Movies

Welcome to My Nightmare

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I dream of Freddy?

Is it a tragedy when boring people die? Intentionally or not, that's the most pressing question raised by this week's remake of the 1980s teen-horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. Wes Craven's genre-defining original, about a burn-laced pedophile named Freddy Krueger who tortured troubled teens in their dreams, spawned a decade's worth of sequels and launched the career of Johnny Depp with a gargantuan bedroom blood geyser

With three decades' worth of silver-screen suburban slasher flicks behind us, it's easy to forget how truly, delightfully bizarre Craven's movie was.  A mesmerizing mix of low-budget schlock and imaginatively gory shocks, it wasn't a good movie, exactly, but it was a stirring piece of pop-culture transgression—in no small part because of the obvious and more-than-slightly crazed pleasure it took in mangling its assortment of oblivious, bedroom-community brats. And with its scar-faced spectral dream-villain, it offered a crudely effective psychological manifestation of adolescent anxieties about self and subconscious: When you're 15, who knows what evils lurk in your mind?

Sadly, the remake has little of the original's freaky, low-fi surrealism. Sure, it's fun to hear Jackie Earle Haley spew quips in a death metal drawl (after explaining to one gutted youth that the brain keeps going for seven minutes after the heart stops, he declares, "We've still got six minutes to flay"). But for the most part, it merely offers a dull recitation of generic teen-horror rituals: music-video moodiness, bloody-but-dull kills, and a cast of dim, expressionless teens who constantly look as if they're auditioning for jobs as department-store catalog models. Each is a vacant placeholder for a contemporary suburban high-school type—the jock, the goth, the emo-snert, the bland bombshell (in a pair of Uggz, natch), and the nice girl with the troubled past.

Ideally, each would be an archetype, though even a plucky stock character would do. Instead, every one of them is a black hole of personality; at one point, one of the characters asks another if he wants to talk. They both stare blankly for a moment, and then:

"What do you want to talk about?"

"I don't know. What's your favorite color?"

"Blue."

The conversation dies there, pathetically, as if the screenwriter, perhaps fully aware of the fact that these might be the most boring humans in cinematic history, simply gave up, possibly to take a nap.

Which may be your inclination as well (it was certainly mine). The essential blankness of the doe-eyed dopes under attack means it's no fun to watch them live or die; instead of terror, it provokes yawns. For a movie about tortured teens trying to stay awake, Nightmare does just about everything it can to put everyone in the audience to sleep.

NEXT: Does Arizona's Law Make Every Government Employee an Immigration Agent?

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  1. There is more character development in five minutes of Duncan Jones’ Moon than just about any major movie release in the last year.

    I highly recommend watching that movie to help offset the bilge spewed forth from Hollywood. It practically restored my faith in quality filmmaking.

    1. I saw Moon. It was pretty good!

      1. It was a travesty that Moon was ignored by the Oscars. Sam Rockwell was brilliant, and his ability to play the same character in two completely different ways was genius.

        Kevin Spacey as the HAL character was also a perfect cast.

        I liked it too. Can you tell?

        1. It wasn’t a travesty, it was completely expected. The Oscars typically ignore anything good unless it gets a lot of word-of-mouth hype. Or one of the actors dies before the movie is finished.

          1. Or if it features beautiful actors playing ugly or crippled or mentally deficient people.

            1. YOU NEVER GO FULL RETARD.

            2. Well to be fair Sean Penn wasn’t playing a retard.

            3. What is Matt Damon’s excuse then?

              DEMAND KURV!

    2. Great movie. Great Sam Rockwell performance (though I’m not sure there is any other kind of Sam Rockwell performance.) Thought I was the only person who saw it.

      1. My sister bought me the DVD for christmas after I wouldn’t shut up about how great it was.

        **NERD ALERT**

        I had a Moon party with friends so they could watch it and experience the glory.

        I should probably get out more.

      2. Watchable, but it was no Outland.

      3. I saw Moon with a bunch of friends. Good movie.

        Most sci-fi movies are based on short stories. This one, though, it seemed like they filmed an entire short story, whereas most of them they take an idea from a short story and then throw out all the introspection and add in various Hollywood action.

