A remake of a Nightmare
The reviews for the latest A Nightmare on Elm Street film are mostly negative. Given that this is the update of a slasher series, that is to be expected. The simplicity of the plot, which exists only to move the viewer from one creative death sequence to the next, should rightly be derided by critics and those who consume high art. This is not the kind of film made for the purpose of earning praise. This is the kind of film that is supposed to make people go, “Oh shit!”
It is certainly up to the individual to determine whether that happens. What I saw in the theatre was a film with an interesting pace and focus. Instead of having one protagonist who is followed throughout, with incidental scenes featuring the supporting cast, the film roams from character to character. The viewer follows a character until his or her death, then the next, then the next, etc. Like I said, the plot exists to move from one death to another. This creates a film without a central protagonist, despite longtime fans’ rightful expectation that everything will come down to Nancy and a scheme to bring Freddy Krueger into the real world. The effect of this roaming focus suggests that the viewers are not seeing the film from the perspective of any of the teens with whom we are supposed to sympathize but rather from the killer himself as he slashes a path to his favorite. I consider this a merit of the film, personally.
But one review I read, by Sam Bathe of Fan of the Fire, managed to mention the one major shortcoming I found with the film. Offhand in a statement quoted by Rotten Tomatoes, Bathe says that the film is “[d]evoid of personality[…]”. This is average critic-speak for “the film did not strike me as particularly original”, which in itself is not a particularly original statement of complaint. But the statement hits on something that is very clearly there.
The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street seems to have spent too much time in its development toward becoming a mainstream box office hit. The edges were rounded off too well, and someone needs to put some dirt on the film. The movie fails to take any chances and just does not stand out. It is just another supposedly darker and grittier reboot. It is definitely darker than the original, with Krueger being a child molester working at a preschool rather than just a child murderer this time around. It tells its tale well and Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as Krueger is everything it needed to be – but the film was still lacking.
Beyond its not having an edge, another concern I have is that the horror and slasher film genres are moving uncontrollably in the direction of appeasing emo and Twilight fan cultures. Slashers found their prime in the 80’s, where the goal was to titillate the audience. The teenaged victims would have gratuitous sex, show some cleavage, and then get hideously murdered. Here we have Kyle Gallner (Cassidy on Veronica Mars) and Thomas Dekker (John Connor of The Sarah Connor Chronicles) wearing ridiculous amounts of eyeliner while making dopey eyes at girls they wish they could share their beds with in a mostly platonic way. Topless women are replaced by the entire boy’s swim team in Speedos, followed by a sequence featuring Gallner standing in the cold in his Speedo while watching the original death of Fred Krueger. This is by no means a complaint aimed at a return to the misogyny of the 80’s form of the genre, but I think pandering to this new demographic is a quick way to pull the trigger on the death of the genre in the new decade.
There are at least two more Nightmares planned as of this writing. To be clear, I want these films to be made. The only thing I really request is that they have a little more kick to them. These films need balls.
Bechdel Rule: Pass. I suppose this depends on your interpretation of the rule, though. When any of the women talk to each other in the film, they talk about Krueger – even if only vaguely. They do not talk about which boys they like. However, in a bit of turnabout, Dekker’s character chides Gallner’s character openly about his being unable to ask Nancy out. (Of course, fans of Veronica Mars might assume their own reasons…)