You know, last year (when no one was reading what I wrote…come to think of it, is anyone reading it now?) I did 2 major slasher movie classics for Remaketober: Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as The Omen, all of which have bucket loads of sequels. Oddly enough, I didn’t think to address the sequels at all in the first writeup. Maybe it’s because, unlike my subject for this week, I’d never seen the sequels to those movies. However in this case, it’s basically impossible to discuss the original without discussing, or at least acknowledging, the sequels, so since I’ve seen them all at one point or another, I shall be doing that. Briefly.
The original A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of those horror classics that I liked, but never quite loved. Oh it’s a fun little film, to be sure, but it’s always existed in kind of an odd space for me. It’s always been just good enough that I can’t quite get into the increased silliness of the sequels, like Friday the 13th, but not quite good enough for me to just watch it on it’s own merits regularly, like Hellraiser.
Still, this most recent rewatch does give me a pretty good understanding of its merits. Intermittently worthwhile director Wes Craven is at, or at least near, the top of his game here. The actual kills are all pretty creative (the first one in particular stands out to me) and all of them are well staged and executed…okay, maybe Johnny Depp’s goes a little too fast. I also gained a new appreciation for the script, with Freddy’s secret and the dreams themselves standing in as metaphors for adults hiding things from teenagers and the secret world kids have away from their parents, respectively. And hey, Johnny Depp is in this. Did you know Lawrence Fishburn was in one of the sequels?
Speaking of sequels, they are where things began to go downhill, and probably where this franchise gets most of its negative reputation. Freddy (who is memorably inhabited by Robert Englund) over the course of the franchise transformed from a lethal bully into an annoying standup comic who happens to occasionally murder people. There are the occasional good kills (years later, I still remember the TV scene from part 3) but they just wind up being so samey. New Nightmare was pretty good though.
Still, I suppose a remake was inevitable. Freddy Kruger is such a well known part of pop culture that references to him are made without explaining anything about him. Everyone knows him, everyone knows his powerset and his backstory. Which honestly made me a bit curious how the remake was gonna handle it, because a good portion of the original movie is given over to the mystery of who the guy with the claws is.
Oh and to head off any discussions about the ‘Intermittently worthwhile’ thing (I get into a lot of arguments about Wes Craven): about 2/3rds of his filmography is crap. Yes, I’m including Scream in that. I am a big defender of The Last House on the Left though, and both The Serpent and the Rainbow and The People Under the Stairs are really underrated. So there’s that.
I don’t usually take notes on movies that I’m watching, for a variety of reasons really. I do however tend to try and remember distinct impressions, and if I had to come up with one word that really summed up my viewing of this particular movie it would be: lazy. It was produced by Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company chiefly concerned with horror remakes (Remake and Michael Bay are your operative words people, doesn’t get much worse) and even by their rock bottom standards, it’s easily the laziest thing they’ve ever made. It’s saved from being the worst Platinum Dunes by the excruciating Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, and from being the worst Nightmare on Elm Street movie by Freddy’s Revenge, but that’s about the best I can say for it.
Okay, there are a couple other things I could say in its favor. Jackie Earle Haley is pretty good in this, with good presence and great delivery of some utterly terrible lines. The new mystery, in which Freddy was burned for molesting the kids and might be innocent, is a reasonably interesting update of the mystery from the original, even if the movie cops out on it pretty hard by the end of it (this is also the second time Jackie Earle Hayley has played a child molester counting Little Children oddly enough). And while they dwell on it way too much, the makeup used to create the new look for Freddy is actually pretty good.
Unfortunately everything else in the movie pretty much drags down any good points it has. Haley might be a good Freddy, but the director is utterly incapable of staging a scare that isn’t telegraphed from a mile away, and that’s when he bothers to set up scenes at all. The movie introduces the idea of micronaps early on (basically sleep deprived people falling asleep briefly without noticing) and it’s obvious from the get go that it’s just an excuse to bring in Freddy without setting up someone falling asleep.
The laziness goes deeper than that though, right down to the marrow, and the reason we’re here to see it. Not to be crass, but I don’t usually come to (non-original movie) slasher flicks to see a deep story or interesting characters. I come to see a bunch of annoying teenagers get hacked up in nasty ways. And I can’t remember the last slasher flick that let me down so hard in that regard. Of the 4 on screen murders, all 4 get it from the claws and none of their deaths are particularly bloody (which I suppose is good, since the gore effects are subpar at best). This is a franchise that kicked off with Johnny Depp getting sucked into a bed and turned into a fountain of blood, I have a minimum requirement for originality. And speaking of originality, I can live with you making references to the original movies, but when your entire climax is basically a giant ripoff of various scenes from Freddy vs. Jason, you’ve f**ked up.
Actually, I’m glad I brought up Freddy vs. Jason, because it forms a nice comparison. Freddy vs. Jason may be a stupid movie, but it’s completely honest about what it is and gets straight to the point. You want to see a host of annoying teenagers get killed in a variety of gory ways? You got it. But this, with an awful script, terrible direction, bad effects across the board, and basically nothing in the way or gore or scares. There’s basically no reason to ever watch it, unless you want to see pure laziness in film form.
Next week, Remaketober 2014 concludes with the grandfather of the modern zombie film, Dawn of the Dead.