Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rethinking the Nightmare Remake

I usually try to avoid being that guy on the internet saying "if I'D written this book/movie/comic book, it would have gone like THIS and it would have been AWESOME." Anyone can do that and I at least try to keep in mind that creative industries aren't always about getting a creator's ideal vision into circulation and I also understand that sometimes people just have different ideas than I do about a character/franchise. So I TRY to avoid armchair quarterbacking, even when I'm talking about something I don't like.

But for the recent "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake, I'm going to make an exception :) Spoilers for the remake and the original abound.

Wes Craven's original movie is a classic, but there are certainly moments of sloppy execution and a great deal of undeveloped potential in it. Unlike most slasher movies, it was fueled by an incredibly original IDEA and one idea almost certainly creates tangential ideas. We've had 25 years or so to extrapolate on the core concept so the hope was in a remake that they'd produce something, while probably not better, at least a little tighter.

Unfortunately, the remake has a mound of underveloped ideas of its own.

I'm not trying to start from scratch here but I think even given the circumstances of the recent remake, there's a better movie to be made then what we ended up with. It's OK, but it could have been really good.

The crappy part is they screwed up within the first five minutes. In the original the initial scene is of Tina wandering through a boiler room, obviously frightened, then Freddy shoots up behind her and she wakes up, safe in her own bed. We really didn't have a clue what was going on. In the remake, in the very first scene we meet all the major players and then one of them has his throat slit by Freddy, right there in front of his girlfriend.

Where do the characters go from there? It's this impatience -- that horror movies have to have a kill before the opening sequence is over -- that really hamstrung this remake. In killing the guy off immediately, the characters don't have any ability to interact with any sort of range. They're deeply disturbed and freaked out from the outset so all they can do is look somberly at one another for the rest of the movie. Now the original had an element of surprise in that no one really knew the premise or the characters. The remake doesn't have that and surprise is essential to horror working. The original still allowed the protagonists time to be three dimensional and to laugh and to be engaging. For the first fifteen minutes or so, Tina just had a bad dream, for all we knew it could have foreshadowed a lot of different things. Until she did in the dream, we didn't really know that was where the movie was going to go. Even without the surprise of fans not knowing the premise for the remake, there was still time, if they didn't kill someone in the prologue, to let the kids interact more and let Freddy percolate a little bit before he finally delivered that first kill. It also would have allowed the kids more time to start putting together the notion of the shared dream.
To a lot of people, the most memorable and harrowing sequence in the original is the death of Tina, the first death when she's in bed, then in a nightmare, then it cuts back to the bedroom where we watch her get cut wide open by an unseen Freddy. It was shocking because we didn't have any idea where this movie was going and because Craven set Tina up as the protagonist. When she got ripped open it was a wonderful horror thrill. The remake, in interviews and the trailers, promised a recreation of that scene and tried to deliver it. But it didn't work as because it was predictable and ultimately underwhelming. That's not the actress's fault, I actually thought Katie Cassidy was a very strong presence in the movie (and was also strong in the generally disliked remake of "Black Christmas,") even though she wasn't given much to do, other than hang around and die.

My idea for her would have been slightly different. Let's accept we're going to kill her the same way, she's going to fall asleep, walk through a nightmare and Freddy's going to tear her apart and through her around the room. The writers already sort of screwed up the Nancy character anyway, by making her mousey and artsy. Not that it couldn't have worked, it just didn't. Still, Nancy is the only one who believes Kris when Kris says there's something crazy going on at the funeral in the remake. Why didn't she go to Nancy's house later and why didn't they talk about Freddy? Instead Kris just goes home and, again, waits around for Freddy to find her so they could try to remake the bed scene from the original.

