Friday, April 30, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

What to think about the remake of 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street, released today in theatres? On the one hand, the original film, and the franchise it spawned, remain quintessential 1980s popular culture, forever entrenched in the minds of those who knew them then. If you were a child of the 1980s, but too young to sneak into an R-rated movie at the theatres, it was the perfect video rental (particularly, or perhaps only, if you were crashing at the home of a friend with cool parents). On the other hand, the films are, by today's standards, dated, and as the original franchise evolved, it aimed more at campy gross-out humor than fright, suggesting that a new direction and tone may be welcome. Certainly, cinema-goers have become more sophisticated in the past two and a half decades, and what might have frightened an audience in the halcyon days of the 1980s might no longer scare their modern day counterparts in 2010. (An interesting aside: Does that issue, in and of itself, forgive the producers of a horror movie remake?) Whatever the case, the original film does not seem immune from a remake.

The original film was written and directed by Wes Craven, and starred Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, and a young Johnny Depp, as Glen Lantz, Nancy's boyfriend. The remake stars Jackie Earle Haley as Krueger and Rooney Mara as Nancy. (Mara was born after the release of the original 1984 film). Haley is actually an interesting choice, and one that makes me suspect that the remake might not be all bad. Haley was wonderfully creepy in 2006's Little Children, and he, as Rorschach, was one of the few good things about last year's adaptation of Watchmen. Maybe it's Netflix queue-worthy.

As an aside, the original franchise did attempt a change in tone with 1994's Wes Craven's New Nightmare, a film with an interesting twist: It takes place in the real world and follows the exploits of the cast of the original film, including Englund (who plays both himself and Freddy Krueger), Langenkamp (as herself), John Saxon (who plays himself, the actor who was Nancy's police officer father), and even Craven himself. How postmodern is that?

As for the remake, released today, we reserve judgment.

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