Sick of remakes yet? I sure am, especially in the horror genre. Most of the time, they remake films that were great to begin with, which boggles my mind. I mean, how about taking a film that had flaws, and doing a better version of the story instead? Anyway, this week's slasherfest is the recent remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, replacing Robert Englund with Jackie Earle Haley as the iconic Freddy Krueger. How is it? Well, strap in, get ready for a buttload of SPOILERS, and let's see what we've got.
The film opens with several shots of children playing in a schoolyard. Most of the cast is the usual CW "teen soap"-type crowd, but there's also Connie Britton and Clancy Brown, so this thing might actually be good. Oh, and Thomas Dekker, from the show "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is in this as well. Wow, is that optimism in my voice?
Anyway, the film starts off in a diner, which seems like something that was used in every other movie in the series, not to mention Craven's show "Nightmare Cafe". This guy Dean is drinking coffee, and the only waitress working looks like she could care less. When he asks for more coffee, she walks right on by. Dean gets up to ask again, and she's seemingly vanished.
Well, if that were the end of that, there'd be no movie, right? Dean decides to look for the waitress, and when he moves behind the counter and goes exploring in the kitchen, we get or first brief glimpse of Freddy sneaking up behind the kid. Freddy makes a noise, the kid turns, and when Freddy starts to slash at the kid, he wakes up to find the waitress, Nancy, staring at him. When he looks down at his hand, there's a nasty gash across his palm. Dean grabs some napkins and starts dabbing at the blood.
This leads into an introduction to Dean's girlfriend, Kris. She asks Nancy about Dean, then quickly sits with him to try to figure out why he's so agitated. Nancy, meanwhile, is busy settling the check with some other teens, Quentin, Jesse and a third kid whose name I didn't catch. Jesse seems pretty interested in the conversation between Dean and Kris, and Quentin tells Nancy that it's because Jesse used to go out with Kris. Damn, we're less than 7 minutes in, and I already feel like I need a cheat-sheet to follow all these characters! Was the original this complicated? Because I remember it being fairly straight-forward.
Anyway, where the heck was I? Oh yeah, the soap opera love-lives of teens in horror remakes. Yeesh. Well, Dean opens up to Kris, telling her that he's been seeing a shrink. That's where his nightmares originated, because the shrink insisted that he should delve into his past to figure out why he seems so troubled. While Dean is explaining all of this, he spills his coffee on Kris, so she gets up to use the restroom.
Bored, Dean begins playing with the silverware on the table. He zones out for a second, then rubs his eyes when he realizes how tired he is. Without warnig, Freddy grabs him from behind, which actually made me jump. Dean tells Freddy that he isn't real, and Freddy enigmatically responds, "I am now."
By this time, Kris has returned from the bathroom. From her perspective, Dean is holding the knife at his own throat, she can't see Freddy at all. She watches as Dean cuts his own throat open, then we get the title screen. Nice.
At Dean's funeral, they get a crowd of hundreds. Kris watches as a young girl throws a rose into the open grave, but it becomes a nightmare, and she realizes that she dozed off at the funeral. Jesse approaches Kris at a collage of Dean's childhood photos, and they start talking. She asks him about what Dean was saying when he died,what sort of trouble he was in and so on, but he refuses to fill in any of the blanks. When Nancy interrupts to say that she knew some of the stuff that had been bothering Dean, Jesse lashes out at both of the girls and walks away with Kris.
Later that same evening, Nancy is listening to some music with earpieces in, and closes her eyes. The wall behind her bed ripples, and Freddy pushes through, right above her. As he flexes his knife-gloved hand, she snaps out of it with a start. She looks around uneasily, but there's no sign of Fredy anywhere.
Kris is also awake, looking through old photo albums. A picture of her and Dean as children was part of the graveside collage, but she can't remember knowing him at such a young age. Even stranger still, no photos in the album show her as a very young child. There are places in the albums where pictures were removed, but Kris is told by her mother that they were probably just stored in the attic.
When Kris goes to bed that night, she waits for everyone else to settle in so that she can start looking for the missing pictures. She heads to the garage and climbs up to the attic. The attic is spotless, probably cleaner than the house itself, which seems kind of kooky. It doesn't take long for Kris to find a series of boxes, each one clearly marked with a name, year, and school grade she was in that year.
