Friday, May 7, 2010

The Defense Rests

You know what horror fans love more than good horror films? Bashing stuff.

Perhaps it stems from our general lack of self-esteem or, conversely, our immaculate perfection that simply can’t be pleased. Whatever the reason, few modern examples of the genre have the power to wow or by general consensus, mildly entertain the masses of Best Buy bonus point carrying, convention attending, blog reading movie fans.

It comes as no surprise that Platinum Dunes “remake” of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street has landed on such fiery bouts of angry criticism. Despite the presence of well-respected Jackie Earle Haley  and a no-nonsense R-rating, few ticketbuyers expected to be pleased, and most most likely entered the crowded theaters with greasy bags of chips on their shoulders. Having despised the uninspired mess that was 2009’s Friday the 13th (a film I expected to work due to its rather overrated source material), I personally had low expectations for Samuel Bayer’s film and yet, to the surprise of myself and shock of just about everyone I know, I enjoyed it.

Yes, I’m one of those five people and in building a safe fort for the positive few, I’ve decided to toss out a few defenses of the most pointed attacks hurled its way. Granted, I also took up a similar undertaking with Terminator Salvation and have since come to admit that McG’s work is rather dreadful, but for the sake of spring and cock-eyed optimism, here goes.

Stiff Acting

Sure, moany Rooney Mara isn’t the most likable final girl of recent memory, but can anyone really mount an actual defense of Heather “Smells Something Icky At All Times-Face” Lagenkamp? Aside from nostalgic effect in identifying with her untamed hair woes, the original Nancy wasn’t that interesting. Or well-acted. Similar words can be used for--suck in those tight cheekbones--Johnny Depp, who really brings nothing to Glen that isn’t in his glorious mane. Kyle Gallner, on the other hand, had an earnest, believably baggy-eyed presence as nice guy Not-Glen. I doubt he’ll ascend to commandeer the Black Pearl anytime soon, but hey. I liked him.

Ripped-Off Scenes

Remakes are a damed if you do, damned if you don’t montage of can’t win choices, and none embody that more than Nightmare’s take on recreating/reimagining some of the original’s iconic moments. While some fell flat--Nancy’s bathtub flirtation with a rusty glove felt obligatory and abrupt--others worked surprisingly well. Chris (aka Not-Tina)’s bed death was quite effective at jolting the audience around the room. Nods to the original were there--football jersey, ceiling drag--but rather than try to merely deliver a CGI makeover, Bayer hurled the poor young woman against the walls like a pitbull shaking a puppy, putting the shock in the toss rather than blood. It was the perfect marriage of homage and reimagining.


Yes, most of Freddy 2.0’s nightmares were confined to an unimaginative boiler room and backyard, but you know what? So were Craven’s. Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett didn’t enter the picture-in-picture until Dream Warriors, and Debbie’s Kafkaesque metamorphosis didn’t get going until Part 4. The Nightmare series remains memorable for its surreal playground, but those rusty gates didn’t open with Wes Craven’s original. Bayer didn’t really innovate the nightmare landscape, but he created a definite hell and more importantly, honed the rules of sleep to make the audience fully aware of just how dangerous--and unavoidable--a quick snooze can be.

Did I love this film? No, and shaky effects and dialog was primarily to blame. Still, in the time of Bijou Philips clutching an oversized bundle of CGI muss in It’s Alive! or the uninspired rehash-minus-suspense in The Hitcher. I’ll take a reboot that actually tries to, you know, reboot a dead franchise by infusing some form of new life, new story, or new hook to keep things fresh.

So let’s have Part 2! Providing, of course, that we keep the homosexual metaphors and homicidal gym supplies. 


  1. Hehe, nice one. I actually can't wait to see it!

  2. *Throws rotten fruit at you*

  3. Damn! I knew I shouldn't have worn white today.

    Hope you enjoy it Sarah!

  4. Oh Emily, sweet Emily. I respectfully disagree with your passing take on the characterizations. Its the heart of any film and unlike the original, there was no vested interest in ANY of those yahoos. And wearing a Joy Division t-shirt is supposed to signal that you are socially awkward? Pffffffftttttt...

    Just an overall bland, boring and ultimately unnecessary affair. And no, I'm not speaking as a horror fan that just likes to bitch and moan. It was just a poorly made film. But what do I know, I heart Phil Collins. :)

  5. I know you had your heart in the right place Cortez, and your words remind me of the defensive attack I had to launch at the F13 remake. I was totally in favor of that project, and just felt so unbelievably let down by the utter crap it turned out to be. It had nothing to do with "here's another remake," but everything to do with the actual film produced.

    But I LIKED this one. A little slow, but it totally worked for me in developing Freddy as a character to genuinely be feared. I didn't think the Not-Glen guy was meant to be a nerdy outcast. He was just more on the alternative side and a genuine nice guy with a conscience and a crush. Can you tell me one fact about Johnny Depp's Glen in the original?

  6. His parents were fat? Were they? See I forget!

    God bless you Emily. I felt so proud reading your defense! It's making me kind of upset that most of people's reviews are "Well the original, and the original and the original...etc etc" It can't be exactly like the original or it'd be like watching the Psycho remake. I guess I'm just all jazzed up from my podcast with B-sol but I really think people do not give a favorite re-imagined classic a fair enough review because of how much they liked the original.

    Sigh. I suppose we'll never win. It wasn't great, it wasn't even that good but for a remake? Not too shabby. I enjoyed the changes, maybe felt too skeeved out about the over the top child molestation evidence but hey, aren't director's trying to be all shocking now?

  7. Thanks Andre! I love how nobody pulls up the whole "The original yadda yadda original yadda" when discussing The Fly or The Thing. Remakes are not supposed to redeliver the original. Technology does that for us! That's also part of why I don't get The Omen remake. Aside from Mia Farrow lending it some wry charm, it's just a total restaging of the first film with no new insight.

    I think the closest the horror industry has recently come to succeeding--not in quality, but in reception--to a remake is Dawn of the Dead. Here you had an incredibly beloved film that changed film, a movie that probably 95% of hardcore horror fans absolutely adored. Then you remake it, change the story, change the characters, and essentially, alter the genre and end up with a really fun film that pays homage to its original but completely stands on its own. Few people (that I know of) were offended by that remake, and yet those same people generally scream when the 21st century Nancy doesn't have big frizzy hair.

    And Andre, I don't remember if I told you, but I was fist pumping through your Conversation in the Dark with B-Sol.