Freddy vs Freddy: A Discussion of Two Nightmares Part II: Irony's Revenge.

Stop!1 This is a discussion of why I feel the original Nightmare on Elm Street is superior to the recent remake. This is the second part of this discussion2. Although I am sure that you will be able to follow along, to get the whole ramble you need to go back and read the previous post which can be found here.

Before we go any further, I am going to assume that everyone has seen the first
NOES and has either seen or been warned off of the remake. If you haven't seen the classic Freddy, I have no idea why you are reading my blog. I mean seriously. I could put up a spoiler alert but there should be no reason to. If you really haven't seen the original and/or if you want to avoid a ridiculous analysis of that movie, you should stop3 here.

So, before we begin, I need you to stop
4 and do your best to not think about all of the sequels. Forget the second movie6. Forget Dream Warriors and Masters and Children. Forget the jokes and the wisecracks. Concentrate on the first movie. I did this by rewatching the first movie recently. I needed to know if it actually stood the test of time or if it was simply nostalgia and my own stubborn "Get off of my lawn" attitude.7

Nightmare on Elm Street is definitely a child of the 80s. This may be nostalgia inducing or nausea inducing, depending upon your view of the 80s. There are certain things which reflect this. A clean cut, un-Burtonesque Johnny Depp is one of these things.8 Some of the visual effects and many of the sound effects are dated. This is especially true of the video game light and sound show that accompanies Freddy's death at the end of the movie. Nancy's mom getting pulled through the window of the door would benefit from a little CGI tweak. Beyond that, the rest of the special effects stand up quite well. The scenes where Freddy is stretching into the real world (which have been done to death now) and the extendo arm chase are both more 'dreamlike' than anything accomplished with CGI in the remake. I think that the scenes which blurred the real world and the dream, especially when Nancy is fighting Freddy while her boyfriend snores away in the corner are more significant because at that point it looks like the real world.

The original is actually quite a creepy movie. If you allow yourself to drift and pretend that you don't know what is about to happen or how it all turns out, then you are in for some good scares. I have no idea why the remake would follow the original so closely but then eliminate the booby-trap scene. Maybe the makers of the new one preferred Nancy as a victim.

There are a number of other things which the original has going for it. Freddy is creepier. As noted, I think the special effects are creepier. John Fucking Saxon
9. Most of all, I think the original is a deeper movie. There are parallels to the works of Shakespeare and to Christ's life. The "sins of the father" motif which is at the root of the story is mirrored in the actions of the characters, for example Nancy hiding a coffee pot in her room and her mom's hidden vodka bottles.

Unlike Michael and Jason who are scarier as forces of evil, Freddy Kruger requires a bit of back story if only to be able to carry off the sins of the father motif I mentioned earlier. I'm not saying that you necessarily need to know the whole "son of a hundred mad men with an abusive father" thing you get in the later films, but you do need to know that in life Freddy was a horrible person. People took the law into their own hands and Freddy died. He's coming back to get his revenge.

This is one area where the remake worked a little better. According to interviews, Freddy was originally supposed to be a child molester in life but writer/director Wes Craven did not want to make it look like he was capitalizing on a recent spate of similar crimes so he was changed to a child murderer. Still pretty bad, but it places one level of disconnect in for the families. We know that a group of parents got together and burned Freddy alive
10, but we don't know if the parents who did the killing also lost a child. I don't recall any mention of any of the victims of the first film having older siblings. In the original Freddy is getting revenge for his death in a way which just so happens to follow along with his preferred method of entertainment. In the remake Freddy is reclaiming children he already considered his own. I think this is much more terrible. You can almost sympathize with Freddy wanting revenge. There he was, minding his own business, killing kids, when he gets lit on fire! The remake's Freddy fighting for the children even after he died is way creepier. Unfortunately, it got watered down in to the whine-fest I discussed last time.

I think that is the area where the remake fell flat -- the lack of fully fleshed adult characters. In the original Nancy is trying desperately to get at the truth but her parents are hiding it from her. There are some great scenes which are nothing more than looks between Nancy's parents which allow the audience to go
oh, wait up, they know something! This emphasizes the disconnect between the parents and their children. The parents are sure that they are doing the right thing, they don't realize that the nightmares preceded the killings because they never think to ask, they are sure that everything will just be fine if everyone can just get some sleep.

What makes the first film for me, and which for my money puts it head and shoulders above the remake, is the knowledge that the parents are
responsible for what is happening to their children. Worse than that there is nothing that they can do to protect their children. This was a shocking revelation when I saw the film in 1984 (yep, right around Nancy's age). It still hits home now that I am, crap, probably older than John Saxon when he made the film.

What is the final wrap up, you ask? Viewed on its own merits, as a stand alone film, the remake of
Nightmare On Elm Street was a fairly weak horror film. On my standard rating scale, it's a wait until it hits basic cable. The original, while dated in some places and flawed in others, still rates a see it at the theater.

One last laugh before we go? I took a break while writing this to eat some dinner and watch TV with the Mrs. Who should make a guest appearance on this week's
Castle but Wes Craven.

1 Collaborate and listen.

2 In case you were wondering why the words "Part II" were in the title.

3 Hammer time!

4 In the name of love.

5 OK, that's the last one, I promise.

6 I think we can all agree to forget the second movie.

7 I am currently wearing a tee shirt which states "THE REMAKE: This horror fan has had enough!"

8 Seriously, what was the last movie you saw him in where he wasn't wearing some weird make-up?

9 Hells yeah!

10 One of the more gruesome ways to die if you ask me.