Samuel Bayer and Fede Alvarez have one thing in common: they were both no-names who got the chance to direct big budget horror. Alvarez used his opportunity to bring new, gory life to Evil Dead, while Samuel… Samuel, Samuel, Samuel. Our buddy Samuel directed the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Let the record show: I think the original is just all right. Granted, it has been a few years since I last saw Wes Craven‘s most famous horror movie but I still feel like I can remember all the good parts (and the bad parts – namely Heather Langenkamp’s acting). But let’s not talk about Wes Craven, not right now anyway. Let’s talk about Samuel Bayer and the lovely little film he made a few years ago.
I just watched the new A Nightmare on Elm Street yesterday and boy, I knew I had a winner within the first ten minutes. It’s not ever script that opens a movie with dialogue like:
Girl: “Dreams aren’t real.”
Guy: “No, you don’t understand. This dream is real.”
Girl: “No, dreams aren’t real.”
That’s from the opening couple. You can tell, from witty dialogue like that (thank you for your script, Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer… two people wrote this????) that these two must have a dynamite relationship. Rest assured, it isn’t just the script that’s top notch. Bayer is obviously one stellar director and has gathered a terrific cast. Look at how frightened actor Kellen Lutz appears in this scene:
Yes, that is how terrified people look in their nightmares… or when they realize there’s still eighty minutes left to go. Better get used to a lot of young teen (all played by people in their twenties) stares in this film. Really though, they have such classic material to work with. The original film has several memorable moments, with none more than the rise of Krueger’s glove from the bath tub. Rest assured – that scene is in the movie.
Rest assured, it has nothing to do with anything else. In the original, this sequence helped escalate the tension that Freddy was actively stalking the protagonist, Nancy. Tension and protagonists are so 1984.
In fact, this film does not feel the need to really introduce the audience to the main character until the 45 minute mark in the movie. That’s right: for the first three-quarters of an hour you are watching characters whose actions have no real consequence on the plot. Doesn’t that just sound engaging? Bayer must have mimicked the Rob Zombie approach when it came to protagonists: not needed because the killer is just SO interesting.
Let’s talk about Freddy Krueger then (played by Jackie Earle Haley…).
First off: what is the point of remakes? It’s a big question but I’m sure that most would agree that one such function is to update a film to the modern era. Sure, Freddy Krueger was scary but that was way back in 1984! Let’s have a look:
Well, if that’s what they could do in 1984 then 2010 must be –
Yes, 2010 also knows that make-up is a thing of the past and nothing looks more believable than computer graphics on a man’s face. Jackie Earle Haley is kind of a creepy guy, anyone who has seen Shutter Island can attest to that. Obviously the best thing to do with a talented actor is to cover him in CGI until nothing can be seen of his face or performance. Well, if his visual performance is anything to go on, how is his acting?
Before you ask, at least 90% of his dialogue is delivered in that same monotone, gravely voice. Acting is also for the 1980’s.
Another function of remakes can be to put a new spin on a character. In this case, the movie sets up Freddy Krueger as an innocent victim. A man wrongfully burned by over-zealous parents. This arguably makes for a better origin than this original roots. If Krueger were innocent than the movie could show how people always make the worst monsters, as well as expressing the dangers of mob justice. That is – until the final twenty minutes when the movie reveals that yes, Freddy still did it. Mob justice is the best justice, who needs the police? Great morals for today’s society.
If any out there remained unconvinced that this movie is worth checking out, allow me to share a favorite scene. Nancy is badly injured by Freddy and romantic hopeful, Quentin, rushes her to the hospital for care. There Nancy meets her mother and says she doesn’t want any sedation. The doctors prepare to sedate her anyway so Quentin rescues her from the hospital…. that’s the sequence. What bearing does it have on the story (other than extending it for five more minutes): Quentin steals some shots of adrenaline. Yes, because there are no other sources of energy out there – everyone knows you have to go to the hospital to receive a pick-me-up.
In the age of talented-but-unknown horror directors (like Adam Green and Ti West), it is great Samuel Bayer got the chance to leave his mark on such a famous horror franchise. He did to A Nightmare on Elm Street what Freddy Krueger did to his victims. Karma.