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  • 18
  • Horror
  • 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Synopsis

Sleep equals death for a group of teens, when they're stalked by serial killer Freddy Krueger in their nightmares. A re-imagining of Wes Craven's 1984 slasher classic

About

The best horror movie remake of recent years is Alexandre Aja's take on Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. This is basically just a fact. By contrast, one of the foulest is the 2009 retooling of Craven's equally iconic Last House On The Left. As this writer noted back then, it's a slicker, and thus even sicker prospect, in some respects, than the censor-baiting, Manson murders-inspired original. Lacking any meaningful context, this reactionary, conservative flick exists purely as a hard-nosed commercial venture, yet more grisly grist to the multiplex mill. This third re-imagining of a Craven classic isn't quite as queasy a prospect - but it's also nowhere near as effective as Aja's effort. The real problem with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 is: it's really unbelievably dull. Bloodless, we guess, being the apposite term. And that's problematic for a slasher film.

In fairness, we're given plenty of warning. For many, the phrase "A Michael Bay production" denotes the exact opposite of a seal of quality; Bay being the accountant behind a rash of duff, deeply unwanted horror re-runs including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher and Friday the 13th. Not to mention his own duff, self-directed efforts like Pearl Harbor, The Island, and the forthcoming Transformers III (deep joy). Films that shriek and gurn and woof, from a producer who must have a personal account at Homebase owing to all those kitchen sinks he keeps flinging away. For Bay, a film isn't quite right unless all character, subtlety and nuance has been hacked out, and an audience left with partial deafness. Essentially, he's the wrong guy to entrust with horror movies, in which insinuation, suggestion and sickeningly slow build-ups rule the hour. Bay is remaking Hitchcock's The Birds for 2013. They'll probably be the size of dragons, with H-Bombs for guano.

Yet, oddly, Bay and Bayer's Nightmare isnt even powered with that kind of bombast - just shot-for-shot, scene-aping filmmaking, as if all concerned were rendered paralysed with reverence for the source. The remake tells the same story, more or less (we're not going to bother repeating it - remote Eskimos could reel off the basic set-up); although this time round our superannuated-looking teens wise-up to their predicament a hell of a lot faster. Access to things like cell phones and the Internet obviously helps, 25 years on, although the film would also have you believe that Googling will allow you to pinpoint anybody you like in seconds. Especially if their name is as unique and esoteric as 'Lisa Harper'. Still, there's a cute joke about computers' 'sleep modes'.

Talking of jokes, one of Freddy's trademarks was an admirable ability to find humour in the most awful situations, albeit ones he'd usually caused in the first place. However, Krueger didn't start out in stand-up mode, and the producers have respected that here. Trouble is, were so used to Mister Melty cracking gags every time he offs somebody, like some psycho James Bond, that you really miss his way with a terrible one-liner. "I was just patting him" he comments, after ripping a pet dog to bits. What? Is that it? No "It's a dog's life"? Or "My bite is worse than my bark"? Not even "I bet that gave you 'paws' for thought"? (I'm here all week.)

This film may carry an 18 certificate, but it's really just the usual exercise in PG-13 thrills and jump-scares, further replacing some rather creepy, organic effects (those celebrated bendy bedroom walls) with perfunctory CGI. There's the interesting addition of 'micro-naps'; tiny waking dreams affording Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley) even more opportunities to flex his fingernails. And there's a half-hearted stab at a deeper, more topical issue (certainly a 1980s issue, though glossed over in the first version) that of witch-hunting adults, who may be just as monstrous, if not more so, as their prey; a subtext that peters away again soon after it's raised. Moral ambiguity hurts Gumby's brain!

For modern audiences, with instant access to horrors fictional and real, this cannot hope to carry the same impact Craven's genre classic had on that more innocent Pepsi-swilling, Atari-jabbing, Rubik's Cube-wrangling generation. In fact, it's all about as alarming as a woozy post-prandial Sunday afternoon spent leafing through the magazines with the telly on in the background and a moment of vague annoyance when one of those little leaflets wafts out and you pop it back in or more likely leave it on the sofa with all the other supplements and the noise from the TV has become so ambient that you barely even register it until your eyelids start drooping and the roast and red wine you've consumed an hour before is settling nicely and wouldn't it be lovely to have a little nap right here and - careful!! He nearly had you.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Connie Britton, Katie Cassidy, Clancy Brown
  • Screen Writer: Wes Craven, Wesley Strick
  • Producer: Andrew Form, Michael Bay, Bradley Fuller
  • Photographer: Jeff Cutter
  • Composer: Steve Jablonsky

In a nutshell

Zzzzzzzzzz

by Ali Catterall

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