A Nightmare on Elm Street – Blu-ray Review

As a horror fanatic, I understand that the quickest way a horror fan can loose their “cred” is by admitting he or she likes Michael Bay’s work. Well, here goes: I enjoy most of Michael Bay’s work. Though some say he is bastardizing horror classics, I argue that he is introducing new audiences to the boogeymen we all grew up loving. The fact is that teens nowadays are faced with a different world than teens in the ’70s, ’80s, and even the ’90s; it’s a quicker world, a more dangerous world, and a place that needs lots of blood and gore to scare the average teen. Whether or not this is a good thing is irrelevant, and Michael Bay has identified this and acts accordingly. With his recent line of horror remakes/reimaginings – starting with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003, to The Amityville Horror in 2005, The Hitcher in 2007, and Friday the 13th in 2009 – Bay has stuck loosely to the source material, and added in loads of blood, gore, and sex to appeal to that “MTV audience” we hear so much about nowadays. Michael Bay has made copious amounts of cash off of these reimaginings, but has also managed to piss off millions of fans of the original films. I happen to fall into a group that is old enough to appreciate the classics, and young enough to enjoy the blood, gore, and sex of his remakes, which makes me an unpopular horror fan.

His latest, A Nightmare on Elm Street left our own Travis Leamons disappointed back in May, and my sentiments were with him in that respect when I watched the movie in theatres. Like some other movies, though, what killed this movie in theatres was the hype that surrounded it, and the film is much easier to appreciate when expectations are low.

Taking the same ideas as the original film – including some similar death scenes – a small town suspects a local man of molesting their young children, and takes revenge upon him, burning him alive. The revenge tale is then flipped around, and the man they burned – Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley – Watchmen, Shutter Island) – comes back years later, after the young kids become high school teenagers, and haunts their dreams. If Freddy kills a kid in their nightmare, they die in real life. This is the same template that the original follows, but the details have changed. Writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer have decided to answer “why” Freddy is the way he is. In this reimagining, Fred Krueger was a gardener at the children’s school, which explains the origins of the hat (to keep the sun out of his face), the gloves (to keep dirt off his hands) and the clawed hand (it is reminiscent of his handheld garden hoe). The script leaves Freddy’s innocence or guilt in question until the reveal at the end of the movie.

Trying to identify exactly why this reimagining was made is tricky. Let’s start by looking to the most obvious: the special effects. There’s no doubt that Freddy Krueger looks differently in this reimagining, even including a partial CGI face. In the special features, the crew stresses how important it was to make him look like an actual burn victim, but they never explain why. Yes, Freddy looks more realistic, but what’s the point if it fails to make him scarier? The death scenes should have benefited most from the updated effects work, but this was not the case. The second death in the film, for example, is more effective in the original than in the remake, which is inexcusable. Director Samuel Bayer goes for a quicker approach to the movie, including the death scenes, which robs these moments of their effectiveness. Coming in, one might expect to be blown away by the special effects; this is not the case, though, as the effects never reach that potential wow factor.

The special effects are not the reason the film was made, so maybe it was the acting? Jackie Earle Haley is a fantastic actor. He was great as Rorschach in Watchmen, but for that role and this one, he put on a voice that, at times, gets in the way. Because of the odd, raspy tone he chose for Freddy, some of the dialogue was lost. It is obvious that his voice was touched up via computers after recording as well, which is more a hindrance than anything. Haley has a great voice (he is interviewed in the special features using his natural voice), and I would love to hear it more often in his character choices. Some may find his voice more annoying than others, but it only becomes a real problem when dialogue gets lost. Hopefully this will be addressed for the inevitable sequel(s). Aside from Haley, the director found two excellent actors and a bunch of good-looking people. Kyle Gallner (playing Quentin Smith) and Rooney Mara (playing Nancy Holbrook) are excellent as the co-stars of the film. Gallner first grabbed my attention with his guest role on the television crime drama The Closer. He played a disturbed boy whose family had been murdered, and blew me away. He was also the only redeeming quality about The Haunting in Connecticut, where he played a boy who was being haunted by ghosts in his new home. Though he plays similar characters in these three mentioned roles, he shows great potential. In a few years time, if he is able to branch out and play heavier roles, his true talent will show. His co-star, Rooney Mara also does an excellent job. The two have nice on-screen chemistry, and play well off each other. It’s a believable pairing that works on more than merely looks. No one else in the cast is worth talking about, however, and these are the only three actors that are able to overcome the mediocre script.

