Ain't It Cool News posted the first review of A Nightmare on Elm Street from a test screening today. Read the entire unedited review from "Skin Peeler" below.
A Nightmare on Elm Street... the Remake. Saw it at the first showing to an audience. The usual beforehand about it being a 'work in progress', temp effects, sound, editing, etc. so keep that in mind. I'm not a struggling film critic, film student or striving to get into Hollywood, so bear with me.
The original film was an entry into the Horror genre that made Freddy Kruger a Hollywood monster icon with many sequels, a TV series, comics, videogames and many Halloween costumes. The film series had an ebb and flow from campiness to sheer horror, sometimes seconds apart, with Freddie Kruger's over the top ways of killing people. It gave me and friends, late at night when the parents were asleep or at a slumber party, the super-willies and often insomnia. It went on to have many sequels and Freddy became a icon in the annuls of horror. Seeing it now, it has a certain surreal campiness that doesn't exactly match my memory of it as a kid, I guess a nice patina of time has skewed my perceptions. However, what the original had are amazing iconic and visceral scenes of horror.
If you have seen the original ANoES you basically know the story. SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven't. The story begins a t a slick thumping house party resembling something from the Hollywood hills, where we establish all the main characters and their relationships to each other complete with love triangles, unrequited love and a bong circle. One of the more popular alpha males goes missing and the concerned girlfriend searches the suddenly empty house for him by boldly (or stupidly) following what looks like feet being pulled through doorways and the sound of dragging. When she finally finds him, he's balancing on a railing overlooking a conveniently-placed glass roof next to the pool. We hear him mumbling to himself something like, "you're not real..." then see huge slashes appear across his chest followed by falling to his death through the glass roof. One by one we see the deaths of the other characters who are desperately trying to stay awake with coffee, ADD drugs and Redbull while trying to figure out what the heck is going on by sneaking through their parent's stuff and surfing the net. I don't recall seeing much hard core 'guro' besides slashes, blood and Freddy's hand suddenly appearing through someone's chest, possibly leaving open the possibility of a PG-13 rating? The interesting twist we find out later on is that all the characters are related to each other through a common past with Freddy when he was alive. This opens the doors to the dark possibility of child molestation with flashbacks done creepily, but in good taste... and these flashbacks turn out to be one of the more successful parts of the film. Weather Freddy is a molester is kept nebulous, with Freddy appearing to be a vengeful entity simply exacting revenge at one point. This question is firmly resolved towards the end of the film so there can be no doubt of what his intentions are.
The remake keeps many of the scenes from the original script. It unfor tunately is missing a couple more shocking parts from the original like the glorious Johnny Depp bed fountain, the 'tentacle raep' phone-call tongue and cuts away just before a sexy bathroom butt shot causing a big, "AAaaawwww..." from the audience. Do I see an attempt at a PG-13? C'mon... it's just a butt shot, not even a nipple. The Friday the 13th remake wasn't afraid of the nekkeds! In this way Nightmare seems to be a contradiction... no nudity in the film, however Freddy is a brutal killer with themes of child molestation (like Wes Craven's concept but downgraded to kid killer in the original). The story also has some great set ups only to fall short because of characters you could care less about (Apologies to the actors... blame bad casting). Now, if there were a show on the CW/UPN about these characters for a season, like say Gossip Girl, then put them in this movie and have them killed off in horrible ways, we'd have a blockbuster and a reason to have glossy 29 year old hipsters pretending to be high schoolers. While this is tempting to see the cast of 90210 or Twilight butchered, it's a bad casting choice when you are trying to make the story gritty and serious. If you write the script to be about teenagers with the target audience being teens, for the love of god, cast teen actors or at lest teen-looking actors to play these parts. We can tell the difference. 'Brick' or 'Superbad' are good examples. If not... make the setting a college. In a stroke of genius, the children cast were real kids.
