NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, A - Blu-ray review has nothing new to say and works with an original that didn't need remaking.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

"If you die in your dreams, you die for real."

In 1998 director Gus Van Sant gave us a remake of "Psycho." I recall Van Sant saying afterward that he made the picture because, Who wanted to watch an old black-and-white film. The picture bombed. Van Sant had nothing new to say in the film, and Hitchcock's original didn't need remaking.

You'd think Hollywood would learn from its mistakes, but no. Not where there's money involved. Hollywood is a business, and you can't blame a business for doing what it's in business to do--make money. Or trying. So the remakes continue if the studios smell a profit in them, and it doesn't matter if the remakes have nothing new to say or the originals don't need remaking. This is not to suggest that some "reimaginings" don't succeed, however; Christopher Nolan's "Batman" movies and J.J. Abrams's "Star Trek" were wildly successful. But mostly, especially with horror films, they're just more of the same: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," "The Last House on the Left," the Romero zombie movies, etc. (OK, I kind of liked Zack Snyder's remake of "Dawn of the Dead, meaning there are exceptions to everything.)

And thus we come to the 2010 remake of Wes Craven's 1984 "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Like most of the horror remakes that came before it, this latest one has nothing new to say and works with an original that didn't need remaking. The new director is Samuel Bayer, whom all of you know and love, I'm sure, from his numerous music videos. The remake did so well at the box office, doubling its production costs, that the studio is making a sequel. Whether it will be an original sequel or a remake of one of the earlier sequels I have no idea. The point is the same: If a studio sees money in a project, they'll do it. That's their job. It's up to the audience to watch it or not.

Apparently there were a number of revisions to the new "Elm Street" script, which initially started as just another sequel; yet despite the keep case's back-cover blurb calling it a "contemporary reimagining of the seminal horror classic," the plot remains basically the same. As do the characters, the sets, even the costumes. Only the faces have changed, and even then it's hard to tell. Johnny Depp isn't in this one.

You remember the story: Members of a small but affluent community think Freddy Krueger, a gardener at a preschool, molested their children. The parents take the law into their own hands, dispatching Freddy by burning him to death. Years later, Freddy returns in the dreams of the children he supposedly molested; the children are now teenagers, and Freddy kills them in their dreams. But why Freddy kills the teens and not the parents who did him in is still the unanswered question. Ostensibly, it's because Freddy is ticked off at the kids for telling their parents about him, but I'm not buying it.

Jackie Earle Haley replaces Robert Englund in the remake, and even though Haley wears a ton of grotesque makeup, he's not really very scary. Indeed, Haley is scarier in the flashbacks to his former, live self. Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, and Kellan Lutz play five of the teens marked for extermination, and longtime film tough guy Clancy Brown plays a school administrator in this fairly typical dead-teenager saga.

While the leads are all supposedly in their late teens, they look as though they're in their mid twenties. That's because they are in their mid twenties, a tradition Hollywood continues with a vengeance. I suppose it's too hard to find real teen actors who aren't, you know, in school.

And speaking of schools, the high school depicted in the movie must exist in some kind of alternate universe. It's certainly like no school I've ever seen in California, anyway. The hallways and classrooms are spotless to the point of shine; the school has a huge indoor swimming pool; the male teachers dress in suits and ties; the students dress colorfully in the latest fashions; and the entire student body is white. OK, maybe it's Beverly Hills High. Who knows.

The best part of the film is the musical score by Steve Jablonsky, music that is eerie and atmospheric without being entirely clichéd. The worst part of the film is everything else. As usual, parents and adults are the real villains, and just as usual the teens don't trust them and never confide in them. In this case, they probably have ample justification. Everything we saw in the original film gets repeated here, blunted by repetition: the bloody bed scene, the wronged boyfriend, the gallons of gore. Even the titillating bathtub scene remains, although it's greatly abbreviated and lacking any tension whatsoever. It's as if the filmmakers threw it in as a joke, tongue-in-cheek.

Frankly, I had a hard time staying awake through this new "Nightmare," and on a couple of occasions I almost fell asleep. Would Freddy have come after me, too? Only my dedication to DVDTOWN readers kept me from certain death. Thanks, folks.

The New Line video engineers use a VC-1 codec and a dual-layer BD50 to reproduce the film on Blu-ray disc in its theatrical aspect ratio, 2.40:1. The picture looks about the way I remember it from the movie theater, meaning that some scenes are quite vivid, while others are quite soft. The scenes that are sharp are commendably so, and the ones that are less well focused can be downright blurred. I can only assume this is the way the filmmakers intended things to look, since it appears to have little to do with the transfer. You will also find very strong black levels to set off the colors, which are generally fine, rich and deep. However, facial tones can be a touch too intense at times.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is almost too much of a good thing, with extremely wide, powerful dynamic jolts coming out of the blue to shake a scare out of folks. At least one time during the film a big impact actually startled me, but most of the time it all seemed overdone, losing much of its element of surprise through repetition. There is also a deep bass involved that rumbles through the room too often, rattling the windows; again, too much of a good thing diminishes the desired effect. The filmmakers use the surrounds to good advantage, though, with not only eerie effects but occasionally with Freddy's laugh sounding more than a bit spooky.

The first extra on the disc is "Freddy Krueger Reborn," a fourteen-minute featurette on the making of the new movie. After that are two items exclusive to Blu-ray: a "Maniacal Movie Mode" that uses picture-in-picture inserts for the filmmakers to explore behind-the-scenes and making-of moments while you watch the movie; followed by a series of three additional scenes, including an alternate opening and ending.

Next, because this is a Combo Pack, the set includes the movie on Blu-ray disc, on a regular DVD, and in a digital copy. New Line have the bases covered.

The extras conclude with a mere ten scene selections; BD-Live access; a slipcover with a 3-D holographic picture on the front; English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken languages; French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Shots:
If this film had come out in 1984 instead of the original, it might have attained something near the same iconic cult status of the Wes Craven film. But it didn't, and there wasn't a reason to remake it. Jackie Earle Haley is a fine actor but doesn't bring the same splashy creepiness to the role that Robert Englund did (or that Englund did as the old series continued on). So, what's the point? Well, as I said earlier, the new movie made money. I guess that's the point.


Film Value