Friday, May 14, 2010

Double Team'd: Jackie vs. Robert

Those who know me, knew this was coming. After watching the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, the itch to revisit the original was one that had to be scratched...and only four finger knives could reach that sweet spot. With both versions etched in my mind, let's do a little compare and contrast.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Release: 11.16.84
DVD Release: 08.21.01
Rated R
1 hour, 31 minutes


Tina (Amanda Wyss, Better off Dead...) is having horrible dreams; a man with a melted face and long fingernails keeps chasing her. Her friend, Nancy (Heather Lagenkamp, TV: Just the Ten of Us ), is having similar nightmares. Although their respective boyfriends, Rod (Jsu Garcia, Predator 2) and Glen (Johnny Depp, Secret Window), won't admit it, they too are haunted by this disfigured boogeyman. When Nancy explains the phenomenon to her folks, they clam up. Nancy tries desperately to uncover the truth, keep herself awake, and stay clear of the grizzly knives.

This movie was the shit back in the day! Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, TV: V) caused nightmares for millions of kids for days on end. Over twenty-five years later, a few choice images remain as frightening as ever, while the age and silliness of other moments are glaring. Written and directed by Wes Craven (The Last House on the Left), Freddy is an excellent spin on the boogeyman. A child murderer, long thought dead returns, not to life, but as a nightmare in the minds of the neighborhood's surviving, now teen-aged children. Occasionally Craven blurred the lines between the dreamworld and reality for the sake of a good scare, but the scare was worthy enough for him to be forgiven.

Like many horror flicks, Nigthtmare surrounds one or two solid performances with, well, not-so great actors. Everyone plays second fiddle to Englund's Freddy. Sure, he runs goofily and only pops in briefly, but that get-up was hot as hell back then. John Saxon (Enter the Dragon) makes a brief, but solid appearance as the no-nonsense police lieutenant and Nancy's dad. In his first film role, Depp's potential is obvious.

Dirty Undies
I was seriously crushin' on Lagenkamp as a youth, and there's still something about that frizzy hair and overbite that stirs my loins. It may also be that her sweater puppies were more like full-grown sweater poms. Watching it again, I was still disappointed when she showed nothing more than some shadowy side-bump. I'm not being a dirty old man; in true horror fashion, these fifteen-year olds were all twenty and up at the time.

As slow and tedious as Nightmare can be, Craven makes up for it with some gruesome murders. Geysers of blood spew the last ounce of life from these poor kids. Craven even smacks one kid with another; that shit is just wrong - but oh, so funny.

The Money Shot
Like many horror franchises, the first installment isn't necessarily the greatest, but it's great for introducing the world to an iconic character. Nightmare on Elm Street is slow and rough around the edges, but it left audiences clamoring for more. In the end, that's all a horror fan really wants.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Release: 04.30.10
Rated R
1 hour, 35 minutes

A Netflix Night

Kris (Katie Cassidy, Black Christmas), worried about her boyfriend Dean's (Kellan Lutz, Twilight) erratic behavior of late, finds him at the Springwood Diner tossing back the coffee as fast as his waitress and fellow classmate, Nancy (Rooney Mara, Youth in Revolt), can pour it. A short time later, Kris, Nancy, Quentin (Kyle Gallner, Jennifer's Body) and Jesse (Thomas Dekker, Village of the Damned) are at Dean's funeral andtheir mention of the burnt man in their nightmares makes their parents quickly drag them home. Kyle and Nancy try desperately to uncover the truth, keep themselves awake, and stay clear of the grizzly knives.

After an effectively gruesome opening, Nightmare quickly degraded into the longest, dullest ninety minutes of my life. From the onset, seeds of doubt are planted that the five teens in peril are more closely connected than their occasional passing in the high school's halls. Watching their parent's squirm when questions about Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen) arise is initially intriguing, but as the mystery unravels, the resolution grows exponentially ridiculous.

Music video director Samuel Bayer and writers Wesley Strick (Wolf) and Eric Heisserer construct their remake from a highlights reel of Wes Craven's (The Hills Have Eyes) iconic creation. Key frightening sequences from the original are improved only in the quality of the effects, and abbreviated to the point of being ineffectual. Bayer also blurs the dream world/real world line, but the pay off isn't worth the inconsistency.