In one box, she finds some stuff from before she was in school, which would be around the time period of the photo at the funeral. Inside the box she finds a disheveled doll, a slashed blue dress, and a few other items. Then the lights go out. When Kris stands up, Freddy leaps on top of her. He asks if she remembers him, and she screams and wakes up in her bedroom.
The next day at school, Quentin sees Nancy put a grotesque sketch into her locker. He asks her about it, and even offers her a shoulder to lean on if she should ever ned to talk, but his father, a teacher, interrupts the conversation. They both go to class without any further discussion.
In some type of ancient history class, Kris dozes off while reading her textbook. A rather nifty transition occurs, where the clasroom is covered in ashes. Freddy admonishes Kris about sleeping through her classes, and she rushes out the door, only to re-emerge back into the room she had just left. Frightened now, she asks Freddy who he is. He responds by creeping toward her and telling her that she is as beautiful as ever. Ewwwwww...He leaps at her, and Kris wakes up screaming. In her open textbook is a lock of hair that Freddy lopped off before she woke herself up. Jesse tries to catch up with Kris after class, but she rushes down the hall.
She drives home as quickly as her car will take her, and finds Rufus, her dog, waiting outside for her. Kris wanders back into the garage, but her mother reaches her before she can get back into the attic. Mom, a flight attendant, is working a late flight, and won't be home until the following day. Gosh, what's the worst that could happen?
Being the lunkheaded ditz that she is, Kris nearly goes narcoleptic AGAIN while reading the newspaper. Geez, this chick obviously has a deathwish, Freddy, what are you waiting for??? A sudden movement at her bedroom window startles her awake again, but it's only Jesse. He tells her that he's been petty and jealous, but wants to know what happened to Dean as much as she does.
Kris tells him about her recent nightmares, and her belief that Dean was having them too. She starts to describe Freddy, and Jesse finishes the details, confirming that he's been having the exact same nightmares. They make a pact to keep each other awake all night.
Kris wakes up in the middle of the night. D'oh! She gets up to look for Rufus, and eventually wanders outside. She finds the dog mutilated, and Freddy laughs and tells her that he was just petting it. She jogs back into the house, and the interior changes into a school. A little girl grabs her by the hand, urging her to find a hiding place. They run past some open classrooms where ghost-children are doing the infamous "One, two, Freddy's coming for you..." chant, and stop in front of a class where Freddy himself has been waiting. He threatens Kris, and she wakes up in her own bed again. As she tries to calm down, Freddy pins her down in the bed and strikes.
Jesse sees her body convulsing, and assumes that Kris is having some type of seizure at first. When her body starts to levitate, then flies around from wall to wall like a pinball, he quickly realizes that her nightmares are killing her. Helpless and unable to wake Kris up, Jesse watches her slam into the ceiling, sees her shirt and abdomen rip open, and she bleeds to death right before his eyes. Traumatized, he grabs his clothes and escapes the house, tripping the burglar alarm in the process. A neighbor sees Jesse with blood on his clothes, and threatens to call the cops.
Nancy is still awake, working on one of her pictures, when her mom comes in and orders her to go to bed. She continues her drawing, but is grabbed from behind by Jesse. When she sees the blood on him and hears him rambling about how Kris just died in her sleep, she naturally assumes that he's confessing to murder.
When Jesse recites the poem from the dream though, Nancy knows that he's telling the truth. He begs her not to fall asleep, and escapes back out of her bedroom window. Back on the lawn, Jesse is cornered by cops and arrested. As Nancy and her mother watch him being taken away, he screams that she knows the true murderer's name.
While Jesse's getting acquainted with the term "prison bitch", Nancy is calling Quentin. They arrange to meet the next day. Jesse, in the meantime, is pissing off his cellmate with his noisy attempts to stay awake. I think he's on the verge of getting his Shaw Shanked.
The following day, Quentin uses the local bookstore's computer to read up on sleep deprivation. As he discovers that it can cause hallucinations and psychosis, the nimrod falls asleep right then and there. When he opens his eyes again, he's alone. Quentin wanders from bookshelf to bookshelf, and when Freddy tries to snatch him, he finds Nancy shaking him awake. Phew! Good thing Freddy is so bad at killing his intended victims the first time, huh?
