Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
May 2010

Out with the old

Nothing to see here, folks - just Freddy being Freddy. Again.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Samuel Bayer
Screenplay: Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, based on characters created by Wes Craven
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton and Thomas Dekker
Rated R / 1 hour, 35 minutes
Opened April 30, 2010
(out of four)

Jackie Earle Haley deserves better than this. Really, he does. His path to silver-screen stardom was moving along at a nice little pace. Get nominated for an Oscar. Steal the show in a popular comic-book adaptation. Work with Martin Scorsese. Then take the lead role underneath a bunch of makeup in a teenage slasher remake.

Wait, what?

Not necessarily a bad business decision, I admit. I mean, he does fit the bill for Freddy Krueger. But really, an actor of his talent doesn't need a role like this, right? With all that makeup on, it's not as if he's making himself more recognizable to mass audiences. And if he can be a scene-stealer in a Scorsese film (as George Noyce in Shutter Island), certainly he's worthy of better material than A Nightmare on Elm Street.

This is nothing against the job he does in the film, mind you. He definitely provides the voice and the presence the role requires. Thing is, that's all it requires. (Well, that and the adorable striped sweater.) Even if they are going down a rather annoying road by remaking yet another '80s pop-culture touchstone, the least they could do is offer us some reason for this version's existence.

A radical reinvention of the character maybe? An unorthodox approach to the story? How about a little suspense? These movies so rarely have any, it would be so refreshing.

But no, a remake like this one would never take any chances like that, would it? Its only meal ticket is the brand recognition of the slasher himself, Freddy. Nothing else matters. Just make sure there's plenty of blood and cheap jump-scares and the movie practically writes and directs itself.

The result, of course, is a film completely indistinguishable from any other recent R-rated teenage horror flick. Like, you know, the Halloween remake. Or the Friday the 13th remake. Or the Last House on the Left remake. Or the Final Destination movies. (Ha! I bet you thought I was going to say another remake, didn't you? Gotcha!)

And that's what I'm getting at - it's that it doesn't matter whether this movie is about Freddy Krueger or Jason or Michael Myers or Fate or Mother Nature or Crazy Psycho Killer X. The way they make 'em, they're going to be virtually the same no matter what.

To be fair, this was true of the original Freddy/Jason/Michael movies, too. Very few of them were any good. Lest we make it seem like this kind of thing is a modern trend, no, Hollywood still knew how to make redundant, monotonous crap way back then, too. Always has, always will. But that, in a way, makes it worse. These movies were redundant and monotonous to begin with - remaking them is . . .well, I don't know what to call it. Is there such a thing as double redundancy?

The unfortunate thing about Elm Street is that, of these three slasher heavyweights, the hook in the Freddy movies was far more interesting than in the other two. (Sorry, as much as I love Carpenter's original Halloween, the movie worked because of its novelty and the filmmaking itself - that opening sequence! that reveal shot! - rather than the plot set-up.) The idea of a serial killer committing his brutalities only inside of dreams is a reasonably fun premise, and the right people do something with it. Craven did with in his enjoyably campy original Nightmare. The director of this remake, Samuel Bayer, provides us only with 90 minutes of lifeless, repetitive genre cliches.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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