Freddy Krueger's makeup has been redesigned. Nancy Thompson is now a Goth artist with a troubled past. The director has a background in music videos.
Welcome to Nightmare on Elm Street 2010, produced by Platinum Dunes, the Michael Bay-led company whose reboots of thrillers from the past have been a mixed bag: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (pretty good), Amityville Horror (wretched) and Friday the 13th (abominable).
How will this "reimagining" compare to the 1984 film? I saw it in its original theatrical release, and I was creeped out. Sure, it has some iffy acting, rubbery special effects and a story that falls apart like a house of cards if overscrutinized, yet it still maintains an agreeably chilly atmosphere until the "surprise" ending, where both the characters and the filmmakers seem to be saying, "How do we get out of this?"
But the original introduced Johnny Depp, who's had a terrific career accepting roles that strike his fancy. There are a lot of stinkers (Secret Window, The Astronaut's Wife, The Ninth Gate), but when he hits, he hits big—and he's always a welcome visitor here at Weird Movie Village.
Now, the Nightmare franchise is no stranger to "laughable." None of the sequels achieved the clammy atmosphere of the original. The 1985 follow-up was a bizarre concoction in which Freddy incites—oh my God—homosexual panic!
1991's Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare had our flash-fried antagonist in full smartass mode and featured some of the ugliest, most eye-crossing 3D ever shot. Gee...rocks floating in fire in anaglyph 3D? Sounds great! 1994's New Nightmare had the really strange conceit that the Freddy character was going after the actors and filmmakers from the original movie. Now that's what I call revenge! And 2003's Freddy vs. Jason is so absurd you can almost feel sorry for it.
The team behind the remake insist that it is "intended to bring Freddy to a new generation of moviegoers," but my problem with that concept, as I mentioned in a previous post, is that the original Elm Street was an early release on home video and has always been easy to find on tape, cable or DVD. Who's this so-called "new generation"? Kindergartners?
It's a good start that they've gone back to a darker, more sinister characterization of Freddy without all the wisecracking he did in the sequels. And evidently more time is spent on Freddy's backstory, leading up to his death at the hands of the townspeople. What would be most effective would be a convincing explanation of Freddy's transformation into a ghost that can kill. But with characters that include the aforementioned "Goth girl with a troubled past," "well-liked high school jock" and "member of the swim team," I worry that it's going to be the same dreary set-up we've seen in countless horror films. And, of course, everyone will be Tweeting and IM-ing their nightmares to each other.
Wes Craven, the creator of the original, was reportedly unhappy that he wasn't brought in to consult on the remake, but the filmmakers insist that it's a "reimagining" with a completely different tone, and they weren't going to cherry-pick the best elements of the franchise.
Clevver TV has the trailer and some stills here, along with some comments that are happily similar to mine:
The reason remakes like The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and Dawn of the Dead (2004) worked so well is because there was room to maneuver. The originals Hills had an easy premise to update (stranded family tortured by mutants) and Dawn jettisoned the social satire of the 1978 original in favor of an end-of-the-world scenario with fast-moving zombies and a panicked group of survivors turning against each other.
But Nightmare is different. It's got an iconic character and a well-established story. Even the trailers for the new film indicate the inclusion of familiar scenes: Nancy in the bathtub with the claws rising up out of the water; the girlfriend rising into the air and slashed by unseen knives; and bedroom walls melting into rubber as Freddy emerges from his world into the real world to stalk his prey. There's just not that much to change—and I'm not sure enhanced special effects are going to cut it. We'll find out on April 30th.
Of more interest to me is the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, coming out on DVD May 4th. Narrated by the original Nancy herself, Heather Langenkamp, it features interviews with cast and crew members of Nightmare and its sequels, behind-the-scenes footage.
The film (I quote the PR): "promises to be the definitive look at the making of the iconic horror series and the enduring legacy of its wise-cracking, razor-gloved villain: the indefatigable 'bastard son of a hundred maniacs' known as Freddy Krueger."
It's made by the same team that did last year's His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th. I love these kinds of documentaries. The best ones have some real surprises, and they're often more entertaining than going back and watching the original films.