Burgeoning film geeks live in an absolutely dreadful time. Hollywood has gone through a lot of creative droughts in the past (see 1984 - 1989), but it’s never been like this. Sequelitis may have began in the ’80s, but the obsession with turning a buck on preexisting properties is at its zenith. This is not even something we saw in the ’80s — there wasn’t a remake of a ’60s film every other week during that period. Avatar in a way was a “game-changer,” but in another way, it’s only hastened Hollywood’s existing spiral toward creative bankruptcy. Now instead of simply rehashing old ideas, the studios are hijacking old properties and simultaneously turning them into 3D movies.
Hollywood and the success of Transformers is not entirely to blame, however. During times of economic recession, the studios have historically become risk averse. If you’ve seen the roster of shuttered studios over the last few years, you could hardly blame them. But it’s different now. In the past, in addition to embracing (bad) high-concept ideas, studios tightened their belts: They limited film budgets. In some instances, this wasn’t even a bad thing; it forced directors and screenwriters to be creative, to make more with less.
This time around, however, they’ve taken a different approach. Instead of decreasing the size of their budgets, they seem to be making fewer films (there was a time, only a few years ago, when it wasn’t unusual for us to review three to five films every Friday, instead of one or two) and they’re repurposing old properties and taking advantage of the built in name recognition, which means fewer marketing dollars and a lower risk.
All of which is to say: The proliferation of remakes, sequels, and movies based on toys, TV shows, etc., can be blamed in large part on the recession. In turn, we can blame the recession on the lack of regulation on Wall Street and the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which we can blame on the Bush Administration.
In other words, Samuel Bayer’s awful Nightmare on Elm Street remake is George Bush’s fault.
It is awful. The new Nightmare on Elm Street is like the third page in a carbon copy triplicate — it’s the same movie, only faded, less vibrant, smudged, and hard to read. It’s completely lifeless. There’s no joy in this Nightmare. It’s dreary, glacially paced, and the characters are glum and inert. It’s as though they’ve taken the first Nightmare, given everyone involved clorazepam, and asked them to retrace the steps of the original characters, only now everything looks more like a bad Green Day video. Indeed, the saturated colors have absorbed all the energy out of everything else.
It starts with Jackie Earle Haley, who I thought would be the ideal replacement if you had to replace Robert Englund. Instead, Haley only makes you appreciate Englund even more. Haley’s Freddy looks like an enlarged sewer rat shrouded with fake skin. He’s got no spunk and he sounds like Christopher Nolan’s low-talking Batman, only less convincing. Somehow, Samuel Bayer has managed to make Jackie Earle Haley less creepy-looking onscreen than he is in real life.
The story is essentially the same as in the original: Freddy Kreuger is stalking and then killing a group of teenagers in their dreams, and those teenagers — unbeknownst to them — are connected to each other through their parents, who were part of a lynch mob that burned Freddy Krueger alive (there are a few wrinkles in his origins story, and in this version, Freddy’s origins are shown on-screen during one of the dream sequences instead of revealed to Nancy by her mother). The fangs, however, have been pulled out of the story and it’s such a soft R-rating that the studio may as well have toned it down ever so slightly for a PG-13. Moreover, most of the dream-stalking has been excised — it’s just fall asleep and you die, which is probably for the best considering how dull the rest of the film is. Unfortunately, there are only a few teenagers to be killed off, and in only one instance is the kill particularly clever or gruesome. I won’t even go into what they did — or didn’t do — to the character type originally played by Johnny Depp. Let’s just say it was very disappointing.
The good news is this: The economy is slowly recovering, and audiences — as evidenced by the relatively poor box office performance of the Friday the 13th remake and the sequel to the Halloween remake, which both have stalled sequels — are tiring of these makeovers, at least in the horror genre, which was really the first genre to almost completely turn itself over to redos. It won’t be too long now, I suspect, until studios will be forced to resort to the unthinkable: a new idea.
I hope it doesn’t hurt their wee little brains.