Does old Freddy still provide entertainment?

a_nightmare_on_elm_street_1984_theatrical_poster

1984:

Wes Craven’s franchise spawning slasher is perhaps the most known horror film (outside of the Exorcist) in the United States. Does it hold up? Yes, and no. At the risk of irritating all of my readers, I must confess I am not a huge fan of this film. Before presenting the negatives, it is imperative that I mention the positives. Robert Englund’s portrayal of Freddy Krueger is one of the most memorable performances in film—including other genres. He embraced the character fully, and has become the face the series.

Further, Wes Craven’s effects and directing are also top-notch. Unfortunately, issues outside of the film bled into the story. The famous changing of the ending makes most of the film seem a muddled mess. With no coherent lesson (which Craven obviously strived for) the film can’t transcend the basic slasher moorings. Truly, the good aspects of the film show how talented Craven is when faced with production limitations and a demanding studio that he is still able to crank out one of the most important films in history.

I love what this film did. The importance of it cannot be understated—something that a lot of Craven’s work can attest. Unfortunately, the last third of this film becomes a frustrating and confusing mess. We follow Nancy as she fights to stay awake lest a terrible being (Krueger) murders her while she sleeps. Well, technically Krueger murders them in their dreams, but you get my point. The actual mystery of it all isn’t as interesting as Krueger’s interactions with the terrified teens. He is a sadist, through and through, wanting nothing more than to inflict suffering unto others. His presentation is crass and often darkly funny—something that makes him one of the most likable psychotic murderers.

Venturing into spoiler territory here, so be warned. Nancy’s mom and other parents murdered Krueger to protect other children. This is fine and good, but the relationship between Nancy and her mom is nonsensical at best. Her mother begins as kind and loving, but ends the film a drunk. Why? Who knows, that’s why. My guess is here we have another instance of director/production disagreement. The mother figure changes quite abruptly within the film and this hurts the overall story.

The most obnoxious part of the film is the final act. Nancy’s decision to catch Krueger is about the only way the film could sensibly end, but the way it is done is more frustrating than exciting. The idiot cops who are literally right across the street do nothing for quite a while (all the while Nancy is screaming for help). This was done to enhance suspense, but it just seems lazy. “Hey a teenager was just murdered and now another one is screaming, let’s ignore it.”

Further hurting the film is the more or less unlikable characters. Nancy is tolerable as a protagonist, but she falls victim to the whole town thinking she is nuts rather than listening to her—a trope I hate. Her friends (particularly the first two murdered) are not likable at all. While Rod actually didn’t kill Tina, the way he is presented makes it seem like that was coming sooner or later.

Overall, the film is worth watching for the historical significance, but if it were released today people would see the flaws for what they are. Nostalgia will shield most from recognizing the issues. 7.5/10

2010:

The 2010 remake of the film has been thoroughly roasted on Rotten Tomatoes, it appears that most people loathed this version. It appears that I will once again go against the grain. I think this is one of the better remakes out there.

First off, the film suffers from a lot of the same problems as the original. Most of the characters aren’t likable. The acting is fine, but we are stuck with high schoolers who look way too old to be high schoolers. I am nit-picking here, but that drove me nuts the whole movie. Further, the entire film is shot in that toxic green lens that everything Michael Bay is involved with shares.

There are two aspects of this film that are worth celebrated. Be warned, heavy spoilers ahead. Jackie Earle Haley’s Krueger is a good adaptation. Most people thought he sucked, and if you go through any boards you will see this mentioned over and over. Haley isn’t Englund. Both add their own flavor to the role, and both do well. There, I said it, burn me down in the comments if you must. Haley adds a darker and more sinister villain due to some of the changes in the story.

Instead of being a murderer, this Krueger was a child molester before the parents banned together to burn him alive. The children he is hunting are those who turned him in to their parents. There is an odd part in the movie where it is hinted that maybe the kids made it up, only to show that no, he is really a molester later. That needless distraction simply wasted time. However, making Krueger a sexual predator makes his mannerisms and violence frightening. Some people did not like this change, and some of the boards argue that this made the film too dark. I have to scratch my head at that one. We are okay with a child murderer, but anything more than that is where we draw the line?

Despite changes in location, this film very much plays as a scene by scene remake of the original. The remake didn’t have as much of a splash, and will thus likely be forgotten in years to come. However, this does not mean it is a terrible movie. Both films have their problems. I would argue that neither are scary, but both are fun. Does it surpass the original? Certainly not in importance, but perhaps in some others. The film fulfills decent genre scares, and is worth a watch. Horror fans will at least enjoy many of the elements. 6.5/10

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