Jesse is told that his parents posted his bail, and he leaves his cell. It's a dream, of course(duh), and Jesse soon discovers that the jail has transformed into Freddy's boiler room lair. Freddy chases him around for a short while, before cornering the frightened teen and hounding him with questions about life and death, and poking him a bit with an outstretched finger-knife. When Jesse backs down, Freddy seems to leave him alone, until he stands up again. Then Freddy drives his glove through the boy's abdomen, and his cellmate watches him die in the jail at the same moment. The original's death was better, with him dying by being hung.
Interestingly, this isn't the end of Jesse's death scene. Back in the nightmare, Freddy tells the dying kid that even after his heart stops, his brain continues to function for up to 7 more minutes. Yikes! Unfortunately, we don't get to see those extra minutes.
Back in the real world, Quentin shows Nancy a bottle of pills. The pill is called Zoneral, and he was put on it for ADD years earlier. She also observes that he's wearing religious medallions, and he comments that a person should believe in something. Deep, man. Now shut yer trap and die!
Nope. He shows her the book The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and purely for the sake of exposition, Nancy's never heard of the story. Yeah, right. Pull the other leg, movie. Quentin compares the story to what's been happening to their friends, which I already knew about 3 decades before I ever rented this movie. He then tells Nancy that a person's brain can start malfunctioning after being deprived of sleep for nearly 3 days, at which time the person could slip into a coma and not even realize it. He even dumbs down the definition of a coma. Do today's audiences really need this much spoon-fed exposition, or are the screenwriters a group of dudes who've been secluded in a bomb shelter since the 60's??? Seriously: if audiences are this stupid, what are the odds that they can dress themselves, never mind watching a movie without assistance?
That evening, Nancy's mom comes home to find Nancy sketching scary pictures. When her mother tries to scold her about how late she stayed at the bookstore, Nancy confronts her directly about the recent deaths of her peers.She asks her mother if she and the other children ever knew each other as children, and if the name Freddy has any special connection to the past. When she sees her mother lie to her face, Nancy decides to look into it a little deeper.
Her mother, on the other hand, has a panic attack. She calls another parent to report that Nancy is starting to have repressed memories return. Before we get to explore this any further, the scene grinds to a halt.
There's good news and bad news now. The good news first: the next scene is the infamous bathtub sequence. The bad news? This new version still doesn't show us anything good. Daaaaamn. It pretty much plays out the way the original did: the gloved hand emerges from the soapy water, Nancy wakes up, then she gets dressed again. Ho-hum.
When the leaves the bathroom, Nancy discovers that her nightmare isn't over yet...it's snowing in the hallway. Also in er bedroom. She discovers that, as the house disappears, she's been brought back to a childhood memory, a preschool called Badham. She walks toward the front entrance, before noticing that Freddy is following close behind.
Freddy and Nancy have a brief, strange conversation. He tells her that he wants her toremember him before he kills her, because she was "special" to him. Then he gets up close and personal, and tells her that she smells different, and Nancy lets him know that she set an alarm. He replies that the alarm clock was another dream, but she does appear to wake up. Depending upon how literal this scene is, I'm going to asume that either: A) Nancy DID set an alarm, and that she is now awake, or B) until explicitly shown otherwise, the movie from here on in is all a dream. Any theories?
It turns out that her "alarm" was actually her cell phone. Quentin's calling her to tell Nancy that Jesse died, and they agree to meet up. Before heading to Nancy's house, Quentin leaves a note for his dad, to let him know where he's gone. Quentin decides to take some more Zoneral before leaving, and realizes that it's the last pill in the bottle. Aw, shit.
In Nancy's room, they look up "Badham" on the Internet, and discover that it used to be a preschool on the other side of town. Nancy shows Quentin a picture of the school that she drew after her bathtub dream. Neither one of them can figure out how the murdered kids are related to Freddy or the school, and they decide to confront Nancy's mother.
Before talking to Mom, they find a class picture, hidden away beneath a desk drawer. It shows them, the murdered teens, and others were all at Badham together. Nancy's mother comes into the oom, and when she tries to take back the picture, Nancy demands an explanation. Boy, howdy!
