Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Director: Samuel Bayer
Starring: Not Robert Englund

"I was just trying to pet it."
-Freddy

A Nightmare on Elm Street? Cool! That’s the classic 80s film that spawned a pop culture icon in its main character Freddy Krueger. It’s campy and had very little of the budget it really wanted to enact its chosen nightmares, but it was charming and had a lot of bite to it. It was the kind of movie that…wait, what’s that? We’re…not talking about the classic 80s horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street? Well, what the hell is it then? It’s the same title, and it’s the same lead character. Oh god, it’s a remake, isn’t it? They really did it, didn’t they?

Yes, despite the complete nonsensical choice of remaking a film that was more about its lead actor than the actual storyline, some two-bit Hollywood team decided that the original film just didn’t cut it anymore, even though its image is still featured in the pop culture lexicon and is still very well known by the general public. You could make the argument that it’s just a tasteful reimagining of the old film to pay tribute to it, but really what this movie is is a complete void of anything resembling plot or memorability. There’s just nothing to it. It’s a complete waste of time and I’ll tell you why.

The movie actually starts off pretty promising, with some opening credits that feature some cool lighting effects and shadow-play as some little kids play on a playground, with the words all scrawled in madcap, nonsensical scribbles. This could have been a really good music video for a Rob Zombie or Rammstein song or something, but the movie decides it wants to try and tell a story instead. Oh, and did I mention the producer is Michael Bay? That’s not exactly something to be proud of, movie. In fact it’s more like the embarrassing uncle who got locked up for touching a little girl, who you don’t mention anymore in family prayers and pretend he doesn’t exist.

We eventually cut to the first scene. This is in a diner where apparently the service is just pure crap, as we see the waitress completely ignoring the scruffy blond-haired patron who asks for more coffee. He gets up and is subsequently slashed by Freddy. Then he wakes up, as it was all a dream – although he does find some blood on his hand.

The waitress says, “You should stop falling asleep in here, or else you’ll get kicked out.”

Why? What do those two things have to do with one another?

We cut to some other douchebags in another booth who see a hot girl come in and sit down with the first guy, talking to him about dreams. They angrily leave the diner because of this...apparently it’s because one of the guys used to date the blonde girl, but still, leaving the fucking diner because of it? That’s pretty drastic, don’t you think? What if some of them were hungry and hadn’t eaten all day? Then we see the blond guy’s brilliant logic as he responds to the girl’s insistence that his dreams aren’t real by saying, and I’m quoting here, “They are real.”

Well, now I’m convinced!

The blond guy falls asleep again, I guess, and is killed by Freddy. We then cut to the title screen of the movie. Oh good, because I would have forgotten what movie this was if you didn’t show that. No, really; I would have forgotten. It’s that unremarkable.

We then cut to the kid’s funeral, in which we’re supposed to care because he was a good looking white kid in a horror movie – pfft, those are a dime a dozen these days. The blonde chick from before, whose name is Kris, is wearing perhaps the skimpiest funeral dress ever as she mourns this bland character. We see her falling back in with her ex-boyfriend, who sneaks in through the window of her house. Because that’s not 20 years outdated, right? She asks him to stay the night and – get this – he says he will! A guy accepting a girl’s offer to stay the night? PSHAW, THAT’S JUST UNHEARD OF. WHAT A SHOCKER.

Then just like in the original movie, she gets offed too. Freddy slashes her up and here we see another of this movie’s setbacks: Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy. He has no screen presence here! He’s trying and all, but really the writing is just so weak and his performance so bland that he has no real charisma. He’s just lame all around and not at all the hyperactive, witty and cunning devil that original slasher Robert Englund always portrayed. It’s one thing to take a different angle on the whole thing but another entirely to just half-ass it.

That's gonna hurt in the morning...

But yeah, Kris gets killed and the guy starts running for the door. He somehow sets off the house alarm by opening the door from the inside…don’t ask me how that works…and this somehow alerts the police right away, as they apparently gather all the info they need about the crime and know who the suspect is at the speed of light, as they start chasing him down like a dog. He sneaks into the window of the waitress from before – does this kid ever use the door? – and we find out it’s Nancy, in a reinterpretation of her character from the original film. He shouts at her for a while about dreams and nightmares and such, and then jumps back out the window and gets caught by the police.

