Tuesday, 11 May 2010
REVIEW: Nightmare On Elm Street
Michael Bay, in this life or the next, I will find a way to stop you. Not content with being possibly the most obnoxious movie director who ever lived (although I do like The Rock.), Michael Bay the producer takes pretty much every single great, generation defining horror movie from the 70's or 80's and remakes into a slick, vacuous gore fests. Which would be a dandy policy if Nightmare On Elm Street were say, a were say a Porsche Cayenne, but for a movie, a piece of storytelling this kind of pragmatic business model thinking is just a way to make a cheap 50 million on the back of the brand name, and fuck everything else. They remove the imagination, the ingenuity and everything that made it a genre defining movie and replace it with a black hole of meaningless slick.
I guess we're supposed to be grateful that this Nightmare On Elm Street still has an 18 rating, that there's still gore in it and stuff. But that is a small victory for those of us who actually love this genre and want to see what it can do. I'm not even opposed to a remake of Nightmare On Elm Street in theory. It's a film that isn't perfect, as inventive as it is, but the idea and its villain are so timeless that bringing it to another generation is something I would understand. Or even embrace. But not like this. Not like this. Because everything here is just so, lifeless. It's become just another slasher movie going through the motions, with a disposable teen cast and a forgettable grotesque villain. Because somehow, I don't even know how, they fucked up Freddy Krueger. Fucked him up good.
What separated Freddy from the army of franchised slasher villains is that he was hilarious. Far beyond the glorified zombies of Michael Myers and Jason and clan, Krueger, in large part due to Robert Englund's excellent performance, was the kind of scene stealing villain that you entirely route for, whether you should or not. Yet here, I don't know what the fuck is going on. There's been a lot of buzz about how Jackie Earle Haley's Freddy would be more serious, darker and more threatening. Well that's fine, if they'd gone all through with that, but its as if the writer and the director worked at cross purposes, because the zingers are all still here. Nearly throughout. Yet Haley plays them straight, which creates a bizarre tonal imbalance in the character. Haley has the occasional moment, but by and large he plays the whole thing Rorschach style, complete with growling Batman voice and combined with make-up that limits the character's expressiveness, it didn't sell me. To say nothing of the immense deal the film makes of the Krueger origin story, only to make it something so cliched and lame. The movie played around with an innocent man killed in such a horrific way it set his soul ablaze with vengeance for a bit, which I would have preferred, but then it cops out and says he was a creep already so its OK. So the guy came back from the afterlife and conquered conventional reality for what, because his molestation victims were ungrateful? Weak stuff.
So much so, that in the film's climax I found myself actually routing for the teenagers, against this giant of horror mythology. That really shouldn't happen. Not ever. Speaking of the teenagers, lead Rooney Mara, is blank-faced and generally kind of wooden. John Connor himself, Thomas Dekker, does a bit better but for those who loathed his whiny messiah on that ill-fated show, there's some cathartics here for you. The Shield's Kyle Gallner probably fares the best, creating a likable, intelligent character that you kind of root for. There's a cameos from the Awesome Clancy Brown, Carnivale's Brother Justin Crowe, and Connie Britton. But this was never going to be an actor's movie right?
I wasn't expecting a masterpiece, but an effective clever little shocker should have been within grasp here, but no just gore and jump scares, and I wasn't freaked out or scared to be honest in the slightest, the thing was just way too generic. Fucking Michael Bay.