Are you ready for a brand new Freddy ?
A Nightmare on Elm Street
I guess I’d better make my stance on remakes clear from the outset.
It’s a hot and controversial issue - especially in horror movies. Some people seem to like them, while others absolutely abhor the film stock they’re shot on. Personally, I don’t really have a definitive hard & fast stance. I tend to approach them on an individual merit basis. I find some work, and work well - while others just don’t.
For example, The Fog had long been a favourite John Carpenter ghost movie of mine. The remake seemed to have lost the point and made it a teen movie, watering down the horror aspect while also making an unlikely authority figure out of Selma Blair. But director/rock star Rob Zombie took Carpenter’s Halloween (which I should’ve been dead against as the original in my estimation, is the best horror film ever made) and brought something different to the mix that didn’t detract from the original and worked for me.
Last House on the Left certainly left something behind when it was remade, but the reimagining of Friday the 13th was enjoyable and brought something new to the franchise. I particularly liked the notion that Jason Voorhees had a series of rat tunnels under the forest to explain how he got from one place to another so quickly. So, I’m not some weird traditionalist who refuses to move with the times. I am open to new ideas - if the ideas are good, I’m also open to new versions of old ideas.
Remakes are nothing new - a lot of the initial Hammer films of the fifties were remakes of the Universal horrors of the thirties. It’s often said that there are no more original ideas, and that notion seems to have pervaded through much of the entertainment industry - especially music. Talent shows like The X-Factor and Americal Idol self profess to be on the lookout for "the next Britney" or "the next Beyonce" or Madonna or, coming soon I’m sure, the next Miley. Perhaps instead of looking for the next whoever, they should be looking for the first someone new. It’s been said that the likes of Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan would never stand a chance on these shows if they were starting out now because they were one of a kind originals. To an extent, the same goes for films.
I remember seeing the original A Nightmare on Elm Street on its opening weekend, in London, back in the summer of 1985. Nobody knew much about it. I’d seen a few shots in the current issue of Fangoria and that was about it. In a very short amount of time, the low budget movie about a killer who stalks you in your dreams became the film that built New Line Studios. The killer, Freddy Krueger, became a pop culture icon. The actor, Robert Englund, became a household name. The director, Wes Craven, would become a legend in the horror genre.
I had been curious to see the remake. I was intrigued by the casting of Jackie Earle Healy in the role of Freddy, and was convinced that after seeing him in the part of Rorschach in last year’s Watchmen, this would be a movie to see.
Well, the truth of the matter, bluntly put is - he didn’t pull it off. The remake seems to have arrogantly ditched what made Freddy work as a character, and has tried to mould him in a new image, while cashing on the distinct visual image of the original.
Whereas Freddy’s origin had been mentioned several times in the original run of films, both his conception in an asylum and his subsequent crimes of child murdering, the newest Nightmare takes it a stage further. We’re led to believe, for two thirds of the film. that Freddy is a vengeful spirit who was framed by the kids he was alleged to have molested, and then lynched to a fiery and unjustified death by the parents. It’s late in the film that we discover that Freddy is a pedophile who has also taken pictures.
This immediately takes away any appeal that the character might have had.
To explain - Englund’s character was a person you loved to hate. His wisecracking remarks made him a crowd favourite. However morally reprehensible his actions were as a fictional character, he bacame a kind of comic caricature of eveil and achieved the statuse of being the horror pin-up boy for a generation of fans in the eighties. Now, whether we as an audience should ever have embraced a crispy, child murdering dream demon as some kind of anti-hero in the first place is a long discussion that I’m not going to enter into here however tempting a discourse that might be. But there’s no denying that the audience were firmly on Freddy’s side in the Englund days.
But Healy’s version is a seedy pervert - nothing more. He solicits no sympathy, no humour and no audience buy-in. He has no redeeming qualities and the delivery of dialogue doesn’t have the characteristic Feddy sneer. In fact, he doesn’t have ANY quotable lines. I don’t suppose much merchandise with his likeness on was sold.
The make-up makes Freddy look reptilian, which is understandable since he’s been burnt to a crisp - but it begs the question how could his entire body suffer first degree burns, but yet his hat, striped jumper and trousers survive unsinged? (I’ve always wondered that)
There are several nods to the original in this version, but overall, it’s a dark and ultimately depressing movie, hindered also by the casting of Thomas Dekker as the male teen lead. Dekker looks morose and in need of a good kick in his ass throughout the film. Within moments of his first appearance on the screen, I was irritated by his performance and felt the urge to slap him hard. So basically, you have dozy, annoying teenagers in a struggle for survival against a sexual deviant who has returned from the grave - which doesn’t bode well for entertainment, nor is it a good reason to part with your hard earned cash.
Another cardinal sin is that whenever Freddy makes an appearance, there’s a loud & alarming blast of music. It works the first time, maybe even the second time - but eventually it becomes clear that the jolt of music is an attempt to conceal the fact there’s no real build up of tension here, so the film makers take the cheap and easy route of delivering a sudden loud aural shock to alarm the audience.
All in all, the remake is a lacklustre effort that doesn’t even compare to the weakest entry in the original franchise and fails to entertain on every level. All in all, best avoided, I’m afraid.
Still, you can buy the DVD by clicking here: A Nightmare on Elm Street remake
Or better yet, buy the original by clicking on this link: A Nightmare On Elm Street
Copyright © 2010 Robin Pierce. All Rights Reserved.