Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Nightmare On Elm Street: New vs. Old

The original A Nightmare on Elm Street, starring Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, is an influential, classic horror film from the the 80's. It was remade earlier this year with Jackie Earle Haley taking up the tattered fedora and dirty green and black sweater in place of Englund. Both films are about an undead man invading teenagers' dreams and killing them in their sleep. Which of these is the better film?
** Spoilers follow for those of you who haven't seen the films. **

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

I grew up being afraid of Freddy Krueger. It was a frightening concept to me that I wasn't even safe in my dreams. Robert Englund really brought the character to life with a twisted humor and a zest for innovative murder. He is so different from other slashers at the time, like Halloween's Michael Meyers and Friday the 13th's Jason Vorhees, because he actually spoke and even delivered delightfully cheesy jokes torturing and killing his victims. Freddy is a breath of fresh air after all those other mute, joyless killers. In the film, he is an undead creature that controls the dream world. In life, he was a child killer who was let off because someone along the way didn't sign the search warrant. The parents in the neighborhood take the law into their own hands and burn him alive in his basement, which is why his face is so horrifically scarred.

The budget for the film is $1.8 million. The very low amount of money forced the film makers to come up with innovative ways to make the effects come alive. In the scene where Freddy is straining through the wall above Nancy's bed, it was actually Robert Englund pushing through the wall with a film of plastic over it. There was an actual revolving room built for Tina's death scene where she's dragged from her bed onto the ceiling. There are countless instances of things like this and creates a better sense of realism, letting the viewers suspend their disbelief more.

Although the movie is a typical puritanical morality tale (because the only surviving person is the perfect virginal girl), it has a little something extra to set it apart from those other films. The twisted ending and they way the dream world and real world interact plays with the audiences perception of reality in a way that is still fascinating for viewers today. I still get chills and jump at parts when I watch it.

The soundtrack of the film is haunting and is one of the big reasons why this movie still gives me the creeps after so many years. Although synthesizers are mostly used, the motifs are really creepy, featuring a high melody, wordless vocals, and dissonant echoes. Here is one of my favorite tracks:

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Jackie Earle Haley is Freddy in the film, but I can't shake the feeling that Rorschach from Watchmen is going around people's dreams and killing them. His rendition of Freddy is much creepier, but takes himself much too serious. There really isn't any levity in the character. The clothing is identical, but the face is made up to look like an actual burn victim. The new look is fine, but Freddy can look like whatever he wants since his incorporeal. One thing I really didn't like is that Freddy doesn't kill children at all. He is a child molester, but there is not any effort on the parents' part to go to the police. After Freddy flees, the parents go after him and kill him. I think being burned to death is a pretty harsh punishment. I would say go to that after the law fails as in the original film.

The other actors are interchangeable and mediocre. (The original had Johnny Depp in his debut role. I don't think you can get much better than that.) The main character, Nancy, is completely bland and empty of the fire of the original character. The way that the characters died lacked originality and just became pretty boring. Freddy has all the powers of the Dream World and he just kills people with his claw gloves instead of tapping to that power.

This film's budget is around $35 million dollars, but the effects look really bad in modern day standards. The worst looking scenes are the one with the girl killed on the ceiling and the one with Freddy coming from the wall behind Nancy's bed. Both looked like the technology was at least ten years old. The old film's use of actual actors and building a revolving room look a million times better than the remakes effects. This one one of the most disappointing aspects of the film.

The music creates a similar mood in both movies, but the original's succeeds in being much more suspenseful. The remake's sounds like generic horror movie music with very little that's memorable. The only scene made awesome by music was this one. I'm putting the song used separate because I couldn't really hear it in the clip as well as in the theater.

The irony and humor used with that song is so perfect, but the rest of them film didn't follow suit.

The winner: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)!!!!!


vvb32 reads said...

the first freddy was the best. i never got into the sequels.

vvb32 reads said...

oh yeah, booooooooooooooo!

Misty said...

I'm really not sure I want to watch the remake. I'm not a fan of the remakes in general. Some things just shouldn't be touched.