Still October, still horror.
Bay plus Bayer equals Bayest.*
In the town of Springwood, Ohio a group of teenagers all start having similar dreams. These dreams are about a man who is horribly burned, and has a glove with four razor-sharp blades. If he catches you in the dream, he kills you, and if he kills you in the dream, you die for real. Nancy is one of the only ones left. She is determined to find out who this burned man is and why he is hunting her friends, and if she can possibly defeat him before he gets to her.
Let’s get the big questions out of the way first. Is Platinum Dunes’ latest dip into the horror remake pool scary? Not really, no. Does it offer anything new to the tale of Freddy Krueger? More of a slight adjustment. Are the kills innovative and fantastical? No chance. So why does it even exist? Ch-ching.
This film is a mistake. Maybe there is an argument to be made for remaking the zeitgeistiest of all the entries in the slasher movie Golden Age, but this isn’t it. The film has neither imagination nor innovation, content to wallow in the nostalgia of its illustrious forbear. The only seemingly new idea it has – changing Freddy’s origin from a child killer to a child molester – is actually something from Wes Craven’s first screenplay that was changed to avoid the appearance of capitalising on an actual spate of molestations in California in 1984. So Freddy’s motivation changes from “I must kill these teenagers in revenge for their parents burning me alive” to “I must kill these teenagers because they told on me for molesting them in preschool which is why their parents burned me alive”. It doesn’t really make much of a difference, does it? In fact it just makes the whole thing harder to swallow. In the original film, the kids didn’t know Freddy because he had been killed before they were born (correct me if I’m wrong), but here they all knew him in pre-school. Every single one of them managed to repress the memory so completely? Bullshit.
There is one thing Nightmare 2010 gets right though: Jackie Earle Haley. Combining his paedophile character from Little Children with the psychopathic revenger Rorschach to great effect, he is the one jewel in the movie’s crown. Unfortunately his performance is hugely hampered by the new burn makeup. While it might be more medically accurate than it was before, Freddy’s face is now little more than a solid mask of scar tissue. There is no room for the facial expressiveness that Robert Englund brought to the role. Haley is barely able to open his mouth at times, meaning all Freddy’s dialogue is rather obviously re-recorded. The use of CG to remove parts of the dermis and get a look inside Freddy’s cheek (by the same effects team who created The Dark Knight‘s Two-Face) is quite well done, but the extent of it changes almost from scene to scene.
One of Nightmare 1984‘s biggest strengths (aside from the fact that it scared the everloving shit of you) was its special effects. Limited by both budget and the technology of the day, Craven and his crew had to rely on ingenuity and classic, proven techniques to create Freddy’s kills. In this day and age, CGI versus practical is a massive argument. Both sides have worthy points to make, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s where I stand: it’s all about the genre. For fantasy and science fiction films, CGI has a definite lead. Look at Gareth Edwards’ Monsters as a prime example. For horror, on the other hand, I prefer practical effects any day of the week. Fear is a visceral reaction, and to me there is nothing less visceral than a poorly executed visual effect that is meant to be scary. Nightmare 2010 uses a mix of both practical and CG, and the first are without exception better than the second. My personal favourite was Rooney Mara’s Nancy running from Freddy down a hallway where the carpet suddenly shifted to a pool of thick blood that swallowed her up. Done on the set, and freaky as hell.
Samuel Bayer has an impressive CV as a music video director, having helmed a lot of the most visually inventive and influential clips of the last twenty years, including Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and all of Green Day’s American Idiot videos. This was his first feature and he carries over that focus on the visuals, but to the detriment of the performances. The man can frame a shot, and there are some nice transitions between the dream world and the real world (particularly in the drugstore sequence) but, other than Haley and Rooney, most of the cast vary between one-note and not even trying.
I have no problem with the concept of remaking movies, generally speaking, as long as the reasoning behind it is more than just monetary. Nightmare 2010 is artistically redundant. But it made some coin, so there’ll probably be another one.
*I am aware this makes no sense, unless you know that Michael Bay is the head of Platinum Dunes (and even then it’s a stretch). I just felt like punning.