October 10, 2010

As a child of the 1980’s, it’s been funny to watch the majority of the entertainment of that era either sequelized or remade. Whether it’s trying to emulate John Hughes’s tone in a teen driven romantic comedy, or the Indiana Jones sequel, or the birth of comic book movies, it all feels very connected to that decade. For horror fans, it seems every major and minor title is getting the remake treatment, with Wes Craven’s classic films of the period at the top of the list. Craven’s classics Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes were already done (and reasonably well), so it was only a matter of time before someone finally got to Freddy Kruger. Platinum Dunes, the remakers behind The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror and Friday the 13th put Samuel Bayer behind the camera, and made the smart choice in giving the iconic hat, sweater and finger-knives glove to Jackie Earle Haley. Random teens (headed up by Rooney Mara) are terrorized by Kruger in their dreams for an unknown reason, which become evident in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and my review of the blu-ray follows after the jump.

Unfortunately, the film is torn between two masters: there’s the original framework, and the slightly new ideas. Rooney Mara plays Nancy Hollbrook, the final girl who – like her friends – hasn’t been sleeping well. Her best female friend is Kris (Katie Cassidy), and when she dies it starts up the ante. Kris’s boyfriend is the suspect, but when he dies it’s up to Nancy and her almost boyfriend Quentin (Kyle Gallner) to figure out why Freddy Kruger (Haley) is trying to kill them in their sleep. What they find out is that Kruger has a connection to their past: He was a groundskeeper at their nursery and was murdered by their parents when suspected of molestation. Also, that anyone who doesn’t sleep for a couple days starts having “micro-naps” where the tired can’t tell the difference between waking and sleeping, and also may fall into a coma (and therefore, absolutely fucked) if they don’t sleep.

The film can be summed up by the shot of Freddy existing in the wall above the bed of Nancy while she sleeps. In the original film, the filmmakers used spandex to create the impression of Freddy, and it had the feel of something practical, and you weren’t entirely sure how they did it. There’s also the implication that Kruger is warded off by a crucifix. In the remake, it’s a digital shot that has no crucifix, and has no malice because it just looks like bad CGI, where Kruger is also about to attack her when she wakes up. The original series had depth and character, and here the victims are blank slates. Mara – who’s about to become a movie star with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – makes no impression, and neither do any of the other kids. They’re defined by their look, but no one seems to have an inner life. The movie can also be summed up by its opening credit sequence, which rips off the design of Se7en’s opening credit sequence some fifteen years on.

They talked about taking Freddy away from the more jokey qualities he had in the sequels, but he’s quipping quite a bit here, and because the kills are mostly done in dream sequences, there’s a lot of people wandering around not knowing if they’re asleep or awake, then a cheat scare, and then Freddy shows up. But most of these appearances are redresses of the famous sequences from the original, though never staged as effectively. Also not making much of an impression are the parents, with talents like Clancy Brown and Connie Britton delivering their lines with a solemn boredom. It’s amazing how little anyone seems to have to do, considering there’s a 90 minute narrative here.

Of course, I’ve seen the original multiple times, and though it has its low budget problems (the talent levels veer from performer to performer, it was obviously done on the cheap), it has a lot of personality and creativity, and actual dread. And perhaps for those who haven’t seen the original, this will have enough jump scares to win them over (though the box office suggested this was an opening day film, and most people didn’t care for it), but Bayer’s attempt to make it his own (or producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller) means having a dour tone, not giving the teenagers any personality, and that dark, somewhat gothic lighting that is supposed to create mood, but mostly makes a viewer squint. The main innovation here seems to do with Freddy’s origin, that’s he’s a toucher, and there seems to be some doubt that’s supposed to exist about whether the parents were right or not in doing what they did. But the way the perception shift is supposed to work doesn’t because Freddy’s already been so horrific at that point. Haley does his best to create his own character by playing with his claws differently, but it never comes across as reinvention so much as a little different, and not as flamboyant. Meh. There’s no reason to watch this film if you can get a hold of the original.

Warner Brothers presents the film on blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The transfer of the film is excellent, as is the surround track, with all its spooky sounds. The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and digital copy. There is no commentary track, but there is a PIP with interviews with the cast and crew called “WB Maniacal Movie Mode,” which also has seven focus points (20 min.) that offer specific looks mostly at the elements that make up Kruger. There’s a making of (14 min.), and three deleted scenes (8 min.), with the most notable being an alternate ending that gives Nancy’s character a little more power.

Latest News