Saturday, May 1, 2010

Welcome to Reboots, Bitch

There are three reasons why the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise has always been superior to Friday the 13th.

  1. Freddy Krueger was morally monstrous, a mean-spirited killer (and by most estimations, child molester) who targeted kids and teens simply because they were tempting and vulnerable, not, as Jason did, due to their sexual promiscuity or employment with summer camps. This was a cruel and sadistic man who took pleasure in exploiting the fears of nice enough kids who, for the most part, would rather be doing productive things (like playing Dungeons & Dragons or pumping iron) to having unchaperoned sex parties or playing strip poker.

  1. With exceptions, the teens-in-peril of the series had some sort of defining characteristic that may not necessarily have made them three-dimensional Oscar contenders, but always gave the audience some kind of soft spot to stake their sympathies inside. The titular Dream Warriors of fan favorite Part 3 are stereotypes (junkie, wheelchair kid, puppet master...everybody knew a puppet master in high school, yes?), but they’re affectionately drawn stereotypes that mostly inhabit their characters with gusto that pays off...just not always in their favor. Knowing Taryn is a recovering heroin addict makes watching her get impaled by Freddy’s needle fingers all the more horrifying and sad.
  1. Jack Bauer be damned, everyone must sleep. It’s inevitable. At the same time, you have no control over what films will play on the nightly screenings that are your dreams. The very idea that the one you hate more than anything will be on constant loop is terrifying (Sex and the City: The Movie? Noooooo! Then again, it could be worse...)
Now. I bring these points up in preparation for what I assume will be an instant defense of why...
hold your breath...

I liked this remake

Quick disclaimer: I didn’t looooove this movie or want to instantly cuddle with it, a la The Fly ’86 or Dawn of the Dead ’04 (although to be fair, the latter is more of a wham-bam-thank-you-til-next-time tangle in the sheets than serious affair). But hey. I had a good time. A few SPOILER-y reasons why:

1. Freddy is an asshole
A twisted and sexual deviant who plays with his victims’ pain until the very last second (sometimes 6 minutes after it’s over, at least for poor TV John Connor). Now as much as I love Jackie Earle Haley, I’ll concede that it wasn’t his performance that sold me on Freddy 2.0 (and trust me: it also wasn’t in any way the makeup design, which resembled a roasted marshmallow burnt over a penis). What I liked about this villain was--and I’m a little shocked by this--his backstory as a perverted and deliberate sadist. The development of who Krueger was in his lifetime and how that damaged these kids--plus the convenient explanation of why he was hidden and what buried memories brought him back--worked for me, even if it had a touch of Law & Order: SVU sprinkled in the mix.

2. Tired, so tired
Laugh at Not Johnny Depp’s Googl--er, Gigablasting of “sleep deprivation” all you want (I did), but also concede that the foreshadowing, albeit clunky and typical, actually paid off. Past films in the Nightmare series often featured dreaded microsleeps, but the remake does a surprisingly decent job of planting the knowledge--both of dozing off and, far more frightening, slipping into an actual coma--to create a more specific danger zone for the kids.

3. Imagining, Re
I’m sure many an ‘80s kid is twirling his or her scrunchie in anger over the fact that Not Johnny Depp didn’t have a date with Death Bed: The Bed That Regurgitates or how Nancy’s perfect chestnut locks never drew a gray streak. Amazingly enough, these are rarely the same .0003% of the population who celebrated Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. A Nightmare On Elm Street wasn’t the best reinterpretation of subject matter that I’ve seen, but I appreciated how it handled some of its winks and nods to Wes Craven’s original. Chris (aka Not Tina)’s bed death was mean in a different way from the slice ‘n dice horror of the original, but why not? If I wanted to see the same shot-for-shot tear-her-up murder, I’d put on my DVD. I appreciated the references, as opposed to craving redo-s.

I’m not going to dip Samuel Bayer’s A Nightmare On Elm Street in dark chocolate and savor each bite with milk. This was by no means a great film or even in the top tier of remakes, but I enjoyed a lot about this movie. Sure, the characters had little spark, the murders lacked ingenuity, and CGI was abused worse than Stephen Hawking, but there was also some new storytelling to be found in a series that had been in rather stale hibernation for some time. 
Isn’t that what a ‘reboot’ is supposed to do?
Onto more important matters:

Can we please talk about the positively bizarre trailer for Beastly, projected future entry in the Deadly Doll House’s Horrible Non-Horror! Although it might be horror. Or rom-com. Or high school dramedy. Or superhero saga. Or revenge tale. 

I. Don't. Know.

Maybe Neil Patrick Harris, who actually suppresses a vomit in the preview, can better explain. Perhaps we can trust whichever Olsen twin it is playing a hobo sorceress to point us in the right direction. Either way, this is bound to be one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life, and I met two Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.


