Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #311
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 30, 2010
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $115,664,037
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Samuel Bayer
Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Screenplay: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Based on characters by Wes Craven
Special Effects: Allen Hall
Visual Effects: Marc Kolbe, Björn Mayer, Sean Andrew Faden
Cinematography: Jeff Cutter
Score: Steve Jablonsky
Themes: Charles Bernstein
Editing: Glen Scantlebury
Studios: New Line Cinema, Platinum Dunes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Stars: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton, Lia D. Mortensen, Julianna Damm, Christian Stolte
Suggested Audio Candy
Steve Jablonsky “A Nightmare on Elm Street”
Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes has been responsible and some may say culpable for many of the glut of glossy remakes of classic horror films that have emerged over the past decade or so. The Amityville Horror, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Friday The 13th have all been brought bang up-to-date and the reaction from die hard fans has been varied to say the least. Whilst none were catastrophic, they all came across to the majority as slick but ultimately soulless. I’m inclined to agree so when I first heard that Freddy Krueger was about to receive his post-millennia make-over I was ominous about the prospect to say the very least. His once grand legacy had been increasingly neutered over the course of the film’s many sequels and spin-offs and this presented potentially the final nail in the dream weaver’s flaming coffin.
Upon its release, somewhat predictably, the finger knives were sharpened and a multitude of Elm Street buffs left both underwhelmed and incensed so I decided to let the ash settle before necking my Klonopin. Through a recent conversation with a dear friend it appeared that maybe the critics had been a tad harsh and, considering how Craig Gillespie’s 2011 remake of Fright Night was vilified unfairly, I decided to venture forth with caution. It remained to be seen whether Samuel Bayer’s treatment would fare well although certain news was music to my ears. Most notable was the fact that Freddy was no longer just the callous killer that he was previously but now named and shamed as a molester of children, which offered far greater insight into why his young subjects feared him so and made him all the more despicable to boot. Gone were the wise-cracking one-liners and suddenly the prospect of a return to Elm Street was looking far more (un)welcoming.
“If you can keep a secret, I’ll take you to a special place”
Having now spent 90+ minutes back in his wickedly woven dreamscapes I am left with a barrage of conflicting feelings. On one hand, this is just as readily dismissible as any of Platinum Dunes’ other recent reboots and follows the original template a little too closely to the letter to consider worthy of extending the franchise any further. However, that is not to say that certain factors aren’t bang on the money and here is where it becomes wildly frustrating. It’s at odds with itself; unsure whether it should be content purely with rehashing the formula or moving in an entirely fresh direction and ultimately falling between the two stools. Nostalgists will no doubt be sickened by any fragrant familiarity and insist that it was better off left to rest its weary bones. I get that, but it is in no way the out-and-out train wreck that it was labelled on release and just about justifies its existence.
One chief reason for this is the performance of Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen). His charred appearance, while not a million miles apart from Robert Englund’s, is actually more in keeping with Cropsy from The Burning. Haley’s contorted features are every bit as deformed as Englund’s but the Springwood Slasher now resembles a real-life burn-victim and this just adds to his grotesque appeal. In addition, he plays it straight, and this is a huge relief as one-liners aren’t necessitated with anything like the frequency they were by the time the Elm Street series reached is fourth installment. Haley’s turn is pitched just right and he makes the transition into that filthy red and black sweater and fedora alarmingly smoothly. Every vitriolic word which spews from his singed lips is borne of pure contempt and he is that much more baleful as a result.
“Did you know that after the heart stops beating, the brain can function for well over seven minutes? We got six more minutes to play”
Another plus is the introduction of some fascinating concepts. Micro-naps make an appearance, whereby the brains of the sleep deprived teens shut down momentarily to recharge affording Krueger the chance to infiltrate their waking states. Extended insomnia poses an even more ominous set of problems as, should they fall into a perpetual coma, then escape ceases being an option. Most compelling of all is Krueger’s insistence that, once their heart stops beating, the brain continues to function for almost ten minutes before ultimate closure, affording him additional play time. All of the themes explored add considerable weight to his menace.
We are provided with more back story and, around the midway mark, the revelation that Krueger may well have been victimized unjustly is something of a masterstroke. However, instead of continuing to keep this inconclusive, all is revealed far too soon. It’s a crying shame as, for a brief moment, Freddy invites our compassion and this throws a hefty cat amongst the pigeons. Alas, it is all too easily ironed out. As for any nagging feeling of familiarity, that harms the overall experience considerably, as the whole appeal of Elm Street in the first place was the lack of perimeter a dream world provides. Over a dozen drafts of the script were submitted before it was decided that four be spliced together and it is evident as Bayer’s film seems unsure of its identity and lacking the courage in its convictions to settle on any one route in particular.
As we have come to expect from Platinum Dunes, it really looks the part. Jeff Cutter provides plenty of striking imagery and Steve Jablonsky’s effective score, which mirrors Charles Bernstein’s synthesized soundbites respectfully, adds infinitely to the overall experience. The teens themselves, whilst bereft of dimensions, give their all and become more enterprising as the dread looms over them. These meritorious factors are all well and good but only serve to highlight how spendthrift this is in countless other areas. While Wes Craven was dismissive of the remake, Englund actually offered the project his blessing, proposing that technological advancements would afford the Elm Street legacy to forge ahead for an entirely new generation. In terms of box office receipts, it’s hard to argue against its validity but, the drubbing it received upon its release speaks volumes.
I’m on the fence with this one. Much in the same way as Kimberly Peirce’s recent remake of Carrie was never less than entertaining but ultimately underwhelming, this also reeks of what could have been. However, where that story was difficult to develop further, the possibilities here were nigh-on infinite. Craven’s original kept us awake at night and much of that is down to the fact that Krueger remained largely ambiguous for the lion’s share of the screen time. Here, he wastes no time in making his presence felt and even less time being forgotten come the end credits, despite an autocratic turn by Haley. Thus, while never the outright travesty that many label it, the most iconic of movie madmen is still awaiting a vehicle to truly get those finger blades into.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: It was initially rumored that Bayer’s film would aim for a PG-13 rating and thankfully this is never the case. What is even more encouraging is that practical effects are prefered wherever feasible and there’s plentiful schlock to be discerned. Ventilation is Freddy’s middle name and his five-fingered reckoning provides some impressive instances of gushing grue. Speaking of which, the moment when Glen’s messy demise via bedspread digestion from the original is reversed is unmitigated genius.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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