So move the bed death to the end of the second act, basically to where Johnny Depp got sucked into the bed in the original. You want a final death to push Nancy to make her final attack on Freddy, so use this one. The Nancy/Quentin boyfriend/girlfriend relationship was pretty shoddy in the remake anyway. So make Kris (the Tina character) the one fighting to stay awake, make her the one doing all the desperate things to stay awake. She KNOWS what's going to happen when she falls asleep. Still do the teases with her drifting in and out of sleep and running into Freddy and escaping. Make the dread come from both she and Freddy knowing at some point or another she's going to fall asleep and not going to be able to get away. She knows it, he knows it and WE know it. All any of us can do is wait.

As the other kids start dropping around her, it gets worse and worse, then at some point ... she gives up. She can't take it anymore so she sits at home quietly, lays in bed and just goes to sleep. Meanwhile Nancy's trying to get answers, trying to figure out who and what Freddy is. But, here's the thing: I wouldn't show anything. We see her go to sleep, then we let the music start to do the work. I'm talking some seriously sad music, very quiet. A couple Freddy scratches cut through the air, we see the sleeping girl react. If we're being particularly melodramatic, a tear could slide down her sleeping cheek. We go to slow motion as she raises up off the bed. It's possible we're cutting between Kris dying in slow motion to Nancy learning something important about Freddy, but realizing she's learning it too late to save her friend. Again, slowly we see the cuts tear across Kris and see her fly across the room, before she finally slumps back on the bed, bloody and dead.

I think it would be a pretty tragic scene. I know I harp endlessly that horror movies need to be more sad, more than anything, but I think this would have worked pretty well. It would have delivered a scene from the original people were waiting for but in a new way that would have added to the story and built off what we already know about the situation coming into the movie.

There's also a lot of awkwardness in the remake about the parents. The original at least gave the parents the strength of their convictions: they hunted Freddy down and took care of him when the justice system failed them. And then they went back to their lives with only a dirty secret between them. The remake implied that the parents didn't really MEAN to kill Freddy, they were just trying to smoke him out of a hiding place. That doesn't work. The story is about evil (Freddy) begatting evil (the parents becoming vigilantes) begatting EVEN WORSE EVIL (Freddy coming back from the dead to kill the children of the parents who killed him.) The kids are completely innocent and are paying for their parents's crimes. That's pretty hardcore.

The remake's really sloppy with the parents. I realize they probably didn't have a lot of movie time to dedicate to parents debating their past actions but the time they DO give to it is pretty unsatisfying. What the movie says is that the parents accidentally killed Freddy and then decided to have their children never discuss their childhoods or ever remember their time with Freddy, who the remake says molested them (in the original he killed the kids, the molestation is implied by circumstance but never clearly mentioned.) Regardless, when the first child dies the family had pictures of him at the funeral, including pictures of him with the other kids Freddy got to, although, in their minds they didn't meet until high school. It's not unworkable conceptually: the parents killed Freddy and vowed to their kids would forget it ever happened, getting rid of pictures of them together. We can also assume the city had a couple grade schools and you can move kids around to keep them from being in school together. The movie says they were five at the time and, let's be honest, I don't really remember anyone from my kindergarten class, other than the kids I stayed with through grade school. I even get why the mother of the dead teen might want to show pictures from when her son was young with his friends. But DISCUSS it in the movie.

Keep in mind: there's no reason for the parents to think the guy's death was anything but an unusually violent suicide. The kids know better but the parents don't, that's pretty common in horror. So at that funeral, the parents should have some sort of issue with that family having pictures of the children together, pictures they've tried to keep from the children for a long time. And why does Kris's mother keep the old pictures and her daughter's slashed dress? They were in the garage, it's not like Kris found a secret room where they were kept. Honestly, it felt like that stuff was left around because it gave the writers a trail of exposition to let the characters sniff. I liked that the movie let Nancy's mother suggest that the reason the kids were all dreaming about the same boogeyman was due to repressed memories. But I think there could have been a stronger moment or two of follow-up with the parents as well. They had two particularly strong actors, Connie Britton and Clancy Smith, to work with as the main parents. They were woefully underused.

