Rorschach’s Journal … On Friday Night A Comedian Died In New York
(Spoilers for the 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street movie are below).I yelled “shit” as a I saw Michael Bay’s name pass by during the opening credits. I wasn’t expecting that, and sadly that was the biggest and albeit crappiest surprise for me during the entire movie. From the second I saw that name, I dropped my expectations tenfold, and even with greatly reduced expectations I still wasn’t able to enjoy watching this movie. I hate the cash grabs behind Hollywood remakes, but I believed with the new innovations in filmmaking technology, the Nightmare franchise could have really put together some innovative or at the very least entertaining dream sequences. It never happened in this movie, and granted Michael Bay was only a producer, you can still feel the touch of his filmmaking ineptitude all over it.
Five teenage friends – Kris (Katie Cassidy), Dean (Kellan Lutz), Nancy (Rooney Mara), Kyle (Quentin Smith, and Jesse (Thomas Dekker) – all live on Elm Street and are plagued by the same man in their nightmares: Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley). When Freddy kills the teens in their dreams, they die for real. Why Freddy has chosen to kill these people may provide the key to stopping him.
This new version of A Nightmare on Elm Street brings back some familiar faces like Nancy and Freddy as well as the same Freddy origin story. Our loveable antagonist still has the same glove, fedora, sweater, and burned body and Nancy is still the good-natured young teen. A few of the most famous scenes from the first movie are recreated like Nancy’s bathtub scene and Tina’s death scene. The best thing the new movie does is actually show how Freddy becomes the burned charred man that’s haunting everyone’s nightmares. It even plays up a potentially interesting and more sympathetic version of the Freddy character, but that being an interesting and potentially good idea
… is snuffed out right fast.
Then there are the obvious differences like the absence of Nancy’s father as a character, the parents being a good degree more responsible than they were in the original Nightmare, and the name changes for the other teens that are Nancy’s friends – Kris, Dean, Kyle, and Jesse.
There are two additional differences that deserve some extra attention. The first one is the differences in the portrayal of the cops. In the original Nightmare the cops are small minded, mostly incompetent, but still somewhat respectful individuals. In the remake the cops are ruthless upholders of the law. It’s little things like this that say something about a society. Watching the original you get an attitude from the 80’s suggesting that cops were people you could trust personally, but sometimes they weren’t always able to get the job done.
In the remake you get the feeling that the cops are completely untrustworthy, uncompassionate upholders of a police state. It reflects on just how far public opinion has stooped in their beliefs about what roles police play in society at large … and quite frankly it was of the most depressing things I remember about watching this.
The second difference worth noting is the lack of underlying social commentary. The original Nightmare and subsequent sequels explored underlying ideas like the effects of poor parenting, the false sense of security that comes with living in the suburbs, and the increased use of prescription drugs to fix mental health problems. The new Nightmare at best glances over these issues, or any significant issues for that matter, and the potential to tell a deeper story is wasted. Instead viewers are treated to another round of “pretty models being chased by an ugly monster.”
Jackie Earle Haley has the greatest challenge of all as he has to live up to Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy Krueger from the last eight films. While I like Haley, especially the way he did Rorschach in the Watchmen, he just can’t do Freddy in a way that does justice to Englund’s performance. Not helping things are the fact that Haley blends his Rorschach voice into Freddy’s, creating an unintentional blending of two characters that have absolutely nothing to do with one another.
If there’s one thing that’s greatly improved it’s the music. Steve Jablonsky does an excellent job of using the themes created by Charles Bernstein, while not making them sound like lame 80’s synth-effects. The mostly orchestral score actually adds something to the plot and was the only thing this film convincingly did better than the original. Rooney Mara, I hate to say it is a more convincing Nancy than Heather Langenkamp was, but that’s not saying a whole lot either. As for the rest of the movie, the original out does it by leaps and bounds. It’s scarier, it’s deaths are more memorable, and it’s more thought-provoking.