  2. For a movie about tortured teens trying to stay awake, Nightmare does just about everything it can to put everyone in the audience to sleep.

    Grade A snark. Kudos.

  3. I’ve tried watching samples from the recent glut of re-makes (insomnia is a bitch, yo) and they are fucking awful.

    They have divorced themselves completely from their B-movie ancestry. Slasher movies worked because the people making them wanted to horrify and repulse people. It was about having a very base good time.

    The new trend of PG-13 and lite-R horror is so boring because it goes out of its way to not offend anyone. Well, not anyone with a brain anyway.

    1. When I used to have insomnia years ago, I would to fix it by getting high and listening to Sleep. Worked surprisingly well.

      1. My problem is staying asleep. And the regular sleep aid stuff (Ambien, Lunesta) is very dangerous for diabetics.

        1. I eat doughnuts to fall asleep and stay asleep…oh shit, that doesn’t help you at all. Does it?

          1. Damn you!

        2. After my Lasik surgery, they gave me some Valium. That and Benadryl, washed down with a double scotch, let me spend about 20 hours in the blessed arms of Morpheus. Give it a try if it won’t kill you.

          1. Valium used to be the standard treatment for insomnia. I guess too many people were enjoying themselves.

            1. Valium does fucking wonders. Xanax is not nearly as pleasant, though they are both about equally habit-forming. Guess which one is almost exclusive prescribed now? Xanax…because it’s less fun!

              1. Really! I thought xanax was pretty neat but then I’ve never had valium.

            2. You can thank Jill Clayburgh in “I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can,” a movie about Valium “addiction” to really start the whole “Valium is evil” meme. (I’m getting real tired of medical science conflating the terms “dependence” and “addiction”. You are dependent on insulin to live. Episiarch is dependent on pain RX to function with chronic pain, and IIRC correctly also has stated a very high tolerance for opiate/opioids pain management therapy. Does not mean addicted!!!!!!)

              I recommend asking your Doc, Saccharin Man, about Klonopin. I am familiar with your case and it may be appropriate for your insomina. It does carry the risk of dependence, but is more effective at producing somnolence than the shit anxiolytics (which in my opinon should not be used long term as a sleep aid due to rebound REM interruption).

              1. Klonopin, eh? Well, I have been wanting to treat my hyperekplexia for some time now…

                1. You are aware the Vigavano manuever is not a sexual position Saccharin Man….No matter what Mrs. SugarFree has conned you into, with or without maple syrup.

              2. I’m getting real tired of medical science conflating the terms “dependence” and “addiction”

                This. I regularly read letters and notes from two chronic pain doctors and have learned much in this area.

                What discipline do you practice?

                1. General Surgery, so I prescribe pain meds quite often.

                  1. I’m impressed that you spend time at this blog, let alone any blog.

                    One of the doctors I spoke of is pretty highly regarded in the pain management community here in the NW. One thing he mentions quite often is the “burdensome reporting requirements of the department of L&I regarding opiate usage.” He’s more libertarian than he realizes.

                    1. I like Reason and the intelligent people who post here and even the trolls are thought provoking at times. I have had more and more time on my hands lately as I will be making the transition to private practice and out of CMS.

                      Thanks, it’s tough because docs tend to be pretty much straight TeamRed TeamBlue. I reject that mindset and wish more docs would embrace the libertarian roots, idealogically speaking, that medicine has.

            3. Trazodone may also be worth asking your doc about – it’s primarily an antagonist for the 5-HT2A and Alpha-1 adrenergic receptors, so it’s quite different from hypnotics that work by enhancing GABA binding. It’s also an anti-depressant, but works differently than SSRIs despite altering serotonin chemistry.

              It worked pretty well as a sleep aid for me and lacks the odd mental side effects of the GABA potentiators, so there’s no BS to deal with about recreational use.

