Monday 10 May 2010

Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Year: 2010
Director: Samuel Bayer
Screenplay: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley

Wes Craven read a news article about Cambodian refugees who ran from the dictator Pol Pot. Within a year of arriving in America, the men would suffer from nightmares. They then would do as much as possible to refrain from sleeping before finally falling asleep through exhaustion. They then would wake up screaming, before dying, not of heart failure but simply dying. He took this story and created one of the most influential slashers of it's time.

Sounds like hyperbole but ask your die hard horror fans, A nightmare on elm street was a revelation. Loaded with subtext and yet effortlessly entertaining. Craven took something so descriptively simple and ran with it. The fear of dying is a common one but take that fear and combine it not only with our most essential functions, but with a boogyman that compasses all the fears of our youth was nothing more than a master stroke. Looking back at the original film you release that while it's now looking a little dated, it's no less creative. So creative that we now take so much of it for granted....until you see the remake of course.

This nightmare remake or reimaging or reboot or whatever bollocks Hollywood wants to call these things fails on nearly all levels. Lacking in atmosphere and devoid of tension, this movie misses a golden chance to update Craven's tale for the better and once again shows us how shallow the big film making machine can be. It seems that Samuel Bayer's saw imagery in the original film that he liked but didn't understand why they were effective. If one wants substitute practical effects for cgi that fine but you must also understand why the scene as a whole made an impact. In the first film watching Tina actually struggle against an invisible force in unbroken takes is interesting, watching Kris get thrown around with no fightback while the scene is hacked with MTV rapid cuts and CGI is merely distancing.

This shouldn't surprise anyone whose been burnt by a Platinum Dunes remake before. The horror company that Bay built believe that fear doesn't lie in a build up of tension but in BIG BANGING SOUNDS and CHEAP JUMP SCARES. I don't mind the odd jump scare now again (see The Descent) however, A Nightmare on elm street like its disciples before for it believe that jump scare that you can set your watch to are the way forward. I really don't understand why modern horror movies are so desperate to tell you exactly when to jump....isn't that missing the point?

Despite remaking three different classic horror films, PD also believes that they should all look the same. This new nightmare doesn't feel that much from the other (tragic) remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th. The visual approach, colour schemes and all aren't vastly different from each other. I'd love to say that that is the "style" that the company is going for, however, in looking at the original three films, you release how identikit this company is now making horror films. A director like Samuel Bayer (music director of videos such as smells like teen spirit) should have easily grabbed this movie by the scruff of the neck and given the film his own feel...but I'm guessing logic dictated that it would be better to take the money and run.

Speaking of logic, this film likes to disregard such nonsense in it's script. Did you know you can fall asleep while swimming? True story. Also when you lose a love one you very likely to fall asleep at their funeral. That's right! However, I'm watching a film in which characters repeat obvious exposition for the sake of it. It causes more frustration when you see elements within the film and it's screenplay that could have been explored.The theme of parental sin was a core aspect of the original film, however here, such scenes feel awkwardly half-baked.

It's not all bad. The idea of making Freddie Kruger a more explicit paedophile than before was something I thought worked, as was the new construction of his character, who is now; not only a much more cynical figure, but a criminal that revels in his sadism. The casting of Jackie Earle Haley was a real coup. As the only actor worth talking about in the film (the young cast are pitiful ), he truly makes the character his own. Comparisons to Robert Englund were always on the cards, but is reptilian portrayal of the character is a welcoming one. Kruger is figure of prime evil and not the court jester that so many people seem to want to see from the character.

Haley's Kruger is the only thing in the film with any real feeling. My hopes of the film where quickly dashed within the first scenes and there was really little to re spark my interest afterwards. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I do not objected to remakes as long as the film can bring something new to the the furore and maintain the originals spirit. The problem is, with the rush to make a quick buck (this movie made $30 mill opening box office) what we're getting are soulless retreads. Like a shadow, they mimic the originals movements but have no definition, no imprint of their own. I leave you with some wise words from the director of this movie, Samuel Bayer:

"I operated an HD camera once, and it's like having a race car without an engine. I'm always a little suspect when someone is telling me that HD is great and that it looks just like film. Why not just shoot film? When you're trying to emulate something else, there's something fundamentally wrong, and I think it becomes more complicated."

You only need to change a few of those words.