Bay and the director obviously wanted to 'Dark Knight'/ 'Saw' it up by adding layer of grit and reality to A Nightmare on Elm Street. The set and makeup departments did an excellent job: Freddy looks like a freakish burn victim, many of the dream and flashback scenes are dark and have that 'Silent Hill' feel. It's like they watched a bunch of great horror films for inspiration... but with the sound muted. ANoES's story, dialog and acting don't quite match the imagery. The beautiful scenes in the trailer led me to believe this remake might be a serious 'Hellraiser' caliber horror film... maybe not 'Jacob's Ladder' but possibly 'Mindnight Meat Train'. I'm afraid to say as it's in 'The Unborn' territory: slick production value with little meat to sink your teeth into. Typical Hollywood grindhouse, "Bread and circuses: it makes the masses happy. Hey, there are plenty of scare moments!". This film is chock-full of heart-stopping jump out and scare you moments... the audience was definitely given some jumps, however it's overdone and hides the lack of any real horror. The cheap scares become like little Snickers bites in a bag of Halloween candy: a quick jolt but soon forgotton. This would be fine if there were some good psycological horror thrown in, like a juicy steak for a more substantial meal, however all that's left is a sugar crash. Hmmm, I wonder what Freddy would be like if Cronenberg were to direct?
Nightmare is close to being a good film... you can tell Jackie Earle Haley is giving his all with the lines he is given. Kruger was never a Pinhead or Hannibal when it came to dialog, and I know they were going for a more serious slant this time, but he had a confidence that made you know you were fucked since he had you in his world and Haley works with what he is given. Haley's portrayal will no doubt be compared to Robert Englund's performance. In my eyes, Englund's was at times a dark presence of pure anger, at other times a bizarre caricature like an carnival barker or a ngry drunk and pervy uncle. Haley's portrayal seems to be no nonsense, to the point, smarmy, ugly, repulsive and just plain vile... what you would expect from a child molester and it fits the story. However, the writers don't let him playfully toy with his prey as much, he simply twists the screws. I appreciate the lack of campy humor... as it got out of control at times in the original series where Freddy almost became Beetlejuice, but I still wish for just a tiny bit of that iconic personality to his dialog. Just a small dash to separate him from the likes of the Candyman or the Scream killer.
So the version I saw tonight could have been an excellent remake. At this point it's at mearly 'mediocre' status in my mind, but with possible 'good' potential. I want for it to be good and I would love to see more of Haley. I don't know what can be done at this point to fix the actors chosen or the missing elements to raise the horror, but I stay hopeful. The editing still has time to be tightened, as I am already forgetting the entire middle of the film except for the flashbacks. Hopefully they will keep all of the Haley scenes, possibly add to them, and trim some of '90210' fat. Just please figure out do you want a PG-13 movie or R? When you make a film, you shouldn't give a sh*t about the rating. This is a Nightmare on Elm Street... It should be a given it's an 'R' rating.
Ahhh... If only there was an AINTITCOOL creative thinktank. Maybe a select 250 of us eager nerds, separate and removed from the corrupt ass-kissing and creative black hole effects of the Hollywood mill, spanning all ranges of talent that can view a project during the process and can give critiques before things get beyond the point of no return.
Yah, I know, not in a million years.
- Some nice dark visuals, locations & makeup
- any scene with Clancy fuckin Brown & Jackie Earle Haley.
- the talking bloody corpse in the bodybag at end of hallway. that was cool. more like that, plz
- flashbacks, just remove the naked gimp in the Speedos.
- cheesy, unrealistic 29 year old teen characters
- cheesy, unrealistic dialog of above characters with some unintentional laughable moments
- no original Johnny Depp blood fountain or phone tongue? you kidding me?
- too much reliance on scare moments
- not enough psychological horror, the dude's now a freakin child molester for jeebus sake.
- needs some more tightening work in the editing room
- film sadly doesn't yet live up to the exciting trailer
- no bathroom boo-tay? we likie the bootie.
- the webcam scene with the token Asian guy? ...