        3. Melatonin & Valerian. Over the counter and reasonable effective.

  4. it’s easy to forget how truly, delightfully bizarre Craven’s movie was

    That’s true of most of the era’s then-schlocky-seeming horror movies, but even the box office monsters of the time (except Spielberg’s crap) were somewhat idiosyncratic creations of their makers. Movies like that don’t even get studio releases now.

    Fucking Krull was better than eight of the last ten Best Picture nominees. Krull, I say.

    1. Dude, fucking Kull the Conquereor is better than a lot of Best Pictures.

    2. try getting the dvds. they’re not so hard to forget if you actually watch the movies every so often.

    3. Krull was a lot of fun, though I guess I didn’t like it as much as you guys. But yes, the late 70s and early 80s were a high-water mark for low-budget, weirdo horror. Cronenberg, in particular, did some really outstanding work during the period.

      1. They’re not comparing shit to Krull to compliment it, Peter. Krull is abysmal, so bad it’s actually surprising.

        1. Worst. Cyclops. Make-Up. Ever.

        2. STOP SAYING THE NAME OF THE “K” MOVIE!

          Someone will hear you and decide to remake it…

        3. To bring it back to the perennial subject… Krull had both Freddie Jones (Thufir Hawat) and Francesca Annis (Lady Jessica) from Lynch’s Dune.

          1. Krull also had a young and nubile actor by the name of Liam Neeson. And the shapeshifting fellow was the same guy who played the teacher in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

  5. I never cared for horror/slasher flicks, even as a teen, so nothing to add to that. But…

    I was at the bus stop with my son this morning and all the 4th and 5th grade boys were excitedly talking about Nightmare and how they want to see it and then proceeded to talk about, and act out, several other ?ber-violent, ?ber-inappropriate-for-children/slasher R-rated movies they had seen.

    I asked these 9 and 10 year olds how they managed to see these films, thinking it might have been an older sibling on DVD. “My dad takes me.” “My mom took me to see them.”

    My neighbors are class A fuckwit morons.

    1. My dad took me to see everything. I saw Sharkey’s Machine in the theater when I as 10, for example. I turned out OK. Right? Right?

      1. We were allowed to watch any action or war movie (but no horror or serial killer themed stuff), any sex on TV however would result in being sent by my mother to brush our teeth …

      2. Early exposure to Burt Reynolds explains a lot about you.

        I think we can both agree that there is a world of difference between an 80’s cop shoot ’em up and the recent Friday the 13th remakes.

        1. Haven’t seen S’sM, have you? There is a very long scene were Burt gets his fingers cut off with a chef’s knife as he’s being tortured for information. More brutal anything in any PG-13/lite-R today.

          I was born in 1970. I saw Jaws in the theater.

          Parents, of course, may keep their minor children from seeing anything they don’t feel is fit, but most kids have a fine handle on the difference between entertainment and real life.

          1. Haven’t seen S’sM, have you?

            No, there’s that whole Burt Reynolds thing.

            most kids have a fine handle on the difference between entertainment and real life.

            Point taken and I agree with that to a point. But then, you never met these kids. I think their handle is a bit loose.

            Bottom line is that I don’t see the need to expose my kid to something that he’s not ready to process and doesn’t need the disturbing imagery, let alone the concept of killing someone in the most horrific and bloody way possible.

            Trust me, I’ve got a slew of movies I can’t wait to show them. I saw Alien in the theater when I was 17, so I figure they’ll be ready when they’re 16 or so.

            1. The thing is, Jdub, that these kids’ parents are probably all over shitty, and their psycopathic offspring is more reflective of the parents than the movies the kids watch.

              1. No argument from me.

                I would love to sit my kids down and show them, for instance, Serenity, one of my all-time favs, but there’s no way I want them to see the planet where the Reavers came from nor the Reavers themselves. Too soon for that level of gruesome and disturbing.

                1. You should take them to the indie theater to see Willem DeFoe’s Antichrist, oh that will be some quality time there buddy.

            2. My friends always played the latest horror movies on VHS at their birthday parties, allowing me to see Alien, Creepshow, The Changeling, The Keep, and more at a very young age. Totally great.