  1. That is quite possibly the best last line to a post I have ever read.

    I'm trying to remain open minded about the remake (there's still a week or so before we get it here in the UK) but there's a lot of negativity buzzing around it. Nice to see a positive review.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the remake, Emily. I thought it was really, really lame myself and I actually find myself disliking it even more upon reflection. Say what you will about the original films, at least they took full advantage of the fact that Freddy inhabited his victim's dreams. Whether he emerged from a TV set, came to life in the form of a clay puppet, hijacked a school bus on a ride to hell, turned a girl into a cockroach, or turned his fingers into syringes to give an ex-junkie one last fatal high, the filmmakers involved in the original films went to town with the possibilities of a dream killer.

    That's what made the Elm Street series stand out - that it wasn't just some thug in a mask stalking kids. In contrast, I can't think of a single imaginative use of the dream premise in the new film. Not a single moment that took advantage of the whole point of the series. The new film steals moments from the original, and restages them to lesser effect, but that's it. The only thing that Freddy does in this new film is bring victims to his boiler room and cut them up. In the original series, he always would use a kid's physical weakness or personal interests against them. If they were into Dungeons & Dragons, if they were into kung fu, or if they were bulimic or asmatic or a junkie - Freddy would incorporate that into how he killed them. Each death was personalized. Here, every death is completely interchangable.

    That's the worst thing about this remake - it's bland. And even though they weren't always great, being bland is something the original Nightmares could never be accused of.

  3. What Jeff said is a pretty much what I left out of my review, Emily. Maybe in a line but he said it better.

    The story and more specifically, Freddy's backstory is the only thing that I'll give this film any points for. The convience of this day and age is to dive into the minds and hole-in-the-wall's of sadistic, child molestin' son of a 100 maniacs as I feel we're unfortunately becoming more and more desensitized to that theme in pop culture. I'm glad they were consistent enough to take advantage of that side of his character keeping the loss is innocence in check.

    You know what's scary, I even like Freddy vs. Jason more! Jason X! Nooooooooo!

  4. Whew, glad I wore that body armor!

    Ashlee & Jeff:Both of you bring up valid points, particularly in your own reviews. I'll admit that as I expected, it's a day later and the film is already slipping from my mind--much like a dream, come to think about it--but during those 90 minutes, I remained completely there. Yes, there were giggles here and there, same for EVERY Nightmare film written, generally, with a clunky hand.

    I think the biggest pass I'm giving the film that speaks to both of your points is that the more creative nightmares didn't really kick in until part 3. In part 1, all the dreams are fairly interchangeable; there's no sense that Tina-dreaming-of-the-boiler-room-because-she's-Tina, as opposed to Parts 3 and especially 4, where Taryn has her drugs, puppet kid has the puppets, Debbie hates cockroaches, Lisa has asthma, etc. I think if this film had tried that, it would have felt too forced. The most we got was Quentin's-on-the-swim team, and yes, we didn't know that until he's swimming and ends up in a pool-related nightmare. Eh. The nightmares here seemed to come more from the kids' repressed memories, as if it was the shared story that was propelling them as opposed to "this girl is bulimic, so she will die by food."

    Now I love me my early Nightmares and yes, the reason Dream Warriors still stands out is that the characters were real..ish ("In my dreams, I'm the Wizard Master!" remains an all-time high). But I don't know, I rewatched the original the other day for the 50millionth time and honestly, I don't know that the characters really stand out. Sure, it's Johnny Depp, but I don't think there's anything about Glenn or Depp's performance that elevates the material. Heather Lagenkamp is affectionately encapsulated as Nancy and I too did not really care for this tight-mouthed little sprite inhabiting the new role, but it Lagenkamp wasn't CHarlize Theron in Monster! I don't think the new film quite got you on New Nancy's side, but they tried with the seeing-her-as-a-child thing.

    Also, her artwork really sucked.

    One more thing: I was kind of charmed by Not Glenn and Nancy's discussion in the car on the way to the preschool. I realized watching the first film that I never knew what the relationship between Nancy and Glenn was; they never really seem like boyfriend and girlfriend. I thought the long-held flirtation worked cute enough here. The film, and relationship would have been much stronger had Bayer and the writers made Nancy a little more of an outcast, but I dunno. Something worked for me here.

    The son-of-100-maniacs storyline doesn't really get going, again, until Part 3. I love that idea too, but I was okay with this version not pursuing it in favor of an easier-to-tell (and yes Jeff, Law & Orderish) molesting story.

    And Liam: I figured the general consensus is that this film is not good. For a lot of people, it really won't be. Keep your hopes and expectations low, but go see it on a Friday night after a slice of soul pizza in a crowded theater and see if you can find some of that inner magic. I've yet to hear anything positive from just about anyone about this film, but clearly, there's SOMETHING there that worked (for me...and no one else). Have fun, and let me know what you thought!

  5. Checking it out tomorrow. Great review. I'm going in with low expectations.

    Holy beastly! I've never laughed so hard from a trailer before. That looks unreal. And shame on you Death Cab for continuing to whore out your music to teeny bopper love flicks.

  6. Is it a teeny bopper love flick? Or an NPH starring parody? Or Darkman-ish action horror?

    Seriously, whatever it is, AMAZING is the only word I have to describe it.

