April 30, 2010

Your Worst Nightmare

Well, I guess it's that time of the year. You all know what I'm talking about. That point in the year where nothing interesting is coming out, and the studios think it's prime pickings for the latest horror reboot. We saw it last year with Friday the 13th, The Last House on the Left, and Sorority Row. All these remakes of classic slasher films coming out here and there, and it makes me wonder. Do the people making these new versions ever see the originals? I mean, sure; of course they have, but it seems as if they don't retain anything. Whenever filmmakers make these reboots, they discard everything that was special about the originals, whatever that may be, and, instead, fall back on cheap scares and cliched scripting. A Nightmare on Elm Street is no different, but with one major reservation. I just want to get this out of the way. There is one really good aspect of this new Nightmare! So good, in fact, that it makes the entire movie worse when you realize that everything else in this Michael Bay produced train wreak sucks by comparison to this one thing.

Freddy certainly knows how to torture.

A Nightmare on Elm Street follows the same plot as it's older brother. Whenever the teenagers of a small, suburban town go to sleep, they are stalked in their dreams by Freddy Krueger, a burned, disfigured serial killer in a striped sweater, who prefers a bladed glove as his weapon of choice. The basic premise is that Freddy is coming into these twerp's nightmares as revenge for what their parents did to him in the past. See, dear old Frederick was something of a child killer (rapist in this new one), and the parents of the victims, in an ill-advised bout of vigilante justice, burn him alive as punishment. As the teens drop, one by one, the survivors band together to stop Freddy. This proves quite tricky because, as anyone who has ever, you know, slept can tell you, staying awake for long periods of time is hard! As the kids start to hallucinate and experience "micro naps" due to prolonged insomnia, Freddy closes in for the big fat kill. The twist in this new version is that Krueger might have been innocent, and is returning to get revenge on the people who wronged him. It's a very interesting idea that is copped about two seconds after it's introduced. Sigh. The inclusion of the "micro naps" is also an interesting choice, which proves for some pretty cool scenes. Again, it's not utilized nearly as well as it should be. Look, if you have seen any slasher movie, you know what happens here. I am getting really annoyed that no one in Hollywood sees fit to spice up the stories of these things anymore. It's actually starting to piss me off. If you have seen the original, this follows it to the t, more or less, so save your money.

Now, on to that really good thing I made mention of earlier. One point of interest that I find with these reboots is that the studios seem to make one, really sound and smart decision when making this movie, and then decide that they don't need to try anymore. They made Friday the 13th so bloody and sex filled, then decided to add bad dialogue and a stupid story. They made Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a relentless assault on the senses, but then hired Jessica Biel. This go around, their good choice was the hiring of Jackie Earle Haley to play Freddy. With this film, Haley climbs another step higher in his monumental return to stardom, and adds another credit to his already stellar list of scene stealing performances. As the psycho killer, Haley is deranged, menacing, and downright terrifying. Using the same gravely, angry voice that he used in Watchmen, Haley commands the screen and steals every single scene he is in. His is a more realistic, deranged, sadistic interpretation of Freddy then Robert Englund's jokester. He is actually scary. Imagine that. The killer in a horror movie actually being scary. It's a downright shame then that he is given nothing good to do at all. He comes on, taunts and stalks his victim for a few minutes, then guts them. Rinse and repeat. The other performances fail in comparison. Based on trailers, you would think that the teens here would have a lot to do, but no. In reality, there are only two that the movie sees fit to capitalize on. Rooney Mara as "heroine" Nancy sleepwalks through her role, as does her male counterpart, Quentin, played by Kyle Gallner. Thomas Dekker and Katie Cassidy feature heavily in the beginning, and have whole segments of the film dedicated to them. But, this is just a lead up to their respective encounters with Freddy, after which they meet their ends, and the movie forgets about them completely. Oops, spoilers. And poor Kellan Lutz, one of the few people to actually turn in a good performance in Twilight, is only in the movie for a measly five minutes. It's a memorable five minutes, but still. Whenever Haley is on screen, the movie is actually somewhat bearable. When he is not, it's downright intolerable!

The bassist from Muse is about to have a really bad day!

Director Samuel Bayer is completely lost here. Sure, he employs some nifty effects here and there, no doubt pulled from his music video experience. The dramatic and abrupt scenery changes during the micro naps are pretty sweet, and he does a good job of framing Freddy to make him look like the boogeyman he is supposed to be. But, what about working with the actors to get somewhat decent performances? How about attempting to overcome the limitations of a dumb and conventional script? He does not succeed on any front. I know that it's pointless to hope for award level acting in movies like this, but, when your star puts in the effort and turns in a good performance, it is, on occasion, a good idea to try and motivate your other actors to do the same. Throughout this whole film, you get the sense that everyone involved just didn't care when making it, with the exception of Haley. It doesn't end with the performances. The film ends on the predictable cliff hanger that all movies of this genre end on. I wish, just once, the writers here would have the balls to actually wrap up the story and close the book, rather then leaving us uncomfortably waiting for a sequel we won't get. There's also some pretty shoddy CGI on display here. And finally, the blood, or rather, the lack of it. Where is the gore in this movie? It's rated R for, and I quote, "strong bloody horror violence". I'm sorry, but there was more blood in Clash of the Titans. What's the deal studios? You chicken out? Afraid to go the extra mile and make the "strong bloody horror violence" actually "strong" and "bloody"? Christ, you guys are lazy!

A Nightmare on Elm Street, like Friday the 13th before it, and like Halloween before that, is just another tired attempt to cash in on a franchise that ran it's course a long time ago. One really good performance is not enough to elevate this film from the bottom of the barrel where it belongs. Now, as far as I know, now that Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, and Michael Myers have all received the remake treatment, the studios have run out of horror franchises to butcher. I'm probably wrong, but I really hope not! D+


  1. I hate how, these days, 'reboot' means 'self-serious drivel'. They turn camp into 'realistic' portrayals. It's depressing.

  2. I assumed it would be horrible, but Haley gave me hope...what a disappointment.

  3. Hey, I found your blog from a link on the Total Film newsletter. I guess it got noticed by someone!

  4. I assumed it would be horrible, but Haley gave me hope...what a disappointment.