Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street

There are few horror movie monsters out there more recognizable than Freddy Kruger; he stands shoulder to shoulder with other classic monsters from Dracula to Jason Voorhees, and like pretty much all of those classic characters it is time for him to get a reboot. It's time to bring Freddy into the age of iPods and cell phones with the reboot of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.

First thing you need to know is that this is in fact a reboot, not a straight remake. While the movie does feature some of the original's more iconic scenes (the bathtub scene, Tina's death scene, the bodybag in the school hallway, the girls skipping rope, and of course the line “I'm your boyfriend now”) it does not feature the same characters aside from Freddy himself, and even his back story has undergone an overhaul.

Gone is Heather Langenkamp's cheery Nancy Thompson, she has been replaced by the darker Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara: “Youth in Revolt”). Nancy is an artist and a waitress at the Springwood Diner, where she witnesses one of her friends appear to kill himself after talking of a man trying to kill him in his dreams; a man she too has been dreaming about.

As more of her classmates die, Nancy and her would-be boyfriend, Quentin (Kyle Gallner: “Veronica Mars”), try to find out what connects them to the dead teens, uncover what their parents have been hiding from them, and try to stop Freddy before they become his next victims.

I have been a fan of the original Nightmare series since I was a kid, I even watched the TV version where Freddy generally only played a Cryptkeeper-esque role, so I was skeptical of anyone playing Freddy Kruger besides Robert Englund. Well let me say that I was worried for nothing, Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”) makes for a scarier Freddy than Englund ever did. Where Englund's Freddy was frequently, and intentionally, a little hard to take seriously, especially as the series went on, Haley's Freddy finds a nice mix between being hammy and being extremely creepy. Helping Haley in this is the fantastic makeup job. Haley can be a pretty creepy looking guy to begin with (there are scenes in this version of Freddy before his death), but the make-up makes him disturbing before he even opens his melted mangled mouth.

One of the things that really struck me while watching this movie was the sound,. See this in a theater with a good sound system, as this movie actually takes advantage of it. At various points in the film Freddy's voice seems to move through the theater, and ambient noises will sound like they are coming from above and behind you rather than sounding like they are coming from the screen itself. It's a little thing, but it really shows the effort that was put into making this the best movie they could.

Is this movie perfect? No, it has a number of little plotholes that are kind of annoying, like who posted Devon's final video on his vlog, but nothing too major. The only thing that really distracted me during the film was Quentin. Maybe it's just me, but Kyle Gallner, while doing a fine job of playing Quentin, is a bit on the homely side for a leading man. I was very surprised that he turned out to be one of the major characters in the film since he looks like a doughy poor man's Robert Pattinson, a resemblance my wife also commented on after the film's conclusion with no prompting from me. Am I being petty here? Yes, very.

The movie does rely a lot on jump-scares. Freddy frequently appears on screen as the camera turns accompanied by a loud noise in an attempt to make you jump out of your seat (and if you are the sort of person that works on, you will be doing a lot of jumping). A lazier filmmaker might be satisfied with this, but it is not the only card up Nightmare's sleeve; there is plenty of creepy atmosphere, effective use of music, and just the genuine scariness courtesy of Haley's performance to make even the most jaded Nightmare fan's heartbeat quicken.

All told, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” brings the basic story of Freddy Kruger into the 21st century much more faithfully than last years “Friday the 13th” reboot did for Jason. I enjoyed both movies, but if I were to recommend one of them it would most definitely be the new Nightmare. It's violent, bloody, decently written, and quite, quite scary. If you were a fan of the old series you owe it to yourself to give this version a chance.

Stock up on energy drinks, get a refill of your A.D.D. meds, steal some adrenaline from the nurse's cart, and grab your crucifix because Freddy's coming for you in theaters nationwide this weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Unreality of Tragedy

Just a little heads up before you read any further. This is not a movie review, or some humourous anecdote, or even me complaining about some stupid insignificant thing. I am not trying to make you laugh here, or let you know whether or not a movie is worth you money; this is a reasonably serious post. You have been warned.

I have been given cause to ponder the unreality of tragedy lately. If you know me in the mundane world then you likely already know what this is about, and if you don't, well I'm not going to elaborate on it too much. I will say that this did not happen to me, but happened on the periphery of my reality; happened in a place that I cannot help but see.

What happened was an accident; a senseless, pointless, stupid, shit happens kind of accident, and someone died as a result. There are questions of exactly what happened, whether or not it could have been prevented, what punishments should be doled out, but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the unreality of what happens next.

Of course on the night of the incident the home was the center of attention. There was police, CSI, and lots of media on the street all night along with bright yellow “Do Not Cross” tape and glowing orange flares blocking off the entire street. By morning though it was all gone, and if you didn't know better you would not know that anything had happened there. Outside that home everything was normal, but inside something happened; time stopped.

As far as I know no one has been back in the house so while time continues on for the rest of us, we go to work, shop, go to the movies, move on with our lives like nothing ever happened, the time bubble inside the house sits and waits. The inside of that house now exists outside of reality.

Assuming that you have never actually had to, can you imagine having to go back into a place where someone you love died like that? The last items they used still sitting out where they left them? Perhaps there is the beginnings of a meal that will never be made now still sitting on the counter in the kitchen, perhaps the unwashed plates of that person's last meal still sit in the sink waiting to be washed. The echo of the deceased remains until someone goes in there and it hits them.

Possibly even worse than the remains of their life and the last hours of it is the blood. There will be blood on the floor, now dry, where they suffered their injury and then were taken into the house while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Unless I am mistaken (and personal experience tells me that I'm probably not), no one will have cleaned that up, so not only will these people be coming back to the echo of their lost loved one, but to a horrible glaring reminder of how they died.

I can see it all in my mind's eye, and I wonder if this is the result of my being a creative and therefore something all creators experience. Is it something that everyone sees in their minds, or if it's just me. Am I the only one that can clearly see the inside of this home that I have never been inside of? That can see the crumbs on the plate from that last baloney sandwich? That can see the partially read book that will now never be finished? Is my imagination just that overactive?

Hundreds of fictional people have fallen before the force of my keyboard. Heroes, villains, and the innocent; I have slaughtered them all with the tapping of my fingers, but somehow that empty house, frozen in a nightmare as it is, seems strangely unreal to me now. It's like a bomb wrapped up like a birthday present; it looks harmless, inviting even, but once you open it time will start to flow again, and the horror of that frozen time will unleash itself upon you

I know this seems a bit of an odd post for me as I am usually full of sarcasm and complaints, but it's kind of been haunting my mind since it happened. I see those flowers and candles on the doorstep and cannot help but think about how that place is now haunted, not by a ghost necessarily, but by an echo of a tragedy just waiting to make someone hear it all over again. It doesn't matter how long they wait to go back, the house will sit there frozen in time, exempt from reality, until someone enters it, and experiences it all over again.