I like that a couple of the families moved away and that Freddy got them too. I never especially loved the notion that Freddy was tied directly to Springwood. I like that as a theme for slasher horror, though, but I never bought that if someone left Springwood that Freddy wouldn't find them. Isn't that the point of his existing in the dreamscape? You can't escape him.

Rooney Mara was a pretty unremarkable Nancy but I don't blame her. In fact, she's very charismatic in a small role in "The Social Network." But the "Nightmare" remake reduced her to a sort of mousey art student who never really went after Freddy the way Nancy did in the original. She went looking for answers, sure, but in the original she definitely went to take the fight to Freddy. It didn't help Mara that the final scenes with Freddy pretty much reduced her to a victim in terms of his means of attacking her. In the original, the final showdown was as straight-forward a fight as you'll see, Nancy took it to Freddy and put him on the run. I think the remake tried to be too clever with getting Nancy out of the dream, and needing her boyfriend to do so. I'm not against a boyfriend saving the day sometimes, but I don't think Nancy was strong enough. At first I thought Nancy was quiet but was going to bloom as the movie went on -- predictable, yes, but it seemed the only useful reason to make her so waif-like. But she really never really got to be aggressive or on the offensive. In fact, Freddy played her and Quentin for fools the entire time when he lured them to his lair. They thought they were going to be proven right but he just wanted to prove them wrong.

Which brings me to the most glaring mistake the remake made: the notion that Quentin doubted whether or not Freddy was really guilty of the crimes the children accused him of. It just didn't work as a red herring because, come on, it's FREDDY KRUEGER, everyone knows he's guilty of everything, otherwise we wouldn't be watching "A Nightmare On Elm Street." Had the filmmakers gone through with it and said Freddy was on the revenge mission because he was falsely accused of molesting a bunch of kids wouldn't have worked either. You aren't going to sell that Freddy Krueger is anything but the boogeyman so why bother. It wasted a lot of time that could have been spent building up the characters, both young and old and making the horrors and dream traps more frightening. Stick to the basic origin, the monologue Marge gave in the original.

One thing l obsessively liked about the original was how the first couple murders could be justified in reality. Rod killed Tina, then Tina killed herself. It takes that notion of the parents not understanding what was going on and amplified it. Same with Nancy almost drowning in the tub. Any kid can drown in the tub. Sure, it lost its wheels a bit when Glen got sucked into the bed and the whole geiser of blood but keep in mind: it's possible all of that happened in Nancy's dream and there were also scenes shot of Glen coming out of and then collapsing on the bed that were shot but ultimately not used. It's possible the geiser of blood could have been a dreamed exaggeration. Nevertheless, the remake tried to imply that Kris's boyfriend killed her, then got arrested for it and died in prison but his death in prison was bloody and violent and lacked the cleverness of Freddy hanging him so that it would look like a suicide.

There are a couple ways to look at it. It's reasonable to suggest Freddy would WANT the parents to know he was back, killing their children but the mythology initially seems to keep him in the children's dreams. You could also say that in making it look like they're killing each other that Freddy's letting the parents know that they've failed to protect them again, just like they did when he was alive. It's petty but it still sort of works. If Freddy really wanted the parents to suffer, getting to watch the families fall apart as their kids die and turn on each other would probably be entertaining. No reason a parent couldn't eventually believe that Freddy is haunting the children and take their own life, convinced they've ruined their own life and the lives of their children. It could've been a pretty damning moment.

I generally thought the "Nightmare" remake was OK. I get why people hated it. But it frustrates me because even further developing these little things that were right there would have made for a better movie, a scarier, sadder, more emotionally taut horror movie.

People still might've bitched about it, of coursre, but I wouldn't have been one of them :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010

Let's be obvious right out of the gate: no Freddy Krueger movie is ever going to be anything like the original movie that shot life into a bored horror market and created a mythos and boogeyman that became a part of pop culture. It doesn't happen often and it certainly doesn't happen AGAIN.

