Sunday, 9 May 2010
REVIEW: "A Nightmare On Elm Street" (18)
You have to hand it to Platinum Dunes. They sure know how to polish a turd. It's just a shame that they're polishing it with someone else's diarrhoea. This is, after all, the production company behind such non-event reimaginings as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror and (perhaps worst of all) last year's Friday the 13th rehash. And in a couple of years time they're going to subject audiences everywhere to a new take on Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, perhaps the worst idea since Gus Vant Sant decided to splash his masturbatory Psycho fantasies all over the big screen. (Let's hope the sudden infamy of avian camcorder epic Birdemic has taken the wind out of those sails.) In all honesty, their neverending obsession with hoovering up the rights to classic horror properties & remaking them in perhaps the most brain-meltingly awful way possible puts them only a couple of notches above the efforts of D-list direct-to-DVD merchants The Asylum, producers of such as low-rent hatchet jobs as and the forthcoming Paranormal Entity, The Da Vinci Treasure and, yes, Titanic 2 (to be fair to the guys at The Asylum, who are really passionate about what they do and completely understand their audience in every respect, has there ever been a film with a title quite as tantalising as Mega Piranha?)
Having said all of that, the fact that their new-fangled A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn't make you want to stick your face in the nearest smoothie-blender is a definite step in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, it's not exactly good. In fact, it's pretty damn despicable, but it's still probably the most watchable effort yet from PD. Admittedly that's like saying one giant sack of shit is only slightly less shitty than another. In any event, general consensus seems to be that it's an inferior retread of a horror classic. Let's be clear: time has not been kind to Wes Craven's film. The performances are cheesy, the special effects ropey and and the whole thing comes across as a cheap and cheerful exercise in pulp filmmaking. Ditto the remake - it does exactly what it says on the tin. If what it says on the tin is “Danger: Fucking Awful Movie.”
The main plot beats are familiar from the original...a group of teenagers are stalked in their dreams (IN THEIR DREAMS!) by a mysteriously scarred and surprisingly quippy psycho-killer called Freddy Krueger. One by one, and in increasingly gory circumstances, they start getting bumped off in the night. The implications are clear: if you sleep, you dream, and if you dream, you die....
Making his debut here is music video veteran Sam Bayer, the guy behind Nirvana's iconic Smells Like Teen Spirit video among others. Bayer clearly knows how to make things look real swell because the production values on display are superior to anything in the original franchise. The problem is that he directs it (yes!) like a music video, concentrating on the inherent prettiness of it all instead of making any attempt to deliver any genuine horror. The scares, for what they're worth, are of the standard jack-in-the box variety, lots of jumps but no real chills, and there's way too much reliance on CG blood 'n' guts - the lack of any real visceral threat downgrades the peril levels significantly. (Logic fans beware! In his review – which you can find right here – the News of the World's Robbie Collin points out an interesting thing: in the original movie, Freddy was a child killer, whereas in the remake he's a paedophile who never really shows any interest in killing his victims...SO, what's his motivation for dream-stalking them to death all those years later? Revenge? If he wanted that, surely he could just haunt the dreams of the kids' parents? Brain..hurts....)
Jackie Earle Haley is perfectly fine as a modern-day Freddy Krueger, the murdering paedo dream bastard it's okay to like. He never looks like he's enjoying it quite as much as Robert Englund, and he definitely cranks down the camp compared with the original series, but it's a solid turn that probably suffers a little in comparison with the sheer psychopathic relish he brought to his portrayal of Rorschach in Zach Snyder's Watchmen adaptation. The rest of the cast don't really figure, cast more for their 90210 looks than any requirement to bring any superfluous depth or motivation to their characters. But wasn't that the same with the original? The only reason Johnny Depp got cast was because he was pretty. To his credit, and like Craven before him, Bayer knows that the real star of the movie is Krueger. Sure enough, he wastes no time introducing his bogeyman in a full reveal right there in the opening sequence. Is he scary? Sort of, in a “he's behind you” kinda way, but anyone expecting genuine terror will be disappointed...Harvey Dent's scars in The Dark Knight were more fearsome. But that's the Nightmare remake all over – one knife short of a full set.