Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Samuel Bayer
Written by: Wesley Strick (screenplay) & Eric Heisserer (screenplay)
Genre: Fantasy / Horror / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.
Released: 30 April 2010 (USA)
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Rooney Mara.

Plot: A re-imagining of the horror icon Freddy Krueger, a serial-killer who wields a glove with four blades embedded in the fingers and kills people in their dreams, resulting in their real death in reality.

Review: 7/10

The Story is about: Nancy, Kris, Quentin, Jesse and Dean all live on Elm Street. At night, they're all having the same dream--of the same man, wearing a tattered red and green striped sweater, a beaten fedora half-concealing a disfigured face and a gardener's glove with knives for fingers. One by one, he terrorizes them within the curved walls of their dreams, where the rules are his, and the only way out is to wake up. But when one of their own dies a violent death, they soon realize that what happens in their dreams happens for real, and the only way to stay alive is to stay awake.

My Thoughts: As children we are taught that dreams are the one place where harm could not come to us, that we’re completely safe from the dangers that allude us on a daily bases, in our dreams we were untouchable and the sky‘s the limits when it comes to the possibilities through our imagination. That was of course until November 9th 1984, the day a little known independent film called ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ was released to a small limited amount of theaters and the way we perceived our dream where changed forever. This monumental film gave birth to a new meaning of terror, because for the first time there was an entity of pure evil that we couldn’t hide safely away from, that evil was grafted into the form of a man named Fred Krueger, an evil that could bring harm to us when we’re at our most venerable; our sleep. The Elm Street franchise has over the last few decades spawned five sequels, a T.V. Show, an unofficial New Nightmare (Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)) and one iconic crossover (Freddy vs. Jason (2003)). And just when we thought it was safe to go to bed again, evil is re-imagined on the big screen in a whole new way. The only question that remains is; does this new re-imagining match up to the bar that was set over 20 years ago?

“One, Two, Freddy's coming for you.”

Unfortunately I’m afraid the answer is not as simple as I’d like it to be, while I’d like to say a simple yes or no would be sufficient enough to sum up how I feel towards this film, nothing simple however will give it proper justification because it’s not that easily put. Before I go on I want to point out one very crucial and pressing matter that should be noted; first and foremost, I am a devout Krueger fan, have been since I was barely old enough to remember, I’d watch the Elm Street films with so much dedication growing up that I’ve made it a yearly ritual to watch all six of the Elm Street films, plus Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason (in that order) every year in the month of October, so know that I’m as hardcore as I can personally be without reaching that dangerous level of weirdness that would make people question my sanity! [Laughs]. While I may agree with the majority here in the vain that this will never be the Freddy Krueger we grew up with, it is in my opinion however the Krueger we’ll have to live with for better or worst. Though I admit from the get-go I was not too keen about this re-imagining at first, because why would you try and fix something that isn’t broken? Sure the original franchise has had it’s ups and downs over the years (Let us never forget how horrible and premature Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare was) but no matter what, the franchise has always managed to pull through and carry on, so when I heard about this film being made I was not pleased to say the least, what was even more so despicable was the fact that actor Robert Englund, the man who breathed life into the character wasn’t reprising his iconic role in the film, and as the saying goes, there’s only one man for that job and his name’s Englund!

“Three, Four, better lock your door.”

But then it got me thinking, I hadn’t for one moment considered the possibility of someone else picking up the mantel after Robert was done with the role, I mean it was bound to happen sooner or later, and whether we liked the sound of it or not it was going to happen, so to that thought I decided to stand back and give this new Freddy a chance. Going into the film I decided my only course of action if I planed to get any form of enjoyment out this film was to abandon everything I had ever known about Freddy at the theater door. As I sat there watching this new chapter in horror unravel before me I found the film had both it‘s good and bad points, I found the first quarter of the film to be quite entertaining but lacking a great deal in chills and thrills, the diner scene in particular however was a decent set up which I thought also paid homage to the later films of the old series. However not long after that is where the film really begins to slow down to a stance of near boredom due to the fact the film’s main focus was on Freddy’s victims, which would have been great if they weren’t so two-dimensionally developed. I did however find the plot to be interesting because if was a retelling of the original and yet it was nothing like it, aside from a few scenes which played out like a tribute to the original Elm Street film (the scene in which Nancy‘s friend is killed in the bedroom, Freddy‘s glove seen in the bathtub, and the scene where Nancy see’s here dead friend in the school hall in a bloody body bag) other than just a few scene’s here and there this film was generally nothing like the original, though the outline of the plot remains the same, sort of speak. We have a completely new telling which also gives Freddy a whole new origins that paints a much darker and sadistic picture of his past and goes more in detail of the abusive acts of mutilation and pedophilia that was going on pre-Nightmare.

“Five, Six, grab your crucifix.”