In doing a remake of "Nightmare" instead of making another sequel, the filmmakers for this movie have added an insurmountable weight to their movie. We can forgive another Freddy movie for its excesses, for its banality, for it's lack of originality, but when you say you're going to retell Craven's story, then you're telling people to compare it and you're saying that you are telling THAT story and, in some ways, you're telling people you're going to tell it better.

Which is never going to happen. And which doesn't happen.

This isn't a terrible "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie and I can admire the notion of wanting to strip away a lot of the baggage and continuity that had been added to the basic concept over the years. Yes, absolutely, get Freddy back down to the core concept: Freddy haunting the children of the parents who burned him to death when he was alive. That concept is so simple, so is the concept of kids dying in their nightmares.

Simplifying the concept is good but I can't say the remake is able to deliver the basic horrors of the movie it's trying to remake. It's partially impossible, of course, you can't surprise people twice. As all these sequels of all these movies have shown. What is surprising once is an expectation the second time and while you can creep people out over and over, you can't recreate that feeling of people going to a movie and not really knowing what to expect, finding themselves nailed to the wall by a truly terrifying movie. "Halloween" did that; "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" did that and "A Nightmare On Elm Street" did that.

So in remaking "Nightmare" the filmmakers found themselves with an impossible task and it feels like a movie where they felt recreating moments from the original, with a new twist, was the way to go. I can't say any of the recreated scenes added much this time around. You can NOT recreate the sheer terror of Tina's bloody and violent death in the revolving room from the original. The same scene here is quick and ultimately not frightening. It works only to churn the story forward and as a wink to fans there to see the same scene. The bath tub scene is there, the scene where Freddy comes through the wall is there, but it doesn't have any weight.

The original builds to the first death, creating that tension but being patient enough to pay it off. This movie, like all horror movies these days, has to have a kill in the prologue which evaporates that fear of when it's going to hit the fan that great horror movies that slowly burn are able to do.

I do like the sense in this movie that the kids work together to start putting things together. That IS an underdeveloped notion in the first movie -- they're all dreaming about the same boogeyman and that would be more than weird. It would be terrifying, especially when the first character dies.

Since this movie is more about Freddy Krueger (he does get top billing after all,) his origin is more thickly explored in this movie. In the cut footage from the first movie there's a line when Marge tells Nancy the story of Freddy where she says all the kids in the story had older brothers and sisters who died at Freddy's hands. I don't think it added much to the story. In this movie they take it a bit further ... they make Freddy a child molester, rather than a child killer, and make the kids in this movie those victims all grown up. I can't say much of it works. Yes, it's much creepier to make Freddy a child molester. It's much nastier. But if the parents worked as hard as they did to keep the memories of their children repressed, I can't see why it works that they all basically stayed in the same community and let the kids come back together later.

I do like that at first Nancy's mother is content to tell the story of the molestation as the reason for the joint nightmares -- and she leaves out the fact that the parents killed Freddy, but we know she's lying, which is cool. But the movie doesn't follow up with a strong enough reason to reveal the parents were the ones who killed Freddy. He just reveals it to Quentin, one of the boys, but it doesn't add much more than was already there. And besides, we already knew they killed him, it was in the trailer for Pete's sake, don't try to surprise people with stuff everyone already knows.

Speaking of that tweaked origin, I hate the idea that the parents weren't trying to kill Freddy, that they were just trying to smoke him out of his hiding place but the fire got out of control. To me, "Nightmare" is a story about one evil creating another creating another and to give the parents an out took away from a lot of the power of Freddy's origin. The parents created him and their children, the ones they were trying to protect, became the ones who paid for their crimes. That's a little bit lost here.

Jesus, this is running long ...

