Monday, January 10, 2011

Worst Films of 2010 No.2 - Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)


You can burn him, chop him up and even make him sell Italian crisps (no joke) but you just can't kill him. Maybe he can be milked to death though, as this 'gritty' remake attempts to do. A slightly updated retread of the original, here we see child-killer Freddy Krueger (here played by Jackie Earle Haley) returning for vengeance against the parents of children he abused (as opposed to murdered in the original, in one of many pointless changes). It should be noted the parents burned Freddy alive and he is now an entity that exists almost exclusively in dreams. While we could go into an examination of the metaphors for childhood fears, the nature of nightmares and the exploration of evil all around us, instead I think the plot here is better summed up as 'Freddy's gonna get you... to waste money on another moronic remake.'

Reasons it’s on the list:

The one saving grace of the Nightmare On Elm Street series is that they always has a firm sense of tongue in cheek. It juxtaposes this with a exceptionally direct and in-your-face approach to slasher death scenes, other making great use of Freddy's abilities to infiltrate dreams. Classic deaths from the series include the infamous bed spraying blood and Freddy appearing as spiders and other nightmarish creatures. He even attempted to be a scary slug in Freddy VS Jason. It didn't quite work.

Yet a problem with this formula is over time it makes Freddy appear almost cartoonish, especially as the budget for effects diminished. It doesn't help that original actor Robert Englund was a hammy actor who always seems to play roles by first deciding if he wants Crack or Ecstasy for breakfast. So brown fedora's off to Jackie Earle Haley. Fresh off his jaw-dropping turn as Rorschach in The Watchmen, Haley plays a very different type of sinister here. Less flamboyant, his Freddy is an evil, malevolent force that one can imagine to be utterly terrifying if encountered in the horribly burnt flesh.

Or rather, you would imagine this if it weren't for the fact that this film is lacking a noticeable scare anywhere. This is especially tragic when the script introduces the concept of 'micro-naps' (a few seconds of REM sleep randomly whenever someone is exhausted). It's a silly concept surely but one that allows Freddy to now appear wherever and whenever he wishes. This should have the audience primed and nervously watching the screen as if it may explode but instead theres just the heavy feeling of absolute apathy. The film gives the audience nothing to be unsettled by, every horror moment telegraphed well in advance. Its a testament to how talented Haley is that Freddy carries any menace at all, the script lacking anything for him to do beyond chuckle. The new make-up work that has gone into Freddy is impressive but doesn't allow for anything bordering on expressions, meaning Haley is forced to act with his teeth half the time. The artificial deepening of Freddy's voice didn't bother me but it does feel pointless when his voice wasn't very especially deep to begin with.

Moving beyond the tragedy that is Haley's best efforts to salvage this mess, you run into the major problem. Haley is the only thing of merit here at all. Everything else is just so dull, lacking not only the scares but also the humour. Michael Bay's production studio Platinum Dune does what it does best and sucks all the soul out of the remakes it handles (see also Texas Chainsaw Massacre). There are gruesome bits, chases and many actors mugging but where-as this all combined to equal fun and frights in the original series, here it flatlines spectacularly.

No actor emotes quite enough to make you care and when we see several of them attempt the Rob Zombie school of how modern young people speak (entirely in sexual slurs and swearwords) its grates on the nerves worse then anything Freddy's gloves seem capable of doing. The body-bag scene in the school (which terrified me when I saw it in the original all those years ago) is now a moronic gore-fest, played for a cheap 'boo' instead of the genuinely unsettling moment it should have been. The camera work and shooting is admittedly very slick, which is exactly how you don't want to shot a tense, atmospheric slasher. This should be grainy and rough, instead of looking like a music video (which co-incidentally, Director Samuel Bayer has done a lot of)

Its entirely forgettable beyond one scene lifted from the original film where Freddy claims he 'was only petting' a butchered dog. Other then that its all a well-shot and decently acted cure for insomnia. Where as The Wolfman (2010) was always going to be weak after its troubled and broken production, Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) had no reason to fail. An excellent lead man, a solid budget, a decent advertisement campaign, its frustrating that all the elements mis-aligned so badly. This was such an aching disappointment, such an incompetent re-make, that the fact it only got No.2 scares me a little. As it should you. One, two, Freddy's boring you.

Menstruation Joke Anyone? No? Ok.

Watching this film feels like: : Every nightmare you have ever had... If all your dreams involve mathematics.

No.1 is fast approaching, has anyone guessed what it is yet? You'll find out tomorrow at 4pm, til then!

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