Visually-stunning horror remake divides reviewers
May 7, 2010
Thrilling, frightening and even a little bit funny… is how I would describe the previews before “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” The only thing dragging them down was the the heartless, predictable and entirely unnecessary film that proceeded them.
“Nightmare” is the latest film from Platinum Dunes, the production company hellbent on remaking as many 70s and 80s horror franchises as they can get their hands on. Their films follow the same basic formula: take an established series, amp up the visuals and fill out the cast with beautiful 20-somethings. What they end up with are films that look cleaner and more polished than their low-budget counterparts.
But as a consequence of smoothing out the rough edges, the Platinum Dunes remakes feel almost universally soulless. It’s like slapping a fresh coat of paint on a rustic old building—sure it looks nice, but where’s the heart?
That’s what I kept asking myself as a sat through the drudgery that is “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake. This is workhorse horror—it does exactly what it needs to do, but it does so without even a hint of fun or flair.
This “Nightmare” leaves the plot of the original largely unchanged. It’s all about Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a vengeful spirit who kills teenagers by haunting their dreams. If you die in your dreams, you die for real… yadda, yadda, yadda.
Even if your only experience with Freddy is through a “Simpsons” parody or his crossover with Jason Voorhees, it’s safe to say that most Americans have at least a basic understanding of his origin and methods. Unfortunately, “Nightmare” approaches the material as if we are all newcomers to the story.
The first half of the film is spent trying to solve the mystery of how these kids are dying in their sleep. But, of course, we already know how. We even know why. This leaves the film feeling dreadfully uninteresting for large chunks of time.
The only time “Nightmare” doesn’t feel boring is during the surreal dream sequences. Aided by fancy new cameras and CGI technology, Freddy’s nightmares provide for some truly stunning visuals. The computer graphics allowed the filmmakers to create effects that simply would not have been possible in the 80s.
On the flip side, the scares in the “Nightmare” remake pale in comparison to the original. This film is almost completely devoid of any real tension. The horror elements rely on cheap tricks and jump scares—neither of which are frightening in the least.
The film also introduces the concept of “micro naps,” in which the sleep-deprived characters begin to dream without even knowing it. It’s an interesting idea, but wasted on a director that only uses it to provide even more opportunities for stuff to jump out at you unexpectedly.
I say this about most remakes, but in this case I really mean it: what’s the point? If you’re going to tell the same story, only not as well, then why bother? If by the off chance you have no idea who Freddy Krueger is, then by all means go see it. Or, better yet, rent the far-superior original film. It even has Johnny Depp. For everyone else, skip this unnecessary money grab.
Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.