I firmly believe that the people behind Platinum Dunes absolutely hate horror movies. I think they are snickering at horror fans’ expense as the piles of money roll in from another uninspired, pointless reboot of a horror classic made purely for a Friday night cash grab.
I can’t say I blame them much, as horror fans are pretty loyal as evident by the profits generated with their remakes of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ($107 million gross / $9.5 million budget), AMITYVILLE HORROR ($108 million gross / $19 million budget) and FRIDAY THE 13TH ($91 million gross / $19 million budget).
So Platinum Dunes returns to plunder the great horror films of yester-year, this time setting their sights on the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise. Does their tried-and-true formula fare any better with one of horror’s greatest films and most iconic villains? A $32.2 million opening weekend says yes, yes it does.
But what about horror fans…do they get to enjoy seeing one of horrors most famous icons slapped with a fresh coat of prosthetics and back on the big screen 25 years after his first appearance? Not even close. The chances were high that they would ruin this one and boy did they ever – in every way possible.
Sticking with the basic premise set in Wes Craven‘s original films, Freddy Krueger is able to stalk and kill kids in their nightmares. The twist being that the unfortunate person killed in Freddy’s dreamworld also dies in real-life. I wasn’t expecting a stellar story with this reboot (Wesley Strick is the same guy who wrote DOOM) but there was hope that it could get a fresh perspective as seen in other horror remakes like THE FLY, DAWN OF THE DEAD or THE HILLS HAVE EYES. No such luck.
The brightly lit trappings of suburbia seen in the original are replaced with a non-descript, darker neighborhood, the memorable teens swapped for brain-dead models, and any chance whatsoever to delve into any interesting subjects are quickly averted.
The mantra repeated in the movie of “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep” might as well applied directly to me because I had a real hard time sitting through the film, finding myself checking my watch every time the film resorted to yet another musical jump scare. Director Samuel Bayer spent so much time ensuring that NIGHTMARE looked good that he forgot to, you know, make the movie scary or interesting in any way. To compensate for this, he relies on the cheap tactic of sudden, loud noises. They were used so much, in such old ways, that I could predict them before they happened.
But when you have a cast of actors who are completely unable to portray anything resembling personality, I guess you gotta work with what you got. Remember the original’s characters? Even after all these years, the image of Nancy’s room with the hidden coffee maker, or her boyfriend across the street listening to music on his headphones while watching television, are still as vivid to me now as they were back then. No one delivered Oscar worthy performances in the original, but the characters were likable and more importantly – relatable. I won’t remember the characters in this film by time I finish typing this out.
The resourceful, stubborn Nancy from the first film, played with often amusing conviction by Heather Langenkamp, is replaced by a listless, emo chick (Rooney Mara) who is as threatening as a sleeping kitten, and almost as strong as one. Johnny Depp’s character is no longer a good-looking jock who doesn’t follow his woman’s directions, but rather a doofus with guyliner who’s a bigger pussy than Nancy. As for the rest of the supporting cast, why bother. Aside from a hot blonde and her MILF, the only other person I really remember was Connie Britton (who was actually ok in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) as Nancy’s mother and who stunk up every scene she was in – except for her last one.
As for Freddy Krueger himself, I think that just about everything they did with him was as wrong as you can get. Admittedly, I am not a fan of Freddy Krueger. Or rather, the Freddy Krueger that materialized out of the sequels.
The only time I have truly enjoyed Freddy was during his debut. He was scary, he was threatening, he was evil incarnate with personality. Even though he was the murderer of twenty children, he was quick with the one-liners and he really enjoyed his work.
The new Freddy? If I had to come up with one word to describe him it would be “skeevy”. Maybe the creators wanted to change the film up this time and have the audience dislike Freddy instead of rooting for him. If that’s what they aimed for, they succeeded in spades. The new Freddy is just too obscene. I’ll get to why I say that in a second, but I want to note that I did not mind Jackie Earle Haley’s portrayal of him – although he was no Robert Englund.
This time around they wanted Freddy to look like a more realistic burn victim, but the effect made him more alien-ish than anything. Hell, the shots of Haley sans Krueger makeup where more disturbing. If they were gonna go the realistic approach, they should have taken notes from the villain in BAD DREAMS. That motherfucker was realistic.
But I could have dealt with the new look of Freddy, as even Freddy’s original look went through a slew of facial changes throughout his run (mostly for the water-downed, easier-for-mass-consumption, worse), so that’s a detail that could be worked on. What cannot be worked on is how Freddy is represented in this remake.
Don’t put too much stock into the promotional material you may have been subjected to. While it’s true that the film tries to stay as dark in tone as the original, instead of the cheeseball humor of the sequels, the one-liners are as bad here as they are in any of the original Nightmare’s abysmal follow-ups. “How’s this for a wet dream?” asks Freddy as Nancy swims in a pool of blood. Groan.
But here’s the thing. The original Freddy was a child killer. As monstrous as that is, that did not bother me nearly as much as what Freddy Krueger is in this film. Now he is a child-molesting pedophile. This is one of the only major changes made from the original film and the absolute worst. Instead of Freddy killing teens to exact revenge on the parents who burned him alive, he is now killing kids because they told their parents about him diddling them in the basement of the daycare he once worked as a gardener.
If this wasn’t bad enough, Freddy taunts his victims with that fact, making off-color comments to them about what he used to do to them when they were children. Look, if someone wants to make a movie about a psychopathic pedophile, go for it. But to take one of horror’s most revered icons and turn him into something so reviled, so impossible to like on any level…well, it was more obscene to me than the remakes that turned Leatherface into a bullied kid with a skin condition, Michael Myers into Jason Vorhees, and Jason Vorhees into a very violent Sloth from THE GOONIES.
Maybe one day a company will take these horror classics from the greedy fingers of Platinum Dunes and treat them with the love and respect they deserve. But for now, it just isn’t happening. I’m sure Platinum Dunes has no intentions of stopping either, as reports are already circulating over a proposed second NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET…in 3D of course.
Unfortunately, I paid for two tickets to see this and helped line the creator’s pockets, but if you have not paid to see this, don’t. Download it or something. But whatever you do… Don’t. Fall. For this shit.