Friday, October 30, 2009

SCRIPT REVIEW: Nightmare On Elm Street...

GENRE: Horror

PLOT: A group of suburban teenagers are being haunted in their dreams by a "horribly disfigured killer" known as Freddy Krueger

STARRING: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara

SCREENPLAY: Wesley Strick, based on A Nightmare on Elm Street by Wes Craven, with revisions by Eric Heisserer

DIRECTOR: Samuel Bayer

So Halloween has passed us by.

One of the films I try the hardest to see at least once a year during this season is the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Sure, some of the effects are dated, but nothing screams true horror like a murder who hunts his victims in their most vulnerable of states. While they are sleeping.

This brilliance, mind so perfectly in the legendary original then lead to exponentially worse sequels (even a very meta seventh film, called Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which if you haven’t seen, should, just for how bizarre the entire film really is). However, in this world where nothing is sacred, and even classic pieces of cinema (really, Third Man, really?) are being remade. When news that Platinum Dunes, the same people behind the rather stellar remakes of Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, got the rights to this franchise, one couldn’t help but groan at the thought. That said, when the cast began leaking out, and the discovery that Jackie Earl Haley would take the reigns as Freddy Krueger, one couldn’t help but be intrigued.

Then came the films trailer. That damn trailer.

The first trailer for Nightmare on Elm Street came out, and hit the webs like fire. Some didn’t go for it, but personally, I could not have liked it more. Hinting at an interesting backstory that wasn’t truly mined, at least in the original series as a whole, and giving the film, and Freddy in particular, a much darker and horrific tone really has me digging this project. Then, by sheer accident, I came across this script, so I couldn’t avoid it, right?

And I’m glad I didn’t.

This version of Nightmare takes place in the present day, and we follow a group of teens, who are similar to that of the original, just placed in the modern day. We meet Dean, who is Freddy’s very first kill, at least that we see. We also meet Kris, a girl next door type teen who is similar to the originals Tina, and Jesse, a member of the swim team and a similar version of the original’s Ron. The primary focus of the film is left on the shoulders of our other two leads, Quentin, who is reminiscent of the Johnny Depp role Glen, who also hosts a podcast, and of course, Nancy, our goth girl lead.

13 years after the death of Freddy Krueger, he is back for revenge on the group of children that once ratted him out for alleged abuse. Freddy, a good looking and kind man, got along more than great with the children, who were fond of the fedora wearing gardener. However, after being accused of child molestation and abuse, Freddy is accosted by parents, and forced to leave. Or is there something deeper that happened those 13 years ago? That is the main thrust of the story. The film is primarily a horror mystery, which follows Quentin and Nancy as they try to not only survive, but find out what truly happened to the former gardener.

The most shocking, and the most endearing thing about this script, and why I really don’t think Platinum Dunes even knows what kind of hit they have on their hands, is that all of the things that superficially make Freddy who he is, are gone. He’s not charismatic, he’s not witty, and most importantly, he has regained that edge and sheer brutality that makes the concept of who he is so inherently terrifying. Near the end of the franchise, instead of being horror movies, the films almost became horror/comedies, and there is not a single hint of that mixture in this piece. It’s a dark, brutal, and violent look at what it would be like if someone could kill while in their victim’s dreams. It’s inherently horrifying, and so is this screenplay. The kills in this film are both interesting in a cinematic kind of way, as well as being sheer violent and gory. I’m not normally a gore fan, but the premise that is encompassing the gore is so deeply interesting, and it’s done with such skill in this screenplay, which one can’t help but think that there is potential for something special here.

However, the previous films have not been forgotten. Throughout the script, there are many tiny look backs at the original, a couple of which can even be seen in the trailer. There is one sequence in particular, where Freddy’s clawed glove reaches up out of a bathtub while Nancy is taking a bath, that is a nice tip of the hat back to what once was in the Nightmare franchise. That’s one thing that I think Platinum Dunes does best. While I do think this group has a great sense of genre, I also personally believe that these guys have a great sense of what made each of the franchises that they have remade, truly them. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it was the gritty feel and attempt at realism. In Friday the 13th, it was camp, boobs, and inventive kills. In Nightmare, it’s a dark tone, violent kills, and one hell of an interesting premise. These guys, spearheaded by Michael Bay, have really stepped up their game for this film, and I think there is definite potential here, especially with Samuel Bayer, director of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit video at the helm.

The final interesting thing that this script does is how Freddy’s back-story is explained. While in the original it was primarily done through discussion and exposition from Nancy’s mother, this film takes a new and more interesting spin on it. Using a fresh mix of flashback as well as including dream sequences to further the story, there really isn’t much of a dull moment here. Sure, the opening is a bit slow, and things don’t pick up until about 15-20 pages in, but at a brisk 110 pages, one can’t help but wish this was coming out now, instead of April of 2010.

All in all, the script is dark, compelling, and full of great moments. Yes, the opening is a bit slow, and the kills may not be on the scale of Saw, in terms of inventiveness, but as a fresh take on one the most beloved horror films, one can’t help but appreciate what is going on here. Great story, one hell of a premise, and a much needed breath of fresh air into this slowly dying franchise, the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street is set to be the next big horror blockbuster, and for very good reason.


Go see something good!

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