Nine, Ten… Never sleep again.
In 1984 director Wes Craven (Scream Trilogy, The Hills have Eyes, The Last House on the Left) unleashed Freddy Krueger onto the silver screen, a killer who would haunt the children of the title inspiring Elm Street in their dreams. And if you died in your dreams, you died in the real world.
Similar to Friday the 13th the horror movie spawned a load of sequels until the series ran it’s course with it’s sixth movie “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”.
Surprisingly Wes Craven returned to direct a seventh part set in the real world where Freddy is just a horror icon. A narrative technique he would further expand in his later Scream movies. From a creative standpoint the seventh part is surprisingly bold and innovative and there would have been no better way to end the legacy of Freddy Krueger.
Did it end? Of course not!
We got a Friday the 13th / Nightmare on Elm Street crossover in the form of Freddy vs. Jason which was entertaining in terms of how ridiculous it was. Artistically there was no point in making a sequel and because Robert Englund (the original Freddy actor) didn’t want to return to the role it was just a matter of time until the remake wave (already manifested in movies like Friday the 13th or The Hills have Eyes) would reach Elm Street.
Remaking movies doesn’t automatically imply bad results (see The Departed, A fistful of dollars). And with the original Nightmare on Elm Street looking a tad dated and the near limitless possibilities for surreal dream sequences make Elm Street the only candidate that can profit from a remake. In the hands of a creative team the dreams are reflections of the inner struggles of our characters while still being connected to the master of nightmares: Freddy.
Also the concept of a dreamkiller is not something that gets dated over time, we all have nightmares so this concept will always be scary. Furthermore Academy Award nominee Jackie Earle Haley was cast as Freddy who recently was the exceptional standout in the overall lukewarm Watchmen adaption. And with Freddy it’s not like in the Friday the 13th series that it doesn’t matter who is playing the killer – Krueger has to be a charismatic actor which is the reason why until this movie Robert Englund played the role in every instalment. But with Haley there seemed to be the potential to live up to Englund’s performance.
Also Wes Craven toyed with the thought of making Freddy a paedophile in the original but the concept was deemed too uncomforting for it’s time, so the remake also had the opportunity to explore an unrealized idea of the original.
What went wrong?
When watching the teaser and trailers for the movie the studio decided to put a public warning message into the trailer so that no one in their right minds would want to see this movie: From Producer Michael Bay.
Since we all know how about Michael Bay’s masterpieces (Transformers 2) or his artistically innovative and bold productions (Friday on 13th – booby town murderer returns) Nightmare being a disappointment is as unexpected as Shocklabyrinth 3D being a bad movie.
Still this movie underwhelms on so many levels it’s not even funny. Like with all our 80s horror remakes we have subpar acting while simultaneously being forced to watch same actors awkwardly re-quoting the original movies (oh I have nightmares…. There is a man… with knifes on his hand… never heard that before). Jackie Earle Haley isn’t bringing anything new to Freddy except repeating quotes from previous movies in a voice that’s somewhere between Rorschach and Robert Englund’s original killer.
So what about the story – or about the few things that survived the bay-saster…
Being a remake this movie apparently has not the advantage of being a new idea. And counting on an uninitiated audience who has never seen the original is a business choice for a quick buck but of course as artistically interesting as Alice in Wonderland. The story is basically the same and while the original had the advantage of being in the prime of slasher movies nowadays those stereotypes are even more uninteresting than back in its days. Yet Heather Langenkamp and Johnny Depp were both charismatic actors – something the main character Nancy (named of course like Langenkamp’s role) is lacking.
Furthermore the aforementioned paedophile storyline is doing the movie more harm than good because it is not used as a clever psychological threat but just as a cheap shock gimmick. The ultimate shortcoming of this remake yet lies in it’s most interesting premise: the dreams. Instead of telling us about the characters and their fears (but to be honest the characters are so bland that they probably don’t provide many interesting dreams) they are just dirty variations of stuff we see in everyday life like a dirty school room.
Imitation – devoid of any emotions
Freddy’s infamous boiler room makes an appearance but without it’s backstory from the original it just becomes another set piece as cold and emotionless as the rest of this production.
Every time the movie tries to “pay homage (or rip off)” the original movie it seems as if the producers never understood the original in the first place. As an example, there’s a scene where Nancy is falling asleep in her bed and we see the shape of Freddy descending down to her.
In the original we had a large section of dark space above Nancy when suddenly the shape of a man is seen slowly reaching down to her… yet he disappears as soon as Nancy wakes up. The scene is not overdone or anything, it’s just a short appearance to hint at a this menace that might strike at any time – and it’s all in one shot.
The remake takes similar elements but decides that it is way creepier to show Freddy from about 3 different angles in bright light. Also it is much more menacing if we see Freddy like a bad special effect that is forming “menacing” expressions.
So what about the new elements?
When it’s not failing in stealing elements from the original what does the movie do with the new ideas? Truth be told… not very much. When I watched the aforementioned paedophile angle being realized on screen it made me appreciate why it wasn’t done in the first place. Not only are Freddy’s motives shrouded in something that pretends to be a mystery, but he works better when we are not sure where his evil comes from – similar to Silence of the Lambs not knowing the exact reasons for why the antagonist is the way he is makes him 1) scarier and 2) more interesting.
Since this movie is not keen on doing anything new there is only one other addition: micro-naps. This concept is another attempt at sacrificing suspension for the cheap scares the producers think we want. Micro-naps occur when someone hasn’t slept in a long time and now he is experiencing seconds of wake-dreams. Now this could have been a nice addition, but like I said before it is just there to “shock” us – oh no, Freddy is standing on the street!
Why would we want to see characters desperately trying not to fall asleep, knowing that no matter what they do, eventually they will fall asleep – isn’t it much more interesting if we get constant Freddyflashes everywhere we go?
So what do we have?
• horrendous acting
• uninspired and rehashed story
• elements from the original sloppily “reimagined”
• additions that further reduce the quality instead of enhancing it
• 32 million dollar opening weekend
• Sequel in 3d
This movie has been critic-proof from the beginning and everyone knew it. Financially it is currently the second highest grossing Nightmare on Elm Street movie because of nostalgia and brand-power and just to give a very motivating comparison: Domestically it has grossed 13 million dollar more than Kick-Ass just because it preyed on our nostalgia and the never dry running “slash ‘em up” genre that we will watch no matter how dumb and uninspired it is.
If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t watch it, if you are a hardcore Elm Street fan rent it on DVD or anything, it is not a worthy remake and I’d even go as far as saying that “Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” and “Freddy’s dead: The final nightmare” are better movie than this disaster.