Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Round-Up#27

Film Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010): First, let's get this out of the way: I am a die-hard fan of the Nightmare On Elm Street series, and have been since I was 16 years old. I have watched the entire series (including the abysmal Freddy Vs. Jason) numerous times, and hopefully will continue to watch them for years to come. To me, the Nightmare series is one of the most wildly imaginative fantasy-horror film series ever made. And even with their faults and low budgets, they contain some of the most memorable sequences of dark imagination ever put on film. There is no argument that the best entries in the series are the ones in which Wes Craven (the writer/director of the original) was involved (the 1984 original, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, and the seventh entry, Wes Craven's New Nightmare); but all of them have something to offer to horror fans. So, with this in mind, trust me when I say that I know my Freddy Krueger, and that when it comes to sequels or remakes of my beloved series, I am as harsh a critic as you're ever likely to find.

With this we come to the 2010 remake of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Samuel Bayer and starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger. I went to watch this film with an open mind; which means with my expectations neither high nor low. That was a good call. Because, you see, this remake isn't great in any sense of the word. But it is good. It manages to re-introduce the mythos and the Freddy Krueger character to a whole new generation, without marring the legacy of what came before it. It has some memorable visuals, an unnerving, almost hallucinatory atmosphere, and is admirably dark, much darker than the 1984 original and most of its sequels. Performances are good, especially from Kyle Gallner and Thomas Dekker. And Jackie Earle Haley's take on the Freddy Krueger character, while not spectacular, brings enough stylistic changes to the role to make it interesting. Also, director Sameul Bayer admirably chooses a more old-school style of filmmaking, favoring longer takes and a slow build-up over the flash-cut, hyper-kinetic style that is so prevalent these days, especially in horror films.

So, where does this remake stumble? In the script department and in its loyalty to the original. The script doesn't make a lick of sense and expects the audience to just go along with everything without thinking too much. Although Wes Craven's original didn't make much sense, either, at least it gave us enough time to get to know the characters. This film, however, doesn't allow us to get to know the characters, rendering them two-dimensional, and forcing the actors to carry all the weight. Also, its loyalty to the original weakens it, since most of the memorable sequences in this version are nothing but set-pieces lifted directly from the original and given a new coat of paint; something which newcomers wouldn't mind, but die-hard fans like myself find annoying and lazy on the part of the filmmakers.

But, in the end, this film delivers the goods: There are plenty of scares, a haunting atmosphere, memorable, surreal visuals, and it succeeds where almost all of the sequels to the 1984 original failed: Making Freddy Krueger scary again.

Extra! Paperhouse (1988): This edition's Extra! selection is the 1988 psychological thriller Paperhouse, directed by Bernard Rose. This is a haunting, stylish, creepy, and strangely touching coming-of-age film. It is visually stunning and, more than 20 years after it was made, still packs a punch. Available on DVD.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves.

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