A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
“Never sleep again.”
Director: Samuel Bayer / Writers: Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer / Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown.
Body Count: 4
Dire-logue: “Why are you screaming? I haven’t even cut you yet.”
Remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, rehashes – they get everywhere like that STD you just can’t get rid of. Not that I’d know, of course.
You gotta feel for Wes Craven though, now three of his most famous horror flicks have been re-somethinged in the last five years! We never thought anyone would be so foolish as to touch Elm Street, but then after Halloween “happened”, all bets were off.
In fairness, Nightmare 2010 is no worse than Rob Zombie’s attempt to re-ignite interest in the Michael Myers saga, it’s actually a little better.
Unlike that film and Platinum Dunes’ re-thingy of Friday the 13th last year, Freddy’s re-birth sticks closer to the source material than it ought to: suburban kids are having a shared nightmare of a burned dude in a Fedora and the kind of stripy sweater you’d pick up in C&A before immediately putting it back again – and said dreams are deadly. This time, things unfold in a different way: the core group of teens witness the apparent self-throat slashing of their friend Dean at an all night diner. We, however, saw him fall asleep and get slashified by razor-gloved Fred K.
Things switch to focus on his girlfriend Kris (Cassidy), who ‘inherits’ the nightmares and soon becomes the next victim, passing the baton on to her ex, Jesse, and finally along to slightly more resourceful teens Quentin and Nancy. Yes, Nancy is back. Not Nancy Thompson, mind, Nancy Holbrook, played by Rooney Mara, whose sister Kate was the lead in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.
Nancy and Quentin’s detective work exposes a secret kept by their parents, but it’s got a few subtle differences to Craven’s original, concerning the pre-school all the kids went to but none can remember. Why? It’s never revealed. They just seemed to have completely forgotten. It seems that their entire pre-school class is being eliminated one by one in their sleep after their folks did the olde pitchforks and torches routine on the school’s caretaker, who was allegedly abusing the kids. Key word: allegedly.
This is one huge question mark hanging over proceedings: was Freddy guilty or not? There were no murders, no Springwood Slasher, just unfounded accusations that may or may not mean anything and we have a strange dream flashback of what happened to Freddy – yes, it’s time to spoon-feed the audience so they needn’t bother being smart enough to figure out anything on their own. Oddly, the sequence is witnessed by Gallner in nothing but Speedos.
Much is made out of the don’t-go-to-sleep premise and the babble about ‘micro-naps’ allows for some interesting moments where characters continually slip in and out of their dreams over short periods as they struggle with their fatigue – but do we really care? Freddy is at the centre stage and the teens are just there to be slashed at. The first few to go have little to do beyond act scared and the pairing of Nancy and Quentin doesn’t have a fraction of the appeal Heather Langenkamp did.
Nancy herself is played capably by Mara and as an emo-misfit rather than the girl-next-door she was before – she’s not even terrified the first time she encounters Freddy – so why should I be? Her dad is entirely absent and so the police play no part and mom is marginalised into a 2D parent figure, serving only to admit to a couple of things and be there to collect her daughter when required. Cassidy, as Kris, simply looks too old to still be in high school. Haley makes for an acceptable Krueger, maintaining enough menace so’s not to crap all over Robert Englund’s original performance.
Dunes’ take on Friday the 13th was smart enough not to re-tell the same story, playing instead like another sequel with naive storytelling and there is less lore to upset in a Jason film: teens, woods, machete – you’re done. Elm Street could have been a decent ‘side-quel’ or whatever they call ‘em, a follow up to the original, allowing them to basically re-use most of the plot elements without having to undo 26 years of material: as it happens, the bath scene is half-revisited and Freddy’s uber-scary wall-stretching moment becomes a truly godawful CG-fest. What is this? Craven managed ten times as much on 10% of the budget!?
It’s easy to mock remakes of films that were just fine in their original forms: there’s simply nothing to be gained creatively. It exposes the Hollywood fixation with bums-on-seats trumping quality output, accentuated here by the use of music video director Bayer in the hotseat. His visuals may be competent but depth and auteurism are entirely non-existent, dripping in a sort of muted tone that’s haunted too many films of the last decade or so. But it’s here and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even I’d rather there be remakes of horror films over no horror films at all.
Nightmare 2010 is basically an okay film in its own right that plays a little better on DVD than the big screen. The story is no longer fantastically inventive enough to wow anybody and the non-Freddy characters are too bland to evoke much empathy for their shared plight. Any sense of desperation is long gone, replaced by a sort of teenage nonchalance to it all. Nobody seems to care that much about any of it, so why should the audience?
You have to wonder, with the phobia of horror sequels that Hollywood appears to have, after we get A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 in 2013, will they reboot again? Surely you can’t number something ‘Part 4′ anymore? I bet Craven is awaiting the call that tells him Scream is now old enough to warrant a remake…
Blurbs-of-interest: Haley was in Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence; Katie Cassidy was in Harper’s Island and remakes of Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls; Thomas Dekker was in Laid to Rest and its sequel. Aaron Yoo from the 13th remake played the video blogger.