be tied into Freddy's world in interesting ways, because there SHOULD be some real world explanation for the kills in the movie, but they're all skipped over in favor of more boring "micro-nap" sequences. A good filmmaker team working with a creative script could have made a fantastic Nightmare movie, instead they all just settled for doing the absolute bare minimum.
Hilariously, the film's opening credits serve as a metaphor for the entire movie. Over some chalk drawings of strange things, we see all of the credits scrawled onto the pavement. It's a cool concept. But for whatever reason, they put regular Times New Roman (or whatever) credits over them. Which is just like the movie itself - a creative idea (not their OWN idea, but still) obscured by pointless, lowest common denominator blandness.
I usually don't actually encourage people to not see a movie, but this is one time I will. This is the worst type of remake, where they clearly didn't actually have any real ideas, but wanted to make money off the title and concept. It's a cynically made movie from start to finish, and as soulless a major horror film as I can recall (only Stepfather 2009 may be more creatively bankrupt). The optimist in me would like to think that if the film is a major box office failure, that Andrew Form and Brad Fuller will rethink their business strategy and start making low budget horror films again (remake or not), made by people who genuinely want to make them. Marcus Nispel was jonesing to take on Chainsaw - and it turned out pretty good (IMO). Samuel Bayer actually turned this movie down 2-3x before Michael Bay convinced him to do it (I'm guessing with hookers). And they actually tell this story as if it's a good thing. Maybe next time they'll work harder to generate a good script instead of apparently spending all of their energy trying to convince a guy to direct a bad one.
What say you?