According to her mother, Freddy was the gardener at the preschool. So basically, that episode of "The Simpsons" where Groundskeeper Willie became Freddy Krueger was exactly right. Anyway, he loved playing with the children, but when parents started seeing wounds and behavioral problems with the children, Freddy was blamed. Supposedly, the story ends with him leaving town before he could be questioned, but I think we all know this is an obvious lie, right?
Quentin's dad shows up to take him home. The next day at school, Nancy does more online research into the photo and the preschool itself, while Quentin prepares for a swim meet by doing laps with the rest of the team. First Nancy: her online search of the names on the back of the picture reveals that several are already dead. All, like her friends, seemed to die in their sleep.
Quentin, meanwhile dives into the pool, and is pulled under. When he swims back to the surface, Quentin finds himself in a swampy, smaller pool in the town's factory district. As he watches, Freddy runs by, still alive and being pursued by several carloads of angry parents out for vengeance. Quentin calls out to Freddy, who seems to have possibly heard him.
As the past continues to play out in front of Quentin, he sees Freddy duck into one of the factories. Bracing the door with his body, Freddy begs the townspeople for mercy. He claims that he is innocent of harming the kids, and appears genuinely frightened and confused, which is weird. Robert Englund always potrayed the human Freddy as pretty much the same monster he was when he died, with the exception of Part 6, where he was shown as ashamed when his daughter saw his darker side.
Anyway, Nancy's mother tries to be the voice of reason. While the others are carrying gasoline and making torches and molotov cocktails, she urges them to stop and let the police handle Krueger instead. They refuse to listen, claiming that the courtroom experience would just traumatize the kids even further. Yeah, unlike finding out your mom or dad burnt someone to death.
Clancy Brown's character, the teacher(and Quentin's dad), lights the molotov cocktail and flings it through the closest window. Inside, the blaze gets out of control in seconds, and Freddy gets lit up like a birthday candle. The fire sputters out fairly fast, and the angry mob just stands there, shocked by how quickly it all went down. That's when Freddy bursts through the door, engulfed in flames and thrashing around in agony. As Quentin stares at him, Freddy stops right in front of the boy and snarls with rage as his face is consumed by the fire.
Quentin wakes up, and finds the swim team standing over him. He apparently went unconscious in the pool and nearly drowned. The coach asks him if he's okay, and Quentin spazzes out.
Nancy is still typing the names of students into the library computer, trying to find survivors on the photo list. She types one of the names into the search engine, and finds a video blog written by the teen, Martin. In it, Martin describes dreaming of Freddy many times. She watches each video in order, and sees Martin's sanity deteriorate right before her eyes. In the final video, he begs for help, and seems to be thrust headfirst toward the camera. Nancy never sees it, because she falls asleep for a brief moment.
Luckily for her, Quentin comes along and wakes her up. Together, they confront Alan, Quentin's father, in his office. The conversation swiftly devolves into a shouting match, with Quentin on the side of Freddy! He points out that the kids might have made up the story to cover for something else that happened, and that the one detail each story had in common, a cave that Freddy took them to, has never been found. Again, the idea that Freddy might be innocent of molesting and murdering kids could be a pretty inventive twist.
Quentin stomps out of Alan's office, ashamed and angry that he and the other kids might have caused an innocent man to die. Nancy catches up to him in the hall, and proposes a plan: that they should visit the abandoned preschool and search for evidence that either proves or disproves Freddy's innocence.
Before they can work out the details for this task, Nancy hears Kris down another corridor. As she look on, Nancy sees Kris in a plastic sheet being dragged along the floor. Kris shows up again, still bloody and wrapped in the plastic sheet, and laughs with Freddy's voice.
Quentin finds Nancy in a trance and snaps her out of it. He tells her that they need to find the school in a hurry, before her fatigue overcomes her. But before they get there, he stops at a pharmacy first, to refill his prescription. Nancy stays in the car, which is the most recent dumb idea in a recent series of dumb ideas that she's had.
As expected, Freddy attacks her as she keeps taking "micro-naps" in the car. Each attack increases his intensity. Looking for any way to remain awake, Nancy grabs the car's lighter and burns herself with it. Ouch!