The reason this movie was made was not because of an all-star ensemble cast, a fresh script, or even up-to-date visual effects; it was merely because of money. According to The Numbers, the movie, which had a $35M budget, pulled in almost $118M worldwide gross. Michael Bay knows how to make money, plain and simple, and this is the reason some people hate him: money first, artistic merit second. A Nightmare on Elm Street introduces a different Freddy Krueger to a new audience. This is not the Freddy Krueger people grew to love: he is short on one-liners, heavy on mood, and is a despicable creature that is hard to root for. There is no doubt this is a brand new Krueger and the start of a much darker series. People who adore the original will find very little substance with this reimagining, and have little use for it. To be fair, though, long-time Freddy fans are not who Michael Bay was making this movie for; its audience is teenagers who aren’t old enough to have followed the series. For this group of people, the movie will be acceptable. For everyone else, this is a reimaging worth skipping, and goes down as Michael Bay’s weakest horror remake/reimaging yet.

If nothing else, A Nightmare on Elm Street looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The colors are vibrant when they are supposed to be, and nothing is ever lost to darkness. This is one of the better Blu-rays I have watched in a while, and is worth the upgrade from standard DVD. The film is presented in 1080p high definition, in 16×9 widescreen with a 2.4:1 contrast ratio.

The movie sounded great in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Aside from English 5.1, there are French 5.1 and Spanish 5.1 audio options. For the hearing impaired, there are English, French and Spanish subtitle options. There were no audio problems with this Blu-ray disc, which contained mostly dialogue.

DVD Copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1:35:31): The standard definition version of the movie. This contains no special features, and is a barebones copy of the film. The only subtitle option is English.

Digital Copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1:35:31): Same as above, but a digital copy. This is another barebones presentation, with no subtitle options. Appears to be presented in standard definition and is downloaded via iTunes.

Freddy Krueger Reborn (13:54): This is a great look at how Michael Bay and the rest of the team handled reimagining Freddy Krueger. They talk about the use of Freddy’s hat, glove, and sweater: the fact that there was even a question of keeping the hat, glove and sweater is terrifying to me. If they had lost any one of these, not one established Freddy fan could have appreciated this movie. The interviews make clear just how much of a restart this movie is to the franchise. Because one actor played Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) for the entire series, it was imperative for them to make this feel like a new movie as much as possible. This is a very enlightening feature, and highly recommended.

WB Maniacal Movie Mode (1:35:31): This is an interesting look behind-the-scenes. The information is great, as it includes interviews from the director, producer, and actors, but the way that it is implemented is awkward. Instead of being its own stand-alone feature, it is presented as a pop-up box in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The problem is that the viewer is forced to watch through the entire movie again in order to see these little segments. The interviews are usually in accordance to what is happening on-screen (for example, during one of the death scenes, the interviews are about how they executed that scene), but for someone who just finished watching the movie, having to sit through it again can seem tedious. This is a unique way to implement a special feature, but hopefully it doesn’t catch on. For the dedicated, though, this is a good special feature.

Focus Points (19:50): This is actually seven different short features that cover the following areas of the film: makeup, micronaps, the hat, practical fire, the sweater, the glove, and the victims. Each one is about 2-3 minutes in length and contains information on how the movie became what it is in its final state. These are definitely worth watching.

Hospital Opening (1:11): This is an alternative opening. It is simply Freddy in the hospital on the day of the fire. Adds nothing to the film, and deserved to be cut.

Nightmare Street (0:58): Adds some cool CGI dogs. Not sure why this was cut as it is pretty neat and less than a minute in length. Doesn’t add anything to the film, but doesn’t hurt it either.

Alternative Ending (6:12): As the title describes, this is an alternative ending to the film. It is an interesting take on the ending that would have upset Freddy purists even further. Glad this was not used as the final ending, but worthy of a viewing.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is not a good Freddy Krueger film. Put what the viewer might know about Krueger aside, and the movie becomes decent. Unfortunately, for long-time fans of the series, this will be nigh impossible, leaving this film a vast disappointment. People who know little about Freddy and his series will enjoy a shallow, but decent flick. This Blu-ray package, though, is chock full of special features, looks and sounds excellently, and even contains a DVD and digital copy of the film. There is a lot of bang for the buck with this package, and anyone who enjoyed the film in theatres will love this BD. Everyone else will be better off renting it first.

New Line Cinema presents A Nightmare on Elm Street. Directed by: Samuel Bayer. Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz. Written by: Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. Running time: 95 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: October 5, 2010.

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