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Thursday, May 6, 2010 04:28 pm

A recurring Nightmare


One of the things that made many of the classic horror films in the 1970s effective is they were done cheaply and sported a gritty esthetic. The fact that the images were grainy and that their low budgets inadvertently gave them a semi-documentary feel made them seem more frightening. This is exactly what was missing in the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and Last House on the Left, all of which, thanks to bigger budgets, were given a nice Hollywood sheen that robbed them of the tone that contributed to their horror.

The same problem plagues Samuel Beyer’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, the latest horror remake, which brings back everyone’s favorite paranormal pedophile, Freddy Krueger. Those who’ve seen any of the original installments knows the drill: teenager falls asleep, teenager dreams of Freddy, teenager gets slashed to death by Krueger’s finger blades or manages to wake up just before getting sliced. Beyer sticks to this formula throughout and offers little in the way of deviation.

To be sure, the script does offer up a bit more history about Freddy. We see just how he was killed by a mob of angry parents, which manages to be one of the film’s most effective sequences. Equally scary is the finale, which leaves open the possibility of a sequel and provides the sort of true scare that the rest of the film strains to achieve. As Krueger, Jackie Earle Haley is a better actor than the original Freddy, Robert Englund, but he’s not as physically imposing which makes him less of a threat. That being said, the character’s makeup is so heavy it makes it hard for him to give a nuanced performance. Truth be told, the only reason to make another episode in the series is if the makers come up with an original approach. But to wish for such a thing is but a dream.

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