In the pharmacy, Quentin gets into an argument with the pharmacist. There are apparently no refills left, and the pharmacist wants to call the doctor, which could take waaaay too long. Quentin even begs him for just a few pills until the rest of the prescription comes through, but the guy refuses. Nancy finally gets tired(heh) of waiting in the car, and goes into the pharmacy to find him.
The muzak in the pharmacy plays a song about dreams...gosh, I wonder if that means that Nancy is still in the car, dreaming this? This movie is so dumbed-down, it's starting to get insulting. Before too long, the interior of the store transforms into Freddy's boiler room, and he immediately appears to begin taunting her.
She backs up, and when Freddy seems ready to lunge at her, Nancy grabs his arm and tears off a piece of his sweater. The scenery keeps flickering from pharmacy to boiler room and back again, and Freddy stabs her in the arm with his glove. In the film's most inexplicable line of dialogue(so far, at least...), Freddy tells her that she needs to wake up because she's bleeding. Huh? Isn't making these kids bleed and suffer your whole point?
Nancy does wake up, and her scream brings Quentin running to help her. He gets her on her feet so they can get her arm looked at in an ER, and Nancy reveals that the fragment she tore off of Freddy's sweater survived the journey back into the waking world. Surprise, surprise.
At the hospital, Quentin steals some medication to keep him awake until his prescription is ready. Nancy's mother rushes in to see her, and asks her what happened to her arm. When Nancy shows her the wound, she STILL doesn't believe it's Freddy that attacked Nancy! To make matters even worse, the attending physician wants to sedate Nancy before they begin to treat her wound.
The physician's hand wear's Freddy's glove briefly, and Nancy pitches a fit. Outside the cubicle, Nancy's mother hesitates to sign the consent form needed to administer pain meds. When she finally does sign it, they discover that Nancy has escaped from the gurney and is now missing.
It turns out that she's with Quentin again. He reveals to Nancy that he stole adrenaline from the hospital, and a couple of syringes. Nancy hesitates to take an injection without knowing the full effect, but Quentin plunges one of the shots into his own leg.
Nancy starts feeling drowsy on the way to the old school, and asks Quentin to talk to her. They have a little heart-to-heart where he basically asks her why she never said yes when he would ask her out. She confesses that she never felt like she fit in with his friends, and he asks her again. Before Nancy can say no, Quentin asks her to sleep on it. Cute.
The tender moment is ruined when Freddy appears on the road and Quentin swerves, crashing the vehicle. Quentin freaks out over seeing Freddy, as it implies that the adrenaline isn't potent enough, and they walk the rest of the way. Considering that it appears that they only walked several feet, it doesn't seem so bad.
Inside the abandoned school, the place is wrecked. They start walking past old dusty classrooms, and Quentin sees Freddy decapitate Nancy without warning. AAAAH!!
Oops, just a dream. Given that he took his last pill that very afternoon, and has adrenaline rocketing through his system, doesn't it seem kinda odd that HE'S the one seeing Freddy everywhere, instead of Nancy? Quentin doesn't trust his perception of reality anymore, so Nancy leads the way.
They end up in a maintenance room, and Nancy finds a torch to light up the room. The couple find another, smaller room, which turns out to be where Freddy basically lived. He had a heater, a workbench, several tools and knives...oh, and a wall featuring some of Nancy's drawings. Hmmm...
The drawing that they're staring at flutters, and the teens realize that it's covering some sort of hiding place. Behind the picture is a small door. Behind the door is ANOTHER room, also featuring Nancy's artwork. As she examines the weird distorted facesin the drawings, Quentin finds a small box and opens it. He makes a sound of revulsion, and Nancy turns to look at him.
When she sees Quentin holding Polaroids, she asks to see them, and he refuses. She grabs them anyway, and discovers that all of them are pictures of her. Although we only get fleeting glimpses of them, the implication is that some of the photos are pornographic in nature. Nancy and Quentin were completely wrong about Freddy, as it turns out.
They realize that Freddy is killing the teens he molested, and is saving Nancy for last. She proposes a plan to Quentin, wherein she falls asleep and tries to brikng Freddy out of the nightmare, just like she did with the sweater. Quentin tells her that he should do it, but she refuses. She only asks him to revive her if he sees things going badly, and to be ready to kill Freddy if she succeeds in bringing him into reality again.