Stepping into the shoes of an iconic role is no small task, but Haley's portrayal is creepy and fear-inspiring. The shick-shick-shick sound of his finger knives as he fluttered them by his side was an especially nice touch. It got old watching him drag his nails along one rusty piece of metal to another, but I blame the director for uninspired film-making and not the actor wearing the glove. I wasn't as thrilled by the ashy look of the new Freddy either, but I grew up with the image of wrinkled, pocked flesh seared in my mind.

Dirty Undies
Nightmare's opening sequence is unnerving and sets the bar high for the kills that follow. Unfortunately, the others pale in comparison. A few genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moments occur, but mostly it's a bunch of flash with little bang.

The Money Shot
As the Wonder Twins, Nancy and Quentin, crisscross the town searching for clues, you just wish they'd fall asleep so we can get this exercise in tedium over. I'm not usually in favor of a frame-for-frame remake, but that would have been preferable to the nightmare these revisions created.

Original Recipe or Extra Crispy? (Spoilers)
Remakes are the nature of the business. I long ago accepted that fact and try to quash the bile that rises from my throat when I hear about one of my beloved films being revisited. I want to point out a few key elements the new Nightmare crew changed which ultimately screwed the pooch. My first issue is minor. The original gang were all friends; the new batch, obviously not. It may not seem like a huge deal, but it's important as a tool to relate their experiences with the boogeyman.

The biggest letdown in Nightmare is it never puts a face to the monster. In the original, Freddy has murdered twenty children, but he's set free due to improper evidence collection by the local police (I've watched enough Dexter to know the FBI would have been called in on a serial killer case of that magnitude). Point is, Craven made Freddy a vile, despicable person. The remake pussy-foots around Freddy's crimes, merely insinuating he's a child molester. Dammit you film-making morons, this is an R-rated movie! We're all adults here; there's no need to sugarcoat what Freddy is.

That brings me to another crucial flaw in the re-imagining. In the original, Nancy's dad covered up the evidence of Freddy's murder because he had the police know-how to do so. In the remake, Quentin's dad, a high school principal, masterminds the cover-up. How in fuck-all hell does that happen? I don't care how intimidating Clancy Brown (Highlander) is, there's still going to be questions when the nice gardener disappears.

Lastly, as I get older I remember less and less from my childhood. You know what I do remember? The really awesome times like finding Castle Greyskull under the Christmas tree, or the really terrible times like when my dad held me up by the arm and beat me like a piƱata for misbehaving. I'm thinking that if a creepy gardener lured me and my friends to his sex hole to cut us and touch our pee-pees, that sort of thing would stick with me. Just saying.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. I can't even read this because I want to go in fresh when I see the new Friday, not that it is going to be groundbreaking of anything.

  2. I love the original NoES - love it. Love the cheese, love the gore, love Freddy. He scared the bejeezus out of me back in the day and yet he was funny as hell. I'd hoped that with JEH in the iconic role this new one would at least work but no, sounds like I should just drag out my old VHS copy and go back to the 80s again.

  3. @friend mouse- I loved the original, too. Going back I was surprised to see all the sloppiness, guess that's what happen when you get older, the luster sometimes wear off. I still prefer the original to the remake, but you might have fun watching it on DVD. It's worth a few jumps.

  4. Saw it. Not only did the new Nightmare on Elm Street suck, parts of it were actually boring. A horror movie, boring? A new low.

    What was funny is that Fred wanted to be brought back from the dead, gets his wish then throws it away.

    The last kill with the mom was good though, well shot and orchestrated. Too bad it invalidates what came before it.

    I'll stick with The Human Centipede.

  5. Oh, man, was it boring! Both me and my buddy were just watching the minutes tick past.

    The mom kill was well shot, but by that time I could have cared less about what happened. I was just tapping my foot, waiting for the credits.

  6. You just sat their watching the twenty-year olds, I mean teens, talk.


  7. Great piece. I didn't HATE the remake or love the original (actually I did, but on second viewing it's got a lot of issues), but all of the cheesey goodness is lost in the update

  8. Thanks! That was a big problem for me, the cheesiness is a must for NoES.