Freddy vs. Freddy: A Discussion of Two Nightmares: Part I

I am on record as being against the recent1 Hollywood trend of remaking movies. I understand the marketing potential of using an established title, character, and/or franchise. Granted, I think it is cowardice which is guaranteed to insure the level of cinematic art created never rises above the level of mundane and mediocre.

Sure, there are some movies that are remakes of previous movies or television shows that are fun. Some are even good films. However, for every
Ocean’s 11 there are a dozen craptucular wastes of celluloid like Freaky Friday, Conan the Barbarian, Halloween, Rollerball, Footloose, Fright Night, or Red Dawn. Part of the reason that these movies fail to connect with audiences is the same reason that the folks in charge want to make them. The originals tapped into something the first time around and Hollywood hopes that it can repeat the magic by updating the story lines. A lot of times the idea is patently ridiculous. A prime example is the rumored remake of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This is one of the quintessential 80’s films. How does one remake it? At best they change the setting and bring in the latest crop of young actors to fill the roles. What is more likely is that they will try to pull out one or two scenes to keep, maybe hold on to the basic premise of the movie but otherwise change everything so it bares little resemblance to the original. Think they’re not capable of doing that? We are talking about the people who took a television show, a police drama, aimed at young adults which centered on the problems of adolescents and teen agers (which also had some interesting crimes and a close knit group of four culturally diverse police officers) and turned it into a run of the mill, hum drum comedy starring two white guys.2

Now, to be fair, I have not seen some of the movies that I have discussed above. This is mostly because most of the titles I have chosen are fairly recent films which have not made their way to basic cable
3 and I refuse to actually support the Hollywood remake machine by spending money on them.4 Seriously, if people would just stop going to see remakes eventually they would stop making them. The business model of banking on a recognizable title only works if the public supports it.

The other argument for remaking a movie is that someone wants to see what can be done with modern technology. I’m not going to turn this into an anti-CGI rant. Computer generated affects have their place in the movies. Sometimes they can be wonderful. However, like most things, less can be more. A lot of time adding new scenes and crazy FX actually detracts from the rest of the film, diverting attention away from things like the actors and their dialog or the plot.
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The horror genre, I’m sad to say, is a ripe breeding ground for the remake. The question becomes, are the originals actually better than the remakes or is that just nostalgia speaking?

With this in mind, I decided to perform a little experiment. I wanted to see how the new version of
Nightmare on Elm Street stood up against the original. I was able to acquire both of them on a recent foray to the local Blockbuster Video8. I watched the new one first, on Blue Ray no less. Then I watched the DVD of the original. I was working on other projects while both were on (costume, making dinner, cleaning out computer files), so I was not devoting full attention to either. This is how I usually watch movies at home. I’m a multi-tasker. I figured the amount of attention I paid to each would be a good benchmark of how interesting they were.

This is the point where I would announce Spoilers but I don’t think it’s necessary. I am sure you have seen the original. If I spoil the remake and you don’t see it I will have done you a favor.

Granted, the remake had a few things it was fighting against from the get go. I like the original. Of the spooky slasher franchise monsters (Jason, Michael, etc.) Freddy may be my favorite (It’s him or Pinhead). I knew the plot going in. Still...

...yawn.

I did not find the actor playing Freddy to be remotely frightening. In fact, I didn’t really care about any of the characters. Unless you are only going to see the movie for interesting kills, you kind of need to give a crap as to whether anyone lives or dies. I did a little research after watching it and was surprised to find that part of Freddy’s face was done on computer. I really didn’t see the point in that. It didn’t make it any scarier or any more realistic. I’m sure the actor was happy he didn’t have to sit through 2 hours of make-up, but unnecessary.

I also thought a lot of the darker shots were muddy and hard to follow. I know I missed a couple of things because I couldn’t see what was going on (remember, I was watching on Blue Ray so there’s no excuse for that).

Did it do anything right? Yes, actually it did. In this version Freddy is child molester (rather than a child killer which I guess was too horrible in 1984) who does not throw off one-liners. To be fair, it isn’t until the later films that Freddy becomes part killer, part stand-up comedian.
9 Still, the return to an actually frightening killer was attempted and they get points for that. Bonus points for Freddy having “favorites” among the kids he tortured. That was creepy (and sick).

There was one plot twist which, had they pulled it off, would have been brilliant. The key operative phrase there was “had they pulled it off.” In the remake there is an extra little monkey wrench thrown into the old boiler room. The kids were either lying or had been persuaded into giving false testimony about the molestation. The parents killed an innocent man!
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This little twist would have been an interesting commentary on how, one generation later, the children are assuming that they are responsible for what happened to this mad man. There is just a trace of this. Were they intentionally stating that the teens of today are so self-absorbed that they would assume that they were the initial cause of Freddy's supernatural killing spree? I'd like to think that it was intentional.

Unfortunately, this little plot twist barely lasted long enough for me to say "Are you fucking kidding me?" before it was revealed that no, Freddy was an awful person while alive. What could have been an interesting twist is reduced to a few minutes of whininess that I could have done without.
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This was where I intended to jump into a discussion of why I preferred the original movie, but I realize that this post is running a little long so I'll end it here and pick up with why the original version was superior in the next post.
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1 I’m being polite. Here’s a
link to Gene Siskel (sporting an awesome mustache) complaining about the number of remakes coming out of Hollywood...back in 1976.

2 Yeah, I’m bitching about
21 Jump Street. I fuckin’ loved that show.

3 Not the pay movie channels like HBO or Showtime. We’re cheap.

4 The notable exception is Rob Zombie’s
Halloween. There is a division among horror fans about Mr. Zombie’s films. To explain which side I am on, let me tell you a story. I went to see his first film House of 1,000 Corpses when it hit the el cheapo theaters. Tickets were $1.50. I literally paid in quarters. I paid three times that for my soda and Reeses Pieces5. About half way through the film I felt the gallon of Cherry Coke demanding to be let free. I didn’t want to go to the bathroom because I was afraid I would miss the part where the movie got good. I sat there doing permanent damage to my kidneys, thinking “It’s about to get better. Here comes the good part.”

Then the credits rolled.

I almost asked for my $1.50 back. I understand he was trying to do an homage to the slasher films of his (and my) youth. I wish he would have spent the money on paying to have one of them re-released in the theater.

I will never pay to see another film by Rob Zombie. I certainly wouldn’t pay to see a remake of one of my favorites like
Halloween.

5 I only eat Reeses Pieces when I go to the movies. I don’t know why. No,
E.T. is not on my list of favorite movies of forever.6

6 I’m kind of surprised no one has remade
E.T. with a CGI alien.

7 Paging Mr. Lucas.

8 Soon to be a vacant building near you.

9 As is often the case, with each successive sequel in a horror franchise, the attempts at humor increase in proportion to the number of sequels until the very concepts of the plot become a farce (Jason in SPAAAAAAAACE!)

10 What? I blew off the whole spoiler thing paragraphs ago. You knew what was coming. You should have stopped reading.
11 But we were just
kids! We would have said anything!

12 Because I just spent a good deal of time complaining about remakes and sequels and I like irony.