Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Freddy: “Little Nancy. Now that you've caught me, what game do you wanna play next?”
Nancy: "Fuck you!"
Freddy: "Ooh, sounds like fun. But it's a little fast for me."

Genre: Horror
Year: 2010
Rated: R

Rooney Mara as Nancy Holbrook
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger
Kyle Gallner as Quentin Smith
Thomas Dekker as Jesse Braun
Katie Cassidy as Kris Fowles
Kellan Lutz as Dean Russell
Connie Britton as Gwen Holbrook
Clancy Brown as Alan Smith

Plot: A child molester, murdered by the parents of the community, takes his revenge by killing their children in their dreams.

Tagline: Welcome to your new nightmare.

First Viewing: May 2010 in theaters.
Added to the list: 2010.

If you may have noticed, I'm not really a horror fan. As I previously stated in my blog post about Scream (1996), it is not because of the gore or the gratuitous nipples or the treatment of young pretty things as they are stalked by knife wielding maniacs. No, it's the lack of motive of these said maniacs. Now as "scary" as someone killing for the sake of killing or someone killing because a little voice tells them too's just not interesting to me. In my opinion, if someone is going to go around hacking teenagers to bits, they better have a good fuckin' reason.

Because I am writing about the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, I must warn you that this post will contain references to the 1984 original. This isn't a compare and contrast essay, but comparisons will be made because my enjoyment of this film is directly related to faults (in my opinion) to the original. First, a little history:

Way back in high school, I would fall asleep with the TV on, usually to Encore because it was the only movie channel on our limited cable package. For some reason, they had a propensity to show the many Nightmare on Elm Street sequels in a random order. Thus, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was the first one I saw. Next was A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, then Wes Craven's New Nightmare and finally the original from 1984. (I still have yet to see parts 3, 4, 6 and Freddy vs. Jason) Anyway, the point is, I was quite aware of Freddy Krueger's legacy as one of the great slasher villains. I was also quite aware that the sequels were mindless cash-ins trying to copy the apparently amazing original film.

So imagine my disappointment when I attempted to watch the original and fell asleep halfway through. Now if anything is the definition of irony, it's that: a teenager falls asleep during a horror movie about a killer who murders teenagers as they sleep. Obviously, I did not die and I didn't even have a nightmare. Eventually I did see the whole thing, but I was expressly underwhelmed.

Traditionally, I don't like "supernatural" horror. When I like horror, I like realistic horror, something that can actually fucking being stabbed to death in a shower by a psycho. Or being kidnapped, kept in a hole, and starved until your skin is loose enough to be removed from your body and sewn into a suit by your kidnapper. Ghosts, possession by the devil, killer dolls, Pinhead...none of that shit scares me. But despite all this, I liked the concept of A Nightmare on Elm Street and wanted to like it. However, it was just so murkily executed that I couldn't.

So, in the mid-2000's when horror remakes became en vogue, I had high hopes for a Nightmare remake, thinking that maybe, just maybe, some brilliant studio exec would hire a screenwriter to reorganize and strengthen the weaknesses the original. My prayers were answered in 2010.

At the Springwood Diner, we are introduced to our cast of tortured teens: Nancy, slightly alternative and arty, works as waitress. She wakes up Dean, who's nightmare opens the film, and warns him if he falls asleep, he's going to get kicked out. Enter Kris (pretty and blonde, but surprisingly not slutty) who has come to talk to Dean about his past tormented nights. From another booth sits Quentin (also alternative and arty and hot for Nancy) and Jesse (Kris's jealous ex-boyfriend). Dean explains he hasn't slept in days all because of this burnt man in a striped sweater with knives for fingernails. On par, Kris doesn't believe him until he falls asleep and cuts his own throat.

At the funeral, Kris sees a picture of she and Dean when they were young children which is rather peculiar considering they didn't meet until high school. Hmmmm. Kris, Nancy, Jesse, and Quentin compare notes. It's seems they have also had dreams about this finger-knife guy. Hmmmm. But Jesse tells everyone to shut up about it. Kris asks her mother if she knew Dean when she was little, which she suspiciously denies. Hmmmm. And all her pictures from that time in her life are missing. Hmmmm.

Kris's mom leaves for work, leaving Kris home alone. After an episode of falling asleep in class, dreaming of Freddy (let's face it, we all know it's Freddy), and screaming, Jesse grows concerned and comes over to spend the night. They fall asleep together but Kris dreams of Freddy again and is slashed down the torso. Afraid he will be accused of her murder, Jesse GTFO's but is promptly arrested anyway. He too later dies via Freddy.

Fearing they are next, Nancy and Quentin set out on a mission to discover what the fuck is going on. Both stave off sleep with coffee and/or Quentin's ADD pills. Nancy questions her own mother about her mysterious pass and again, the parents deny everything. While snooping through documents, Nancy and Quentin discover a class photo from a preschool featuring them and their dearly departed friends. Nancy's mother is forced to reveal all.

Yes, indeed Little Nancy, Little Quentin, Little Jesse, Little Kris, and Little Dean all attended Badham Preschool together. And there worked Freddy Krueger, a gardener who lived in the basement of the school and simply adored the kids, if you know what I mean. Nancy was his favorite, if you know what I mean. When she and the other children confessed to inappropriate goings-on in his secret cave, the parents ran him out of town. Nancy's mother assumes these nightmares are repressed memories.

