Thursday, 13 May 2010

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" - Review

I wanted to love this film so hard. I'm a massive fan of Robert Englund, who has to be one of the best, most "distinguished" horror actors of all time, and the franchise, I have to admit, amuses me to no end. Englund distils a manic, brilliant quality into his version of Freddy Krueger that is both sympathetic (come on, you route for the guy some time) and harrowing, very similar to what Robert Knepper did with T-Bag in the TV-show "Prison Break". You're psyched to see Kruger step into shot because you know he's going to do something awesome, but something was lost in translation when it came to the film I saw.

I'm glad that the team behind the recent remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (the same team behind the "Friday the 13th", apparently) have driven the point home that this is a scary story. Because it is. We're supposed to be safe in our dreams and if I saw a badly dressed burn victim prancing about in my dream scape I'd probably wake up screaming. So that works.

But the thing is, the original "Nightmare" was terrifying in it's own tongue-in-cheek kind of way. Krueger was a monster, yes, and he did awful things (I'm not going to take about the sequels), and you were terrified of him. Brilliant. There were amazing set pieces to that film that burned themselves into your memory, that stayed with you (and countless other film makers after who copied the scares to lesser effect) for years to come. I know that a lot of my knowledge of horror and scares comes from that film-- "This-! Is your God!", the boiler room scenes, the bedroom scene where one of the earlier victims is pulled into the air, the arms reaching out at Nancy... So much awesome that has never been properly repeated to better effect.

The remake was rubbish. It should have been brilliant because it had so much to call upon to make a brilliant film, but no. It was cheap. It recycled the old scenes that I loved from the original and made them rubbish. I can't even construct a logical argument about how much it irritated me, but I'll try. The thing is... this film should stay with you. The first one did. The remake? Not so much. It was a recycling, a bad rehashing, and I wanted more from it. It took liberties with characters that didn't need to be taken, it, at times, felt like a shot for shot retread, and the only scene that stayed with me... was a brilliant "wet dream" bit that was pure Englund. So glad that was there-- my memory of the original is hazy in parts, but it felt like the only new bit that mattered, and even then, I could be wrong. "Nightmare 2010" could actually just be a vapid, two-dimensional void of a film. What a waste? What a money maker. It was unnecessary, and it's only going to act as a sequel machine, a new franchise reboot that the studio can milk until we've all got a bad taste in our mouths.

Now, I can try and be positive. The directing was solid, and the 'dream-scape' transitions made me so happy, because they felt slick and stylish without foregoing the source material. Dissolves and fades, when done right, are some of my favourite directorial tools, because you can't overuse them else they become obvious, so when used, and used well, I fall in love with the film on that basis alone. The dream scenes themselves remind me of some of the best visuals from the "Silent Hill" film, but then again that reinforces the fact that "Nightmare 2010" is so derisory that there wasn't a point in making it.

Jackie Earle Haley is, as ever, a tour de force of energy and fear that you just can't go wrong with casting. He's been my favourite thing in countless projects over the years-- Watchmen, Little Children, Human Target-- and that trend continues here. He's such a small man, and he's so powerful with his ferocity, that I sometimes can't believe it. I'm aware that the film makers made a concentrated effort to get his Krueger's voice away from Rorschach's, but it was a complete failure, because all I could hear was him shouting "WHERE'S MY FACE!" whenever he pushed himself over his vocal edge. Not bad, but when you make such a big deal in interviews that you're trying to make a difference, don't fail at it, yes?

Haley's make-up was daunting as all hell, moving away from the demonic visage that Englund originally brought to the role and going for a more visceral, obvious, burn victim style that was scary as all heck. I mean... wow. Whenever he was on screen I was scared. I'm not joking, it was terrifying to see this man run around with a hole in his face and his mouth barely moving (a flaw, I'm sure, but I could see past it... (well, apparently not...)). It looked like this man was in pain, and you could kind of understand why he was doing what he was doing...

...If you believed he wasn't a paedophile. I loved the doubt. For a moment, you wondered... are they really going to go somewhere different and have it be that he was unjustly killed? God. That would have been daunting, right? But no, the Hollywood cop-out ensued and he was a dirty kiddy-toucher... a role that Haley seems to be dominating recently, have you seen "Little Children"? Wow. I mean, his Fred Krueger, pre Molotov-ing, was that creepy/kind loner that he's masterful at. I don't think I could stop praising his acting. Haley plays sociopath to the hilt, and I wouldn't have it any other way. And the twist that Freddy was luring his victims into remembering him more so he could exert more influence over them was brilliant, I think that's a new twist that I quite enjoyed. And the way he was pushing Nancy harder and harder so she'd go into a coma? Brilliant.

Oh, and speaking of Nancy...

The worst thing in the film were the protagonists. I don't have any love for the new breed of actors that have come out of television recently... Kyle Gallner has appeared in "Smallville" and then had a major role in "A Haunting In Connecticut", so he had the chops, but he was just... no. Hated him. AS Nancy, Rooney Mara was doing something awful with her mouth that made every line delivery an incessant drawl that pushed me near over the brink of insanity. For some reason the writers stripped the Nancy character of any strength until the very end... she cowered and she cried, but the original Nancy attacked Freddy with a pipe, I'm sure of it. Maybe that's me misremembering, but what was the point of this film at all?


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