It's a nearly impossible task to make victims in horror movies into good characters. It's a lot of luck and the one thing that separates the good horror movies from the bad is the ability from the filmmakers to generate legitmate interest and sympathy in the protagonists. No one goes to a "Friday the 13th" movie caring who lives and who dies. It's a fine line -- if you spend time developing lame characters, the movie's going to be boring but if you don't develop them, there's no tension. The original works because it has four different, charismatic performers playing characters that are smart enough that we think they might survive. Sure, one of those performers has the advantage of being Johnny Depp. Part of that is Wes Craven's masterful move of setting up the Tina character played by Amanda Wyss as the protagonist, only to have her be the first killed (a trick he would play more obviously in the infamous first scene in "Scream.")

The main character in "Nightmare" is Nancy, the girl strong enough to learn Freddy's game and then beat him at it. In the original she traps Freddy, tricks HIM into making himself vulnerable and then drives him off. This movie doesn't quite have that same dynamic. Nancy's there in name and nothing against the actress but she's given a character who starts off mousey, who is made into a molestation victim instead of being made into a powerful heroine. In the original, Nancy VOWS to take Freddy out when he ruins her life and she goes after him. In this, she wants to take Freddy out and tries to get him but at that moment of climax, really wants her boyfriend to be there to finish Freddy off. It's not quite as empowering.

Katie Cassidy, an actress I like from the generally forgettable "Black Christmas" remake, plays the Tina role. In the original we see Tina as a pretty girl with a bad boy girlfriend and a fairly trashy mom. In this, Kris (as she's now dubbed) has a REALLY nice life (apparently her mother is the wealthiest flight attendant in the world given how well they seem to be living) but isn't given much to do, other than die. They keep the basic idea that she dies in a room alone with her boyfriend who is then blamed for the crime. In the original, Amanda Wyss seemed like a pretty normal girl who has friends over because she's afraid of her dreams. But Kris KNOWS something else is going on but doesn't seem to do much or talk about it much. In fact, when Nancy says she does know what's going on, it's not followed up on at all by Kris. Her boyfriend, after Kris's death is the one who confronts Nancy about it. Kris in this movie is TERRIFIED of her dreams and knows she might die in them ... but then just sort of goes to sleep alone when her mother goes away without even inviting a friend over.

This flick also tries to give the parents a little more time. This is also stuff Craven filmed but ultimately cut from his original movie. As I mentioned, I liked the notion that the parents would explain to the kids that Freddy was a molester as an explanation for the group nightmares, for them knowing who he is and for his name being something they don't want discussed. But even using very credible performers in Connie Britton and Clancy Brown, the material doesn't give them the strength they need to be convincing as two people who saw a monster and fought it, although in a far more real. But, again, cutting the parents discussing what happened gave Craven the time to put the emphasis on his heroine, rather than on the backstory that was handled in that one simple monologue in the basement of the Thompson house.

And that leaves us Freddy Krueger. An icon when played by Robert Englund, he is replaced by most people's choice to play the role: Jackie Earl Haley. The filmmakers stripped away the cartoonisness that had overwhelmed the character and gotten him back down to his creepy roots. Haley's fine in the role, really he's only hampered by the filmmakers' insistence on shooting cliched horror scares, lots of jumps and loud clangs of musical score, instead of letting it feel like Freddy is setting traps and playing with his food once he knows it's caught. Haley is certainly creepy but he still only deals in quick bursts of dialogue and the make-up seems very stiff, to the point that he can't show any expression on his burned face. Freddy as played by Englund was a vibrant character, as played by Haley he's almost too subdued and stiff. A noble intent to make Freddy more frightening but a middle ground feels lost.

Horror movies today are in a bit of a lull but everything's shot about the same way. Most great horror movies were made by young, hungry directors trying to make a movie under generally adverse conditions. While the director of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is fairly unknown, there's no sense of creative adventure in this movie. There's obviously enough money, the effects are obviously slick and everything seems prceisely thought out and planned. But that gut primal horror is lost. The original is at times a sloppy movie, not everything works perfectly, there are moments of inconsistency in the performances as well as the mythos -- it's anything but slick. But the high points are so terrifying and Craven has such a strong idea and such a strong eye for talent that it works. This ends up feeling very corporate and very dry. It doesn't have much build because instead of not knowing what's going to happen next, we're pretty sure what's going to happen next and the additions to the story don't make it better or make it more unpredictable, it's just a different bit of exposition.

