165) A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Dir: Samuel Bayer Date Released: April 2010 Date Seen: May 3, 2010 Rating: 1.75/5
It seems pointless to rhetorically ask where the mandate to remake A Nightmare on Elm Street comes from because in reality, producer Michael Bay and his croneys at Platinum Dunes never really needed one before so why start now? I get why Samuel Bayer, director of Nirvana's epochal "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video (yeah epochal: wrap your mind around that!), is at the helm on this titanic (nyuk nyuk) turd. He was hired to add technical sophistication and a grungy veneer to Wes Craven's film. Ok, fine, that's almost even clever in a unibrow kind of way. But why only accentuate instead of building on Craven's already shallow attempt at complicating conventional black-and-white generic morality?
Bayer's Nightmare on Elm Street does nothing with Craven's original film save make it more "extreme," "edgy" or something equally meaningless. The black hat-wearing child killer Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) is now a rapist and a pedophile. Instead of killing some children, he's raped a whole pre-school class of them. He raped them all. Every last one. There must be at least a dozen of them. They didn't speak up until after he'd finished his rape marathon and he was never caught in the act. He raped all of them. Disgusting and reprehensible, absolutely, but also kind of impressive. And with those words, I've just become a "person of interest." I swear, fellas, it's not what you think!
So Freddy's a pedophile and that's worse than murder according to the film because it means these kids have had to grow up having to live with that terrible trauma all their lives. Just as in Craven's original film, Freddy's return is a tacky literal manifestation of revenge of the repressed except here, Freddy's targets were directly wronged by him. In the original, the sins of the fathers were literally visited on the next generation of suburban American kidilinks. This was already a stale idea when Craven did it in his 1984 Nightmare. Twelve years after Last House on the Left, Craven's notorious debut, and he was still only vaguely addressing the theme of subconscious societal evils surfacing in the form of communal Franken-boogeymen that are only as ugly as the people that created them. You can't improve something if you don't think it needs fixing in the first place so it stands to reason that fawning screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer did nothing to address what Craven couldn't or maybe just didn't.
So what does Bayer's Bayer's remake do? Show us everything that Craven did and a lot that he didn't. This is most grating in the way that Bayer gives good fan service by strictly redoing the iconic death scenes* of the original film. These scenes are often hideously overdone in Platinum Dunes' characteristic more is MOAAR aesthetic: I can't remember seeing a filmmaker abusively overuse slow motion this badly in a long while. I kind of like that decadence, to be honest, because I think there's something inherently attractive about filmmakers that seem to make creative decisions by committee and always have more money than they know what to do with. Normally that's my kind of trainwreck.
But again: why does this film exist? Bayer and his screenwriters don't even seem comfortable with the bed they've made for themselves in attempting to thoughtlessly update Craven's film instead of, y'know, remaking it. They don't know what they should show and what they should leave to the imagination, something even Craven, a hack par excellence, knew how to do. We see Freddy get burned to death by the Elm Street kids'** parents all those years ago, writhing around in his ass-ugly red and grey wool sweater in the most risibly funny slowmo scene in the film. We even see Freddy's lair because for some reason, the final girl and boy are determined to exonerate Freddy, as if somehow they were determined to find their parents out and blame all their problems on mommy and daddy. And when they finally do accept that Freddy was in fact a voracious pedophile, it's only after they're briefly convinced that their parents made the whole thing up and that Freddy was never bad at all. Bayer's retread isn't even able to conjure the superficial moral grey zone that pervaded Craven's Nightmare. So again: where's the beef?
Maybe if Bayer's Nightmare didn't feel exactly like the Platinum Dunes' other slasher remakes in that they're all shiny, oversexed and completely brainless rehashes that haven't got a worthwhile original bone in their bodies, I'd say that that purposelessness doesn't matter. But like whoa, it /is/ just another Platinum Dunes remake. I admit, I could watch the film at times. But not for very long.
*Tangental rant: I'm disheartened to see that most reviews of horror movies Iread use the term "kill scenes" instead of "death scenes." I understand that the latter emphasizes a fetishized quality that the former does not. But "kill scenes" is as sub-literate as it gets and an unfortunate reminder of the boundaries of the genre ghetto I often find myself working within.
**I would absolutely roll up for a new Nightmare sequel if it was a crossover with Our Gang, but only if the film's surtitle something like The Little Elm Street Rascals Aren't All Right.