              1. I’m tellin you man, I have been watching slasher flicks since I was a kid, so it takes a lot to make me say ‘that was fucked up’. Antichrist was fucked up.

              2. Epi–You aren’t helping.

                Besides, The Changeling isn’t in the same league. Total suspense. An awesome flick.

                1. Seconded on The Changeling.

              3. I remember The Keep. J?rgen!

                1. Jurgen Prochnow played Duke Leto Atreides in Lynch’s Dune.

                  It always comes back to Dune.

                  It also had a young Sir Ian McKellan and Scott Glenn to boot.

                  1. I’ve been a fan of Prochnow’s since Das Boat.

                    1. That’s Das BOOT you fan boi! 🙂

                    2. Just a typo, man. I am at work, after all.

                    3. No worries. My typos lately make John look like a spell checker. I have excellent dexterity, I’m just not a good typist. When I have posting time during the day, I’m either in the office catching up on paperwork and not seeing patients or during down time.

            3. I watched Alien at 13. When I asked my dad for permission he told me if I turned into an ax murderer and it was proven that him letting me watch the movie turned me, he would hunt me down himself.

              1. That’s a good dad.

          2. Saw Sharkey’s Machine in the theater when it came out. The finger-cutting-off part still sticks in my mind. Awesome moviedom!

            Of course, I was 19 at the time…

      3. BTW, don’t take any of what I said as modern teeth-gnashing, hand-wringing fretful parenting. I watched shitloads of violent programming as a kid growing up in the 60’s, the evening news for instance. [wink] I was big on Rat Patrol and Combat and any number of westerns and Looney Tunes.

        But movies today have a level of realism and gratuitousness that programming of our youth lacked. Never mind the fact that their usually made of shit and stupid as well.

        1. their = they’re (today’s movies).

      4. My mom took me to see 2001 when I was 7. I liked the monkeys and shiny lights. Oh, and that funny sounding man with the red eye.

          1. That’s eerily correct.

      5. Hey, I liked that movie. Bernie Casey, Henry Silva, Charles Durning, Brian Keith, Rachel Ward, Burt, and lots of Saxon violence.

        1. Sharkey’s Machine is awesome. Burt looks great in fitted jeans and turtleneck. Great ‘stache, great coustume design, great opening sequence. And a cool “crazed killer” villain. And a dodgy “frenchman.”

          1. They are fucking re-making it. Assholes.

            1. Oh FFS! Who are they going to cast as Sharky, Ben Affleck?

              1. No, dumbass, Sam Worthington. He’s today’s sexy-action-cool.

                1. Christ, he’s almost as wooden as Josh Hartnett.

                2. I’m voting Will Smith.

            2. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

          2. Don’t forget great stunts, with a dude falling off the Peachtree Plaza.

            1. Don’t forget a young Rachel Ward in a translucent white dress…

        2. You didn’t even mention Vittorio Gasman (forgivable) or John Fiedler (unforgivable). I think Sharkey’s Machine had the best cast of any Hollywood movie of the eighties.

          1. Oh, yeah. Love John Fiedler! (Also known as Jack the Ripper, Beratis, and Kesla).

            I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I think I need to watch it again.

    2. Man, fuck all this noise, I ain’t tryin to hear it.

      I watched “I Spit on Your Grave” with my parents when I was like 11. I am perfectly well adjusted, motherfuckers.

      1. Oh yeah, my cousins were raised on Disney movies and classics such as “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and they are all fucked up.

        1. Like that movie didn’t contain a bunch of latent paedophilia.

      2. I am perfectly well adjusted, motherfuckers.

        White trash cap l would disagree with sophist cap l. And what does Sybil cap l have to say about this? Feel free to Godwin this at any time 🙂

    3. My parents let me start watching Friday the 13th, NOES, Halloween, etc movies when I 4 years old. Despite being a radical libertarian surrounded by very promiscuous peers, I hold rather conservative sexual morals. I abhor promiscuity; although, I believe it to be the more logical and fun preference. I really wonder if the two are related due to the common theme of promiscuity=death.