I'm all for continuing "Nightmare on Elm Street" stories. This remake of the original will never hold a candle to the classic it's trying to retell. This same movie as another Freddy movie -- with a new group of kids simply trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of Freddy Krueger, would have played well. But in trying to say they were retelling that iconic, original story, the filmmakers put themselves in a hole they could never escape.

They made a decent Freddy movie, but are trying to say it's the classic story.

There's only one "A Nightmare On Elm Street."

There are, however, a lot of sequels. And this movie is a decent one of those.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: A Boy Starts To Become A Man

"A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge" was the first R-rated movie I saw in a theater. My dad took me and a friend, bought us tickets ... and then promptly found something better to do with the next 90 minutes of his life while we watched the movie.

It was an important step in my growth toward manhood (a growth I hope to one day finish) because my brother had made a similar leap when the folks let him and a friend see "Halloween 2" unattended a couple years previous.

(To this day, Phil's the "Halloween" fanatic and I'm the "Nightmare" fanatic. I'm sure it all goes into one of those parental 'if we'd known then ....' files!)

The funny thing about horror back when I was young was, while I watched it obsessively, it also sincerely scared the piss out of me and I was pretty much afraid of the dark until I was um, as old as I am now. But even in junior high, the notion of staying home at night or laying in bed in the dark technically speaking, scared me to dead. As in, I checked under the bed and in the closets just to be sure there were no monsters/slashers in there. (Which begs the question, assuming Michael Meyers WAS in my closet waiting to strike, what did I hope to accomplish by verifying that before I turned off the light? But I digress ... )

"Nightmare 2" is not a good movie.

But it has a pretty cool opening five minutes:

If you prefer, the opening five minutes .... in GERMAN:

"Nightmare 2's" problems start with the producers having the bright idea of putting a dude in as the main protagonist ... and then having him scream like a girl throughout most of it.

In fact, the most famous scene in "Nightmare 2" (the 'you've got the body, I've got the brains' scene) points out the movies biggest problems, a) the guy screams like a girl and b) Freddy is intent on pushing through to the real world, which doesn't make any sense.

The crux of "Freddy's Revenge" is that he wants to use the protagonist, Jesse, so he can possess his body and burst forth into the real world. The problem is bursting forth into the real world is what makes Freddy vulnerable and tends to send him back to the dreamscape where all he can do is wait around for new teenagers to conjure him. So the entire movie is built around a concept that doesn't make any sense.

As much as people joke that the problem with horror movies is that we tend to root for the killer, "Nightmare 2" is one of those movies where we REALLY root for the killer. We have scream queen Jesse as the male lead, his sort of homely and whiny girlfriend and their two more sexual but completely pointless friends, all of whom are nothing but Freddy fodder. In fact, the best part of "Nightmare 2" is when Freddy does burst forth into the real world and starts mowing through the entire high school population of Springwood with blatant disregard.

God, the first part of this scene is terrible, with Lisa's bad acting and the lame 'possessed person speaks from inside the monster' schtick. But love the shot at1:48 when Freddy waits for her to turn around so he can see her knock shit off her shelves and then at 3:57 when Freddy takes the time to knock the flowers off the table. If he can't kill people, Freddy's at least going to break some shit.

Of course by the end Jesse and Lisa survive and Freddy is vanquished and they all live happily ever after ... luckily, not in future "Nightmare" movies.

Oh, and after the movie my friend and I were telling my dad about the movie, especially about Freddy possessing Jesse to which my dad said 'if Freddy possessed me I'd take a bunch of Ex-Lax and crap him out.'

Yeah, I get my sense of humor from my dad.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Cut Scenes

There are a good amount of deleted scenes from the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" on Youtube. Most of these were available either on the recent inifinitfilm edition or an old two-TAPE version that came out in the 90's (which almost certainly was on a laser disc edition at some point or another.) Not much of it has properly mixed sound but there's some interesting stuff along the way.