    Can't wait to hear your thoughts Cortez. Low expectations and a Pollyanaish attitude is definitely the way to go!

  7. I liked it. I head horrible reviews before it came out, and I'm not convinced they were justified. THe movie's strengts lie in the homages I think, rather than the recreations. The bathtub scene is very poor, it almost looks slapped on because the director figured "we need this for it to be a proper remake" In the original it's a tension filled scene, in this it's just too lackluster. The same with the freddy-coming-from-the-wall scene and the not tina death scene. However, the final shock with the mother was brilliant. It reminds you of what happened in the first film whil being diffrent. Same with the Nancy falling through the blood into the bed - a kind of reverse of Depp's scene in the original. When the movie just homages the original, or does something new, it's really good. When it just tries to copy the original, it falls a bit flat.

  8. So glad to hear you say this Anonymous!! I agree 100%. They HAD to do the bathtub scene, but it seemed like they just had no idea/ambition to do anything with it. Fine. Let it pass and give me some reverse-blood-in-bed action, or alternate Not-Tina death.

    I also hated the Freddy-From-the-Wall scene as it just reeked of low quality CGI. But things like that aside, I think the film tried and succeeded in certain spots.

  9. FINALLY. I was starting to get really angry that people were bashing this with what I feel is mostly unwarranted poppycock. I think a lot of people are putting too much emphasis on the sequels and how the sequels portray dreams and how the sequels portray Freddy. This remake is not like the horrible F13 remake which was like a rehash of films 1-4 or whatever. This is a remake of the original film. And I honestly think that it's not as bad as everyone is making it out to be.

    As I said in my review it's not as bad as everyone WANTS it to be. Expectations once again are getting in the way, and you can't go into a remake of your favorite film with the idea that it's attempting to be better than the original. It will never be better than the original if we put such a high amount of importance on it. Rather look at it for what it does as a movie, and how it uses the original to explore new areas.

    Like you, I do not think this is a great film. And although I pointed out several things wrong with it- it could have been much MUCH worse. Honestly people, it's not as bad as we'd hoped it would be!

  10. That was me by the way and not my sister...

  11. Sing it sister! (of Andre's sister...I think that logic makes sense)

  12. Well I hate to spoil a party (Who am I kidding? I love to spoil a party). But I hated every frame of this film with an intesity that's difficult to describe...

    So how about those canapés?

    The one (1) clever thing this movie did was give Krueger a master plan for keeping Nancy awake that long. But even that bothered me. I mean how the fuck would he know? Was he going to Night school, to get a degree in Neuro Science, between gardening and molesting kids? What the fuck.

    Doing Elm Street Week and ending it with this is like spending a week making a home made valentine at school for your alkie mother, then giving it to her and listening to her wheezy terrible laugh as she rips it up, slaps you across the face and then goes back to her gin.

  13. I can't say that I liked the new NOES, because I didn't really. The teens are boring and flat and mopey and just not fun to watch as they get strung out and puffy-eyed. I don't know if I ever need to watch this movie again.

    Freddy, however, was very effective when he wasn't being used like a Japanese horror movie ghost as the vehicle of innumerous jump scares. The micro naps plot device seemed only used to have Freddy appear anywhere at any time to, literally, say "Boo." That's not scary, that's tedious. Yet, when we get to see Freddy interact with Nancy -- oh my god -- I got genuinely creeped out. When we learn what he did . . . yikes. I felt like I had to have a shower after those scenes.

    So I'll tip my fedora to the remake for making Freddy much more disturbing. Everything else is weak sauce. Not even ripping off all the iconic moments from the original film can make the rest of the story any less tepid.

  14. Oh Bryce...we always seem to either agree 100% on films or engage in mortal combat (hell, Mortal Kombat!) when we differ. How did Freddy 2.0 know to tease Nancy into a coma? First tell me how Englund's Freddy Krueger managed to invade the dream's of two generations of kids, and don't even try to say "Kinkaid's collie mix peed on his bones."

    Zed: I actually liked the Not-Glenn actor and thought he made me care, but the rest of the kids were fairly unremarkable...much like the original Elm Street crew (seriously Heather Lagenkamp enthusiasts: face the fact that the gal ain't Vanessa Redgrave). My favorite aspect, by far, was that they did indeed make Freddy a monster. I wasn't sold on the look, but I still had some serious creeps from what they did with that character.

    Funny, on one hand, as I expected, NoES didn't really stay with me but on the other, all the negativity is driving me crazy.

  15. Oh Emily, it was the 3D demons who lived in his boiler...

    You know that's just as bad as the collie pee.

  16. I don't think anything is quite as bad as collie pee. I was a dog walker for a year and half, and that breed drinks an awful lot of water.

  17. Do you mind if I stand behind you in the liking it line? Personally I liked the original better than the remake, but I was surprised at how well I ended up liking the remake all the same. It's not nearly as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, for me anyway.

  18. Score! Join the team of unpopular vegetable-covered movie likers!