And slowly but surely we’re coming to a point that every horror movie that was made in the 1970s or 80s and was (mildly) successful is getting a remake treatment. We’ve already had The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Last House On The Left, Friday The 13th and more. Child’s Play and Hellraiser are rumored to be getting a remake treatment and I’m waiting for an official announcement about Candyman or even Brainscan for that matter. But I just watched the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, a movie apparently more concerned with creating dream sequences than an actual plot.
There are several ways to do a remake, one it to literally take the same story, events and make an updated version with it with new actors and a higher budget. The remake of Psycho by Gus van sant is a prime example of doing a too literal remake. Another way is to take the core of source material and create a new story around it with new characters and story elements.
A Nightmare on Elm Street takes the latter approach and actually shows us Freddy’s pre-burned face in a dream sequence depicting his back story visually. In the 80s it took us 6 movies before we got to that stage, here 50 minutes or so. This brings me to the problem this movie apparently has. Like the remake of Friday The 13th the movie tries to cram as much events in 90 minutes as possible while there is very little story surrounding it. At only 30 minutes I was exhausted of all the dream sequences that already had passed and wondering when the actual story line would set in.
The original took its time and had the cast slowly find out what was going on. The kill of Tina came as a shock and was a visual feast, Freddy lingered in the shadows and hardly appeared. Here he is on screen every 5 minutes or so, in CGI-driven dream sequences. The way Tina was killed returns, including the fact a boyfriend was in the room when it happened, but makes much less impact to the viewers even though her body makes more impact while getting slammed againts multiple walls. In 1984 you wondered how they filmed it, now you’re just wondering why they had to copy that kill instead of coming up with something original.
There are a couple of other scenes taken directly from the original and depending on your own point of view you can see these as an homage or just lack of inspiration to think of something new as the term updating (with CGI) doesn’t always apply. While keeping the bathtub scene partially intact, they skipped on updating the phone-tongue though. I’m not sure if that is a loss though.
These remakes have one good thing in common and that is they all look very good. No expenses are spared to give these films a visual update. The original movies were mostly shot on film with low budget effects decades ago, so it’s no wonder that there is a big difference in terms of visual quality between the originals and remakes. But in terms of overall quality the visuals are actually the only advancement, which after almost 30 years is a shame because surely somebody could have come up with a great Freddy Krueger story instead of taking the original and upgrading it somewhat.
The most controversial element of this remake is of course Freddy Krueger. I’m guessing this could be the new “Who’s the best James Bond discussion”. Newcomer to the role, Jackie Earle Haley, puts his teeth in it and is better than I could have hoped for. His look isn’t as cool as the pizza-face of Robert Englund, but in the movie it works better than in the many photos that have been released. It’s a more realistic look, and acceptable, but it takes a bit of getting used to. This movie belongs to Haley who outshines every teenager in the movie, even heroine Nancy is bland. Well at least they make good eye-candy and cannon fodder for fictional serial killers, because it’s not like these kids really are going to have a career after this.
Unless their name is Johnny Depp or Kevin Bacon.