Okay...let's stop there and let me go into my first argument on why I like Nightmare '10 more than Nightmare '84. In the original, Freddy is a "filthy child murderer" and allegedly nothing more. Writer/director Wes Craven initially wrote Freddy as a child molester which makes a whole hell of a lot more sense, because really, does anyone just kill children without abusing them first? But since there were these huge child molestation lawsuits going on at the time of filming, Craven changed him to just a murderer. Making him just a murderer always seemed a little stupid to me. Bringing in the sexual factor makes him ten times more frightening.

Quentin is ready to believe this repressed memory theory, but Nancy is uncertain. She goes on the internet looking for the other members of her preschool class and find they have all died under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile, Quentin falls asleep at swim practice and dreams about what really happened to Freddy: the parents chased him to an abandoned warehouse and burned him alive. Furious with their parents' involvement, Quentin and Nancy surmise that Freddy is innocent and will continue haunting them unless they prove his innocence.

It's onto the preschool, with a quick detour to the drugstore so Quentin can get more pep pills. Nancy has a micronap where Freddy insists she wakes up. As she does, she pulls a piece of his striped sweater out with her. Because her arm is bleeding profusely, Nancy and Quentin go to the hospital, where she is treated and he steals two syringes worth of Adrenaline.

Now it's really onto the preschool. They find Freddy's room (naturally creepy) but no evidence. And then they find the entrance to the secret cave (exceptionally creepy) along with some photos of Nancy. All the memories come rushing back and the two realize he was indeed guilty (well, duh). To end all the madness, Nancy decides to let herself fall asleep and pull Freddy back to the real world where Quentin will be waiting to kill him.

She falls asleep, but when she starts to struggle, Quentin can't wake her up. Freddy explains to her, "I had to keep you awake long enough so when you finally slept, you'd never wake up again." Luckily, Quentin has that Adrenaline and wakes her up just in time. Nancy cuts Freddy's neck and lights the building on fire. She and Quentin go to the hospital and Nancy returns home later that night. For a last minute scare, Freddy pops out of the mirror and kills her mother. (????)

So what else do I like? Well, two big rules of slasher movies (as stated in Scream) are to never have sex and never do drugs. Interestingly, there are no drugs or drinking in Nightmare. The exception is Quentin’s prescription for ADD, which he does abuse but only for the sake of staying awake. But when Nancy is offered the same pills, she refuses and sticks to good ol' coffee.

As for sex, there is no sex to be had! There isn't even a crude joke to spice up the screenplay. This is perhaps the most prude R rated slasher movie in existence. And I love it. Often times, slashers follow the old sex=death trope to a T and it gets rather tedious. It's always the horny kids who die first. But nobody's horny on Elm Street in 2010. In Nightmare '84, there's a scene where Tina and Rod (the equivalent of Kris and Jesse) have very noisy sex at the group's impromptu sleepover. Naturally, Tina is the first to go. But in Nightmare '10, Kris and Jesse simply sleep together and there is no indication that anything lascivious occurred before that.

The "Freddy as a sexual predator" angle no doubt had a bearing on how the character's sexual lives are treated. In this film, the word "sex" is never even uttered. Even the abuse is implied. ("What is the right way? Our kids get up on the stand and tell a room full of people what happened to them?") Perhaps it's a little cowardly not to go balls to wall about the molestation, but this is a slasher not a Lifetime movie. Even the kiddie porn pictures of Nancy are not shown. The viewer is meant to imagine what exactly they show. Frankly, I find it rather refreshing in this day of torture porn.

Then there's the sleep deprivation thing. No, I've never had bad nightmares but I have suffered from insomnia all my life. Sometimes it gets really bad and I don't sleep for a couple days. So I know what it feels like to go a little mad. I was going through one such phase when I saw this movie (all alone in the theater on a Tuesday afternoon). Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of empathy.

I also admire the fact that Freddy's victims are people he's actually had contact with. Murdering the 1984 Elm Street kids is merely a way to take revenge on their parents, the ones who actually persecuted him. In 2010, it's less about the parents killing him and more about the children telling of his awful deeds. I love it when the villain actually knows the protagonist and when the thrust of the conflict stems from their previous relationship. So not only does Freddy take revenge on the children who "betrayed" him, he also gets to spend eternity torturing his favorite victim.

Still, Nightmare '10 is not without its issues, issues that plague the original. Like why does Freddy choose NOW to haunt his tattlers? Why 13 years after the fact? Why not when they were children and still to his liking and more easily terrorized? And if it's something like "his spirit was safely contained until one night when..." then who put his spirit there? And how did it get free? And who freed it?

And then there's that atrocious ending where Freddy's not really dead and he bursts through the mirror to kill Nancy's mom.

Arg. Remnants of the original.

Maybe these questions will be answered in a sequel. Yeah, it's a rule of horror movie-dom that sequels suck, but Jackie Earle Haley (whom I enjoy as Freddy more so than Robert Englund) is contractually obligated for two more Nightmare flicks. And according to IMDb, there's a sequel planned for 2012, so ready or not, here it comes. I'm actually excited. With two main characters still alive, who knows if the questions will be answered or if more questions will be asked.

All in all, it feels good to finally have another horror movie on my List. It was pretty much a cinch when the end credits reused "All I Have to Do is Dream" by The Everly Brothers. A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those movies I just don't get sick of and, ironically, one I like to fall asleep to.

Favorite Moment
Crosscutting of Quentin preparing the syringe of Adrenaline and Freddy stabbing Nancy.

1 comment:

Andrew Testerman said...

Lousy Smarch weather.