A different take on Tina's first encounter with Freddy:

It's tough to say this would have been as effective as what they used. The movie used more of a slow reveal, whereas this seems a little too quick. But most of the shots they kept are in there.

Another take on Nancy's final speech to Freddy:

A little too short and not very good. Interesting that they hadn't done any doctoring on Freddy's voice yet. The speech in the movie is better by far.

An interesting scene with Glen and Nancy's fathers, talking about the possibility that Freddy's the killer.

I can see why they cut stuff like this. Particularly after Glen's death, which is deep into the movie, having the parents becoming more aware of the possibility that the killer could be Freddy doesn't add much. It's Nancy's story at this point.

Similarly, Nancy's parents discuss the possibility of what's happening at Rod's funeral.

Way too early in the flick for the parents to be onto something. What makes part one so cool is the plausiblilty that Rod killed Tina and then killed himself, without it being even reasonable that something else was going on. And, again, in a movie like this, you want the heroine to figure stuff out, not her parents.

An extended version of Rod's death, was some bad teen angst drama between Nancy and her father.

"You've already rubbed my nose in sex and drugs now don't start with insanity." That line was best left on the cutting room floor, I say.

And the two shots everyone wants when they look for cut scenes from "Nightmare..."

Extension of Glen's death including the body coming up after the blood geyser (and Nancy screaming 'I'm AWAKE' after the phone tries to suck face with her ...)

And the alternate ending with Freddy driving the car:

There's more stuff here and there if you peruse YouTube of course ...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Early Memories

"A Nightmare On Elm Street" is my favorite movie. Ever. It's not even close. It's not only the main reason I'm a big horror geek, it's pretty much the reason I'm a movie geek. I can't say it's the reason I'm a geek overall because I was probably meant to be that from the getgo.

But, for me, just as some people are with "Star Trek" and "Star Wars," I'm all about the "Nightmare" movies. "Freddy's Revenge" was the first R-movie I ever saw in the theater, after I talked my dad into buying tickets for me and a friend.

As most people know, the remake of "Nightmare" opens this coming Friday, April 30. In preparation, I'll probably be talking about the movies pretty much all this week.

Now, it would be easy to just pull the famous screen captures from the original and talk about how awesome it is. But who wants to read more of that? It's an amazing movie, one that set a new standard for horror and one that, to this day, holds up as a pretty good scare, despite some moments here and there that come off a little cheesy, mostly due to the limits of their budget or some mid 80's musical styles that seem dated.

I first saw "Nightmare" at my good friend Mike Rabaa's house. He was having a party with friends and his older sister was having one the same night. It must've been 1985 so we're looking at 7th grade, I think. The thing is: the first time I saw "Nightmare" I missed the beginning. Mike had one of those new-fangled computers and some of us were playing games on that rather than watch the scary movies his mother had rented for everyone to watch.

So the first shot of "Nightmare" is this, Freddy building the first of his razor gloves:



Then we get the original logo:


Then we roll to Tina's first nightmare which features her wandering through the boiler room and being scared by not only Freddy Krueger but also ...


Apparently Tina was afraid of sheep. Or goats. Whichever one it is.

Then Freddy jumps out from behind Tina and she wakes up screaming. Thus, the tone is set.


But, as I said, the first time I watched the movie I missed all that. I didn't come into the room until a later scene, which is actually pretty famous. The first shot I saw was the famous "Hey, Nancy, no running in the hallway..." moment.


This lead to one of my favorite images in "Nightmare," that being Freddy taunting Nancy by going into Rod Lane's prison cell and showing her what he's doing to her. At this point, Freddy was different in that he was taunting his prey. Unlike Michael Meyers and Jason Voorhees, Freddy played with his food while they were content to just stalk their victims and then slice them up once they cornered them.


What's funny about "Nightmare" is the amount of knowing glances the characters throw around when Nancy talks about the man in her dreams.

