Saturday, 8 May 2010



Yet another in the long, long line - a line that doesn't look like it's ending any time soon - of desperate rehashes of past hits by people who don't understand what made the original a hit in the first place, and miss the whole point of the original as a result. Rob Zombie's Halloween is only vaguely interesting when restaging scenes from John Carpenter's generally bloodless original; Marcus Nispel's version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has a filtered sheen at odds with the deranged, nightmarish action that the ragged look of Hooper's film captured, and Nispel's botched stab at Friday the 13th presented us with such a gallery of unlikeable machete fodder that the viewer was on Jason's side more or less from the start. In fact, they've just about run out of classic films to redo, and are working through the list of second-rate titles: why else do we need My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night and Sorority Row? And we've still got a remake of the despicable I Spit On Your Grave, of all things, to look forward to, reimagining gang rape and castration for the multiplex generation.

This week, though, we've got a shiny new version of A Nightmare On Elm Street, which fails not just as a telling of the Elm Street story but pretty well blows it as a horror film. Despite sticking fairly close to the original spine - Freddy kills the children of those who burned him to death in an act of vigilante justice, by stalking their dreams - and having a genuinely loathsome bogeyman in Jackie Earle Haley, it isn't even slightly scary and only by using the cheap horror tactics of crash-cut editing and having loud noises boom out of the soundtrack is it capable of making you jump. That isn't enough.

This version toys with two potentially interesting ideas but muffs both of them. The first is to run with the suggestion that Freddy Kruger was actually an innocent man who didn't do anything to the kids - but then ditches that and makes him a fully fledged paedophile rather than (just) the (mere) child murderer of Wes Craven's original. The second is to kill off the two people we've been led to believe would be the survivors (the glamourous blonde and the tough guy) - but this leaves a pair of secondary characters, a mousy brunette and a mumbling slacker, as our new leads and they're just not up to the task.

The other problem is that it wants to be a straight horror movie but it also wants to pay homage to the Craven original. So they have to restage the key moments such as the heroine in the bath with Freddy's glove coming out of the water between her knees, but the scene has been shoehorned in where it doesn't belong - at this point she deliberately goes to sleep despite knowing what could happen. They have the stretchy wall effect where the shape of Freddy looms out of the bedroom wall over the girl's bed - but why? They briefly incorporate the Charles Bernstein theme right at the start (over the studio logos), and the "one-two" nursey rhyme, but the rest of the music score is the usual ambient sound design with solo vocal wailing and thudding rock songs.

And at the end you come out of it wondering why they bothered. It's not as if they ever had a hope of topping the original (and if they didn't want to be compared to it, maybe they should have made something of their own) and they haven't actually come up with something interesting on its own terms. It's just another disposable, pointless horror movie that can only really work for people who've never seen the Wes Craven film. Largely missable.


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