Nancy lies down, and Quentin begins searching for a weapon. He finds a paper slicer, and decides that it will be sharp enough for the task ahead. Nancy falls asleep quickly, and as luck would have it, so does Quentin. Dumbass.
Quentin finds himself trapped in the boiler room, and Freddy shows up while he looks for an exit. Freddy roughs him up a bit by slamming him against the pipes a few times, before taking a sharp swipe at the boy's stomach. Before Freddy can finish Quentin off, he hears Nancy arrive, and leaves to claim her first.
Nancy wanders around aimlessly, until Freddy pops up. He taunts her a little bit, and seems amused by her defiance. She tells Freddy that he's not real, and he replies that he is still very real, and dangerous. Nancy defies him, but when she runs away, the setting becomes her house again. She sees his shadow at the stairs, and hides in a nearby closet. When Freddy tears through the closet door, Nancy sprints upstairs and tries running to her bedroom. That fails, because the floor turns into liquid when she takes more than a few steps. She starts sinking into the floor, which is now blood, and goes under completely before Freddy reaches her.
Falling through the blood, Nancy lands on her bed, dressed only in a small gown. Freddy looms over her, debating whether to rape her or kill her. She pushes him off of her, but he still keeps cornering her in the small bedroom. Finally, Nancy wraps her fingers around a large pair of scissors and stabs Freddy through the eye, but he just laughs it off, removes the scissors, and grows a new eye.
In the real world, Quentin wakes up, but is badly injured. He tries to shake Nancy out of sleep, but she's too exhausted to wake up. Freddy tells her that it was always his plan to let her try to stay awake, so that when she did fall asleep, he could keep her from waking up ever again.
Too bad Freddy didn't know about Quentin's stolen adrenaline supply. Right before Freddy plunges his glove into Nancy's midsection, Quentin does the same thing to her with a hypodermic. Before she leaves the dream, Nancy grabs onto Freddy.
The plan works. With Freddy now real again, Quentin attacks him with his makeshift machete. Freddy counters the move by stabbing quentin through the throat and throwing him to the opposite side of the room, while Nancy tries to find any object to either block his attacks or to hurt him in some way. Freddy slashes apart every object she finds, and he raises his arm to deliver the final strike, but Quentin stabs him in the leg first.
Freddy gets angry, and forgets about Nancy for the moment. He goes to attack Quentin, and watches in horror as his glove flies off, hand still in it. He realizes that Nancy used his distraction to get Quentin's weapon, and that she chopped his hand off. She uses some of his own taunts against him, before cutting his neck wide open. As she and Quentin watch, Freddy collapses on the floor.
They start to stagger away, but Nancy decides she isn't done yet. She picks up the lamp that she lit earlier, and lings it at the far corner of the room. As everything gets engulfed in the fire, they manage to reach the exit safely.
Paramedics and firefighters arrive, but none of them can verify that Freddy's body was in the burning building. Nancy gets into the ambulance after Quentin is loaded in, and she reassures him that the nightmare is over. The final scene shows Nancy and her mother arriving home from the hospital. As her mother puts down her purse, Freddy reaches through a mirror, impales Mom's face with his glove, and hauls her into the mirror with him as Nancy screams like a banshee on Crystal Meth. THE END(?)
Eh. It wasn't the complete train wreck I had been expecting, but every iconic moment was done better the first time.around. I did, however like the weird scene transitions and some of the effects, like the hallway floor becoming blood. I even like this interpretation of Freddy, though I thought the mystery of his possible innocence should have been developed further. If they do the inevitable sequels, I hope the scripts are written a lot smarter, and I REALLY hope they avoid all the "dream warrior/magic powers" crap that made so many of the sequels seem so generic. And keep Freddy quiet....the original was great because of how quiet and menacing he was. Oh well, enough nit-picking. I'll give this one 3 and a half killer trees out of 5.
What did A Nightmare On Elm Street teach me?
-Pretty much every boiler room, abandoned school, and factory looks alike.
-Great CGI will never be able to overcome terrible dialogue.
-An entire group of people can completely forget how they met, when, and where...
Next week: Another "Don't...." movie, Don't Go in the Woods Alone, which is an alarmingly specific title. After that, the start of the downfall of Jason, The New Blood. Every movie after around parts 4-5 relied on a silly gimmick, and this is one of the worst....pray for my sanity!