While I liked the idea that was presented, there was problems I had with the film, which believe me there were quite a few issues. For starters the film seemed to focus too much on quick shriek and scares on the audience rather than well thought-out kills that were clever and skillful which is what basically made watching the Elm Street films memorable to begin with because it was all about the uniqueness of the individuals deaths that drew us in for more each and every time, and here uniqueness was missing and the possibilities were wasted, but don’t get me wrong, sure the sudden ‘jump at you’ tactic works for the film at first but it gets old quite fast and becomes repetitive to such a point where you begin to predict them happening beforehand, in other wards, if everything goes silent in the film or if one of the characters found themselves alone for some reason than prepare for a loud bang followed by Freddy popping up for a quick kill. Another problem I had was the film's ending, not because of the way it ended, but because it seemed like a lackluster ending, the film felt like it was building up to something big only to end on a somewhat low note which was a bit of a let down but still not disappointing. Last but not least I had problems with the way Krueger’s burnt appearance was perceived in the film, because it felt like the filmmakers where going too overboard with the authenticity of a real burn victim. I understand that they wanted to go in a more realist direction on the way Freddy should appear in the film, and I get it, but what I feel the filmmakers failed on was the fact Freddy didn’t just look the way he did back when Robert Englund was in the role because he was burnt by fire, yes part of that was due to it, but in the dream world he could have looked however way he wanted to but chose that look instead because it reflected the raw evil that lurked within him, it was a reflection of what he truly was deep down inside which was a force of nature to be reckoned with. Sadly though I feel the filmmakers missed their opportunity with properly presenting that in the re-imagining.

“Seven, Eight, gonna stay up late.”

As for the acting: it was pretty decent for a film like this, usually the acting is where films in this genre get me going on a rant because the actors either don’t do a good enough job or they simply go overboard on their performance, but surprisingly the acting was not as bad as I originally expected, but don’t hold me to my word on this one, while I may have thought the acting was somewhat decent, it’s quality is only decent on a grand scale but doesn’t seem to hold up all that well when compeering individually. First off actor Jackie Earle Haley did a fantastic job as Freddy, he’s performance in my opinion brought the character back home to it’s grassroots of terror. Sure I know many will disagree with me on this one because I myself would have done the same had I been in a different mindset going in. Many will say they miss Freddy’s wisecracking one-liners or his wickedly malicious sense of humor, while it may be true that those qualities is what made the character we all know and love, in all honesty that isn’t the way he was to begin with (or at least to me that is). In the original Elm Street, Krueger was a straight down to business type of killer that didn’t waste time telling jokes or one-liners before killing his victims, no, that came about in the later films where he traded up screams for laughter and became a campy figure that was no longer a threat to us. In the re-imagining Krueger is put back into the mindset of fear making him more a driving force of terror rather than he was in past films, my disappointment in Haley’s performance however was that there was so much potential that goes completely wasted here, the possibilities where there and yet nothing followed through, perhaps it was lacking on his part, or perhaps it was the filmmakers fault for lacking the capability to realize it.

“Nine, Ten, never sleep again."

Aside from Haley’s satisfactory performance, the rest of the cast’s performance goes from being okay, to poorly, and than down right annoying. Katie Cassidy’s performance was pretty good, she managed to keep me focused into the film‘s plot long enough for the film to reveal the real lead, plus for those who don’t know any better the way her character is portrayed in the film makes you think for a second that she might be the lead. Kyle Gallner did an okay job in the role of Quentin, though I found one major flow in his performance that bothered me with distraction, his character lacked the emotional response that a person would feel after losing their friends. I wont lie to you here; Thomas Dekker performance was quite sloppy in my opinion, the only thing good to came out of his performance was watching him die on screen. The biggest disappointment of all however, is the performance and re-characterization of the film’s heroine, Nancy Holbrook, which is played by Rooney Mara, the Nancy in this film is loosely based off of Nancy Thompson from the original Elm Street films. My problem here is that in the original, Nancy, was a normal teen who stepped up and decided she wasn’t going to take it anymore and was going to put a stop to Krueger’s rain of terror before it was too late, but on her turf and not his. She basically turned her own home into a weapon against Freddy in the most imaginative manner possible which screamed originality! (And to think folks, this was 7 years before Home Alone ripped off the idea in a family friendly fashion). But in this re-imagining she’s suddenly an artsy joy deprived teen who spent the majority of the film acting depressed and heavily medicated rather than becoming the brave young heroine we rooted for, not to mention the actress’s performance seemed way to hollow to feel any form sympathy towards her character’s well being! After summarizing it all up, the change of characterization in Elm Street cost the film’s ability for the audience to relate to the characters, making it a big double D; depressing and disappointing.

Final Say: in hindsight of everything I’ve said about the Elm Street re-imagining, both in positive and negative, I found the film generally entertaining, though the first 40 or so minutes is a snooze fest, and the film lacked a blowout ending. However the film did present an interesting new take on a classic horror that laves the door wide open for new and fresh possibilities to better itself in future sequels. I feel compelled to withhold my recommendation on seeing this film in theaters because it just doesn’t hold up all that well next to the original, however I do recommend seeing it at least once on DVD/Blu-Ray.

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