He is put in a cell with some dude with tattoos and meanwhile, Nancy calls up Quentin, who she finally wants to talk to, after he offered her a sympathetic ear earlier. Uh, dude, I don’t think you really want to open that can of worms – those quiet girls are usually the craziest ones. She’ll probably start telling you about the collection of human hair she has under her vanity mirror, or something.

No, of course she just wants to talk about the dreams, which apparently they’re all having. I guess they’ve all been taking the same drug – Cheesy 80s Horror Icon Marijuana. The new brand all the cool kids are smoking. Apparently it’s a real killer.

"Hello, children, today we will be teaching How to Fuck Up a Horror Movie Remake 101...tune in later for more ineptitude."

They start to do what most characters in vapid, uninteresting modern ‘horror’ flicks do: look stuff up. I mean seriously, can you BE any more boring? Every fucking movie has these scenes! You know the ones. They’re the scenes where you get a mini-montage of the characters looking through books at their school library, trying to figure out what it could possibly be that is supernaturally ailing them. Because I guess the school library has a section on nightmarish dream demons, right next to the occult section they used in Jennifer’s Body – it’s all grouped into the fabled Implausibility Sector of the library.

And you know what else? I don’t think we should stop there! There must be some way we can make this movie even more by-the-numbers. Ooh, I got it. How about we show the scene of the lone character standing up in the empty room and being stalked by some supernatural unseen force while cheap-ass over-used operatic flourishes suck the life out of the whole thing? I know that seems like a petty thing to complain about, but it fits here – it really fucking fits. I mean I am positive I have seen these exact camera angles with that exact musical score in like five or six other movies. It’s just lazy filmmaking, is what it is.

So then, like in the original film again, that kid who got arrested is killed too, only this time he has a cellmate who rightfully gets pretty hysterical. Nancy and Quentin hear about it and start preparing to catch Freddy once and for all. But first, Nancy talks to her mother about Krueger, confused as to why she keeps finding old pictures of her and the other kids when she didn’t even know them until later in her life. Right on cue, we get the movie’s backstory. Listen up now, because it’s not quiiiiite the same story you remember…basically Freddy was a gardener at this daycare all the kids went to when they were 5, and they kept coming home with scratch marks on their back. Apparently Freddy took them to his ‘secret cave.’ The parents tell them that Freddy just disappeared, but since everyone already knows the original story, there’s no real suspense built up here.

Hey! You're getting blood all over the nice tile floors. Bitch.

After some more bullshit, they start tracking down everyone who used to be at their daycare. They find that most of them are dead, as we see one video of the movie’s token Asian kid of course making a web blog video, as all Asian kids do technological things all the time. He says he can’t sleep and is deeply troubled – why do I get the idea he’s actually talking about making this movie? Then Quentin has a daydream (for some reason while he’s swimming) and it is revealed to him what really happened, because I guess Freddy really needed to give them more information instead of just making them go crazy…oh fuck it. Like in the original, the parents all chased him down and burned him alive inside a warehouse.

I’m not going to nitpick too much at this, as it is pretty close to the original, except for one bit: When Krueger first goes into the warehouse, all the townspeople start shouting for him to come back out. Now, what is the logic in that? What’s he going to do in response? Obey them and come out quietly so they can beat him to death? “Okay, Mr. Angry Mob Leader, I’ll gladly come out so you can kill me! Top of the mornin’ to ya!” Silly. Man, I really want to finish this review; you have no idea. Let’s see if we can get it done quickly.

They go to the warehouse, discover some demeaning photos of Krueger and Nancy and start to act really overdramatic and in pain about what they apparently forgot when they were kids. I understand why but…is this even the same movie anymore? It’s like the beginning of some kind of psychiatrists’ promo video, right before they advertise where to call if you need rape crisis help, or something. Freddy comes, they fight and stuff, they kill him, THE END. FINALLY.

This movie is shit. Plain and simple. It has some good ideas here and there, a few good threads of plot that could have been elaborated on, and I liked the special effects well enough, but it’s just so dull and so underwhelming that it just doesn’t work. Jackie Earl Haley doesn’t do that good of a job, the script is hackneyed and underdeveloped and there just aren’t any surprises at all. It’s just not a good movie. And that’s all I have to say about that. Avoid this if at all possible, audience.