A Nightmare Remake, The Horror

With the new A Nightmare on Elm Street being universally panned by critics, I thought it was time for me to brush up on the horror genre and finally see the classic Wes Craven creation. The original film was released before my time but there are plenty of fans who grew up with it and, as is the case with most remakes, don’t feel there is need to replace or ‘update’ a timeless masterpiece. I wasn’t even aware that the film was so coveted or even seen as anything more than a scary slasher movie; but then again I only got to know the character Freddy Kruger from trick or treating on Halloween. But I got a swift education as I was listening to Mark Kermode on BBC 5 as he just unloaded on the remake, in particular for dropping all of the subtext and getting it all wrong, for lack of better words. After having watched the original I can’t say that the film was layered or very symbolic but then again I come from a different time and place. Nevertheless I can see what Kermode is saying about the archetypal bogeyman, and what others said about the dream sequences and being able to relate to them. I will admit that it is a genuinely scary movie, even if the score and special effects are a little outdated. However I found the backstory a little weak, and while there is a vague notion that Freddy is exacting revenge on the children for the sins of their parents, it’s certainly not the focus or even a main part of the story. Regardless, Kermode does rightly point out that a lot of remakes hollow out the heart and soul of their predecessors, just to make a few bucks. It’s also very aggravating, as what was once a meaningful piece of popular culture is reduced to knives and a hat. Also, the default greens and browns of horror films today are very tiresome, and sadly there are very few directors working in the industry capable of stopping the genre from being written off as little more than gore and gratuitous violence. Not that these films need to be in oscar contention, but if they want to draw an audience beyond the cheap thrill seekers then they’ll have to stop producing films like Jeepers Creepers or the latter Saw films. Hostel and The Human Centipede are unlikely to be steps in the right direction.

I was however impressed by Daybreakers. Vampire movies set in the present or near future are often subpar, and this film, starring Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe is a fresh break from the blood sucking norm. The premise is that most people embrace immortality and become vampires, the resulting depopulation means the vamps face a serious crop shortage. It’s more o an action flick, but has some genuine horror aspects and scary moments. The casting is simply brilliant, on all accounts; both Hawke and Dafoe deliver some classic lines for brief comic relief and irony. Hawke’s musing on celebrating his 35th birthday for the fifth time, “Life’s a bitch and then you don’t die” might have fallen flat in another actor’s hands. Equally, a vampire captive in his own living room asks “Who are you people?” and Defore responds with “Were the folks with the crossbows” and a confident grin. You need to see it to appreciate the dry delivery and Dafoe’s sense of humour. Sam Neill on the other hand, is truly menacing and gives a more subtle interpretation of the vampire executive. For fans of sci-fi horror and action, it’s a must. I’m hoping for a sequel.

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