First, Glen knows:


(There's an odd bit of untapped story with Glen in that while he gives this knowing glance when Nancy describes Freddy, there are other occasions where he points out that he hasn't had a nightmare at all. So why isn't Freddy stalking Glen with the same vigor that he's stalking the other three? Anyway ... )

At Rod's funeral, Rod's father and Nancy's father know:


(For added drama this shot is when the priest doing the funeral goes over the 'he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword' stuff.)

Later, Nancy's father knows AGAIN:


And her mother Marge ALSO knows:


Speaking of Marge, there's also a version of her speech to Nancy telling Freddy's story where she says that the four kids tormented in "Nightmare" all had brothers and sisters that Freddy killed while he was alive. To me, it's a little too on point to add that to the story and I think it adds to the darkness of the piece to leave that out and just have the parents pushed over the brink back in those days and now the kids are paying the price of it.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll go through more of the deleted scenes and images from the first movie.

Or I'll talk about the second movie, which isn't very good!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Nightmare On Elm Street: Still Comparisons

I found some more stills from the upcoming "Nightmare On Elm Street" remake and thought I'd put up some comparison shots between the original flick and what I presume to be the same scenes in the remake.

Obviously, there could be some sleight of hand but the producers do seem to be releasing some of the more iconic images to the public.

(I took the pictures from either or I forget which. Maybe both.)

Tina rising from the bed as Freddy kills her unseen in 1984:



And Kris presumably meeting the same fate in 2010:



Dead Tina in the hallway:


Dead Kris in the hallway:


One of "Nightmare's" most famous shots, Nancy in the tub with Freddy's incredibly sexually subtextual glove coming up between her legs, from 1984:


And Freddy making the same subtle point in 2010:


Freddy coming out of the wall about Nancy in 1984:


Freddy coming out of the wall in 2010:


Freddy corners Nancy in the boiler room in 1984:


Freddy (presumably) corners Nancy in the boiler room in 2010:


I REALLY like most of these images. Seriously. I think there's going to be a swerve or two and my gut says since so many images of Kris/Tina dying in the revolving room are being released that I think there's a chance she may not die that way for real. There are other shots of her being hounded by Freddy in a classroom so it's possible she could die there.

So keep counting down to April 30!!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Nightmare On Elm Street Stills

Some new stills from the forthcoming "Nightmare On Elm Street" remake.

Katie Cassidy being led to her doom:


Katie's playing the Tina role from the original, which means she becomes very dead, very early. Also of note, one thing about the original that's so great is the first ten minutes or so are ALL about Tina, to the point it feels like the movie is about her, making her sudden and violent death all the more frightening. It's an idea Craven has expoited frequently in his career, most notably in the infamous Drew Barrymore scene in "Scream," where the most famous actress in the cast was elminiated before the opening credits, thus putting the audience on edge the rest of the night.

Katie Cassidy's not an incredibly well-known actress, she's on "Melrose Place" (and survived the remake of "Black Christmas") but compared to her co-stars, she has the most star power.

She's apparently not so big a star that she can't get drug covered in blood in a body bag through a school of course:


This is pretty similar to the original as well when Nancy is haunted by dreams of Tina throwing up a centipede and being drug through the school in a body bag. That scene is also Nancy's first on camera interaction with Freddy and where she also outsmarts him, setting her up as the Girl Most Likely To Survive.

It seems the kid playing the role similar to Rod Lane meets a more vivid fate that Rod did while in prison. Rod was hanged, this seems a bit more visceral.


This is probably Nancy being trailed by a somewhat evil-looking version of her boyfriend. The guy is clearly not Johnny Depp.


This is interesting in that it could be just a new scene or it could be a riff on the scene in the original when Nancy asks Glenn (played by Depp) to watch her while she goes looking for Freddy in her dream.

And here's said boyfriend crying like a wee girl. Pussy.


Still, most everything from this remake looks spot-on. Find out for sure on April 30!