Sunday, October 17, 2010

Keep This Nightmare Off Your Street - and TV Screens

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Freddy Krueger (referred to as “Fred Krueger” in the movie) returns in a wasteful, useless remake. THANKS MICHAEL BAY!

This is the kind of production that gives remakes/reboots a bad name. As in the original 1984 Nightmare, Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) is not a wisecracking goofball (that came in the later sequels and TV series), but rather a more sinister figure. The make up looks more like a real burn victim’s than the plastic pizza face worn by original Freddy Robert Englund.

This movie features many of the original film’s more famous beats or set pieces: the bladed-glove in the tub, the girl being flung up the walls of her bedroom, and Freddy’s face peering out from the wallpaper. These nods only made me appreciate the low budget, pre-CGI-era original. For example, the wallpaper was made of latex in 1984, now it’s all just obvious digital effects. Since the characters use cell phones, they didn’t try to recreate the memorable scene where the phone’s mouthpiece becomes Freddy’s lecherous tongue.

The cast is uniformly unmemorable, with actors Rooney Mara (taking over for Heather Langenkamp), Kyle Gallner, Kellan Lutz (one of those high school kids who looks 30 yrs old), and Thomas Dekker turning in forgettable performances. Mara appears in The Social Network and the upcoming remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has a presence that is not fully utilized here; she’s the best thing in the movie, but that’s damning it with faint praise. I blame writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, director Samuel Bayer (a music vid director making his feature film debut) and producer Bay (who has already crapped on/out the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Hills Have Eyes reboot movies). Haley was an inspired choice for Krueger but since they do nothing new with the character or this story, what is the point?

Another thing that truly stuck out is the movie’s principal dream/nightmare location of a rusting industrial factory is spectacularly unimaginative, especially in the same year that saw the release of Inception, another movie dealing with dreams. The “steam and flame” (thanks, Roger Ebert) factory setting in the ’84 Nightmare could be forgiven as it was a low budget effort. But 26 years later, it’s pathetic to do a remake and set it in the same goofy setting, which every other low budget (and big budget) shoot ‘em up has used as a location (see Terminator 1 and 2, Cobra, Space Mutiny, and every other Golan-Globus cheapie action pic). The scenes of a hellish Los Angeles in the movie Constantine would seem to be more appropriate for a true nightmare. Oh, well, there’s always the obligatory Nightmare sequel…

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