1,2, Freddy’s coming for you. 3,4 better lock your door…
Director – Samuel Bayer
Runtime – 95 minutes
New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes
Many before me have commented on this celluloid attempt to cash in on a highly successful franchise. One that has catapulting Robert Englund to Horror icon status and has also laid the groundwork for a veritable springboard for comedic values in the horror genre to be more accepted in more of a mass market forum. In recent years, I’ve avoided this film like the plague, even snubbing a bargain bin purchase (which is rare for me), based merely on others negative feedback, of which there has been a ton. But this morning was the turning point. It was on cable (IFC to be precise. An amazing network in my opinion who – I am of the understanding – don’t censor their programming unlike most others) and I was not doing much of anything sat on my rump facing the evil that is the cathode ray.
Caught in the act of spawning sequels
Although I may have missed the first few seconds, I was still determined to give this film a chance, not a frame by frame analysis by any means but an unbiased opinion, as I’m usually not (could this be the film to prove me wrong?) one to take other’s words/views as gospel. Better yet why the hell not, Gilmore Girl was on the next channel of interest, today is my ‘cheat day’ and the wife is snoozing enjoying a rare sick day. But better yet I have the remote. At last, my quest for world domination could commence in the living room (that was until she starts to stir, even in the slightest!).
I need one of these!
This film starts out on an appreciatively fast pace introducing several important characters and the silhouette of Freddy, his metal claws and nightmarish teenager like acne flesh within the opening scenes. Caffeine makes an early entrance, playing a vital role stopping the fall into ‘Slumbertown, Carnageville’ USA. Although in today’s environment I’m certain that more effective means of staying awake are easier to obtain, especially in high school (energy drink anyone? Screw that I’ve heard it kills your liver. I have meth!).
It goes without mentioning that all the characters on screen thus far are slim, trim and bear supermodel genetics (all bar Freddy, naturally). Jesse, Thomas Dekker, is a dead ringer for the lead of My Chemical Romance (musical interlude please…The Black Parade. Sorry couldn’t resist!) recently noted for his role in Backstrom (a damn fine show showcasing the talents of Rain Wilson unapologetic in its Political Incorrectness it was cancelled after only a single season) and both Laid to Rest films (both highly recommended by yours truly!).
Unrated…but of course!
Jesse is seen part way through the film running away from a collective of cops fashioning a white shirt stained with splatters of claret which is always a fantastic way to make a first impression on the authorities (no these aren’t my pants…wait what-?). That’s enough of the spoilers for now.
All the ingredients are laid out, even the unmistakable similarities to the 1984 original, let the slaughter begin. Nancy is present, portrayed by Rooney Mara, but who can forget the devotion and strength of the original Nancy – Heather Langenkamp (featuring predominantly at the time in many a teenage horror fans wet dream alongside Hellraiser’s Kirsty, I’ll plead the fifth here!).
Not surprisingly in this installment Freddy also bears a grudge. He again invokes his revenge by invading the dreams of those whose parents are responsible for his beauty pageant like visage. Same premise right, very similar in fact, all apart from small differences. In the (1984) original Freddy is a child killer the bastard son of a thousand maniacs but is shown here as a ‘loving’ gardener (admittedly it’s too strong of a word) with an unhealthy penchant for preschool attendees who has run afoul of aghast parents, in lieu of justice found through appropriate channels, and has suffered a prolonged stay in an incinerator/boiler room with horrid Yelp ratings and even worse OSHA write-ups.
Several of the movies’ scenes are quite literally word-for-word (thankfully not on a level as seen in the very recent Cabin Fever remake. This is one I’ll refuse to sit through as I like the original very much) while others bear a little creativity and deviation from the originals’ script the film runs much the exact same course culminating in a finale that is sadly rather predictable though minus the inventive Freddy convertible top and front door scene. This is a remake so what did I expect, right? The ‘claw in between the legs in the bathtub’ scene is included though without the same effect as seen before. As I believe it is minus the most effective camera angle, a POV ‘I’m-coming-to-get-you’ affair, that drags the viewer into the action and thus the scene suffers. All in all, a startling reminder, even sans the presence of the striped sweater wearing fiend, that one should never plan on taking a nap in a body of water regardless of whether an alarm has been set or not.
However, this film isn’t without its charm. Many of the characters bear an MTV like familiarity that works well to pull viewers in. A cast that also includes Sgt. Zim, Clancy Brown, from Starship Troopers (another of my faves!). It would be careless of me not to mention the similarities of a few cast members to that of the original, especially the creepy little girl oftentimes seen jump roping or singing the 1,2,3 ditty. The atmosphere and score throughout is applaud worthy adding emotion to where it’s needed most. Many small details don’t go without notice either. One of my favorites is Quentin’s, portrayed by Kyle Gallner, descent into prescription drug dependence and the hallucinations that result in his stating “I just don’t know what’s real anymore” only adding to the confusion of the character to amp the general edginess level some. Another delightful touch was an illustration showing the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Freddy was shown as the Piper complete with a striped shirt and a felt hat.
Eerie (but this isn’t the picture shown in the movie)
Samuels Bayer’s directing skill is commendable and as a result this film flows healthily especially bearing in mind this is his first – and only – full length feature in a career largely involved in the production of commercials and music videos (spanning the rock genre from the likes of Nirvana up to and including a David Bowie documentary). Various dream sequences work well, oftentimes making the viewer, as well as the character on screen, wonder which side of the counting sheep arena they might be residing. Of especial importance are the seamless transitions from one location/state of awareness to another effectively produced as to keep tension levels high and an ongoing empathy with the character. In my opinion the “you really shouldn’t fall asleep in class” scene was a stand-out showcasing excellent FX, CGI work wrapped around a fantastically atmospheric score.
Not even close.
Overall the movie works but unfortunately still suffers from the ‘six-hundred-pound elephant’ (they weigh more than that surely) in the room premise leading to predictability, as obviously, the script has been performed before albeit close to thirty years previously. Perhaps if (the new and improved) Freddy, played by Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in Watchmen), boasted half the aura and tongue-in-cheek aplomb captured so amazing well by Robert Englund (one would think this was a role made especially for him as it fits like a glove. If you weren’t paying attention that was a blatant pun*) this remake may well have enticed a few more critics to compose an on the fence opinion rather than severe negative views. As it stands his is a performance that comes nowhere near the original, be it his fault or the creative team behind the “new”, updated, script (I wonder how long it took. Seriously) his lack of humor and new updated look does little for the film. One must only look at Heath Ledger’s incarnation of The Joker to understand that any character can be re-envisioned to better the overall appeal of the product in which it appears.
Can I supersize the ‘Creepy’ please?
In conclusion, this may well be a feature I’ll pluck from a bargain bin in the future not only to complete my burnt face killer with a sick sense of humor collection, and to not have to suffer through numerous commercials which had me scrambling for the FF button (ah the pleasures of owning a DVR). But also, I’ll freely admit, without reservation, I liked it more than I thought I would. My suggestion then is to give this a peek and make your own mind up, after all not all remakes are horrid, just the majority.
Funfact: The 1984 (original) Nightmare on Elm Street was the film in which Johnny Depp found his start following his success in 21 Jump Street.
Crikey! You’ll need more than a single roll of Bounty to clean that up!
And seen here the crimson fountain bed death scene remains a favorite from my horror watching youth.
– Cult (@cultmetalflix)