Saturday, May 1, 2010

REdreaming of Elm Street

BRAVO! This is how a remake is done. Seriously. Excellent work.
Bravo to writer Wesley Strick [as well as the other screenwriter Eric Heisserer] and director Samuel Bayer and the entire cast, crew and F/X crew. Thank you for a great time at the theater.

As you probably know by now, most of the time I'm rolling my eyes at remakes. But I've also said that sometimes it's warranted, and I said A Nightmare on Elm Street remake would be one of the few good choices. This new version is a true "reboot."

I went with my friend Buttercup. I've a scosh more years on her, so when she saw the original she'd been in grade school, whereas I saw the movie as a young teen. She'd been scared out of her mind, I found it loads of fun rather than frightening. At first Buttercup had not welcomed a re-do of Elm Street. But after seeing the trailer and realizing the potential for an update, we then had plans months in advance to go opening night.

We decided to watch Wes Craven's 1984 original again. So we did that earlier in the week. I found I'd forgotten, oh, say, 70% of the movie. Hey, cut me a break, I saw it (in full) about 25 years ago. Nice to refresh my memory and still spooky fun. Buttercup, however, had a different experience entirely. Once terrified of it (as so many were) she now saw it as the silly scare that it is. In other words, she can't believe it scared her, calling it "B-movie style." We were now both ready for the new. We discussed how interesting it would be to see how to make THAT scary again. How to use the modern world in that story. What elements of the Elm Street lore (from the first and rest of the films) would they incorporate? Would it still be cheesy good?

When the big night came, we already had a perfect scenario. We went to a theater we can walk to from Buttercup's place, so there we were walking in the greyish night, starting to drizzle. (And on the walk to her place, the journey seemed to take forever, road extending before me, as if I'd already landed in a dream.) Anyway, the theater we went to brought back memories, too. I used to work in a movie theater - and this one is a throwback, an "old school" theater lovingly intact. It really brought a time-travel/dreamy quality to the night. Rather than seeing a new version in a new and "modern" theater, there I found myself in a "retro" scene, bringing back fond memories of seeing the other Elm Street movies of the first series.

And the movie followed suit. A perfect blend of then and now. It takes quite a while for the title of the film to appear on screen and shows up at the best possible place. Let me tell you, right up through the title screen, I already knew this movie would be worthwile. And creepy as hell again. Take a note of the two title fonts/presentations. 1984's (on the right) is cartoonish. 2010 (above) is a more menacing in its matter-of-factness. In a way, it matches the tone of each film.

I'm very glad I'd watched the original again. The new movie has many references or even scenes from it. Yes, there are some of the very same moments. However, unlike the 2010 Clash of the Titans, when they occurred they're fresh. They're rewritten just enough to not be a rehash. I wouldn't have appreciated these great nods had I not seen Craven's again.

Storywise they also did some great rewriting. There's a definite spin on this version. However it didn't seem like a twist to be different for its own sake. Rather it seemed like straightening out a picture on the wall.

They keep Freddy's "one-liners." Something I dreaded. But you know what? They work. Even in this freaky, darker version, they work. Because they're truly delivered in the manner of a child-molestor. (As per the character of Freddy Krueger.) Utterly unnerving. Bravo to Jackie Earle Haley! A particular one-liner from the original is in this film - but whoa! They acutally manage to make it disturbing and pair it with a marvelous concept to watch unfold on the screen. One of them is quite an eye-roller, but easily forgivable since they upped the stakes (and F/X) of an homage-scene when saying it.

Freddy's new (but old) look is quite striking as well. They had re-studied burn victims to design his new visage. It's wonderful. (Which is a weird thing to say!) What they did keep from the first set of films had been great choices, retouched and recut seamlessly into a brand new (but eeriely familiar) story. Like someone discovered the puzzle pieces fit another way, too, and snapped in a little snugger.

There are one or two places where CGI is obvious, but it also doesn't matter, since it took on a dreamlike aspect that way.

Buttercup and I couldn't stop talking about it on the way home. All positive. The drizzle picked up and Buttercup decided to stop off at her place for an umbrella. She wanted to still hang out, but at my place, since she didn't want to disturb her roomate (and our friend) Josiecat. Hence, the umbrella. Meanwhile, I texted Bart and told him we'd be coming. On the way, the rain came down harder. And more so. Suddenly we trekked through a monsoon. Sidewalks were rivers. Droplets the size of thumbs. When we arrived, despite Buttercup's large umbrella, we were soaked. More so than you're thinking. Had to change clothes. (I just looked... my T-shirt hanging in the shower is STILL wet.) But we enjoyed it - like some kind of ethereal end to a wonderful Nightmare.

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