    4. There was a kindergarten class in the theatre I was in showing “O”

      I think they needed to be 6th graders to truly appreciate it.

  6. Ugg boot ownership should definitely replace promiscuity and intoxicant use as the death sentence trait in slasher flicks.

    1. I would vote for lack of CCW.

  7. Episiarch! They’re closing the Lusty Lady! Seattle will never be the same.

    1. My wife was laughting about that because one of the local news crews was interviewing someone in front of it, and the marquee was for “Clash of the Tight Buns.”

      Heh.

      1. Everyone’s leaving Seattle these days.

    2. Yes, I have known of this for some time. Who cares? Make a profit or go under. I pick my teenage drug addict sluts directly up off the street anyway.

      1. You were the guy on Cops who got caught banging one in his Accord, which was parked outside the entrance of a 7-11?

      2. Well, the billboard is a Seattle icon. Maybe the city can take it over and run sexually suggestive ads.

  8. I think Stephen King explained the phenomenon best when saying that while he had liked all the Hannibal Lecter books so far, hoped there wouldn’t be any more: The first few times you saw Freddy he was legitimately scary. After that he started to become your old pal. A few more times after that you were starting to get bored with him.

    I’d imagine the effect is even stronger when he’s played by Kelly Leak, and you just want to tell him to get his ass out in center field because we’re playing the Yankees for the championship.

    Not that I’ll ever complain when Jackie Earle Hailey’s getting work.

    1. I think a good case could be made that the Freddy films are what de-fanged mainstream horror. None of them but 3 had any discernible nudity (misty showers and waterbed nymphs don’t really count) and the later ones relied on the pun-driven humor that would make a Disney Channel writer blush.

      Does the new movie even keep the only good thing in the non-Craven sequels? If Freddy’s not “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs” the re-makers should burn.

    2. Talk about a loan shark… I borrowed a nickel from him last week he said if I didn’t give him a dime by Friday he’d break my arm.

  9. Last week Kick Ass, this week Nightmare on Elm Street. Is the weekly movie review a new bit on Hit n Run?

    1. Read the tail end of this post.

    2. This is Suderman’s Friday pop culture round-up.

      If you can think of a witty name for it Suderman will give you a prize befitting a libertarian…Your own child laborer!

    3. There used to be a Friday Pot Link. You how many times they ran that? Once.

      1. OK, thanks!

    4. I used to write a lot about pop culture — and movies in particular — before I came to Reason. I obviously don’t spend nearly as much time on it anymore, but I’m going to try to write a pop-culture post most (though not all) weeks, usually on Friday.

  10. “What do you want to talk about?”

    “I don’t know. What’s your favorite color?”

    “Blue.”

    The conversation dies there, pathetically, as if the screenwriter, perhaps fully aware of the fact that these might be the most boring humans in cinematic history, simply gave up, possibly to take a nap.

    Then again, perhaps it’s an homage to this classic scene from The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean:

    “Cook him for me. Smother him in onions.”

    “How do you want your horse?”

    “Blue.”

  11. (Kraut, ambient) Prog!

    (video contains brief scene of breast feeding)

  12. No one has mentioned the remake is directed by Michael Bay?

    1. He who should not be named.

  13. There used to be a Friday Pot Link. You how many times they ran that? Once.

    That’s ’cause, like, whatever, man.

  14. I let my 13 year old daughter watch Kill Bill I & II.

    1. Did she die of boredom just before the climax of II?

  15. That’s ’cause, like, whatever, man.

    Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man

  16. WHY MUST MICHEAL BAY DESTROY EVERYTHING I LOVE?!?!?!

  17. “Is it a tragedy when boring people die?”

    Somebody is bound to mourn your passing, Sudderman, you boring losertarian fuck.

  18. Wes Craven’s genre-defining original, about a burn-laced pedophile named Freddy Krueger…

    Freddy Krueger is a pedophile? I’m not a fan or anything, but I never heard he was into small children. JE Haley is going for a pretty small niche it seems.

    1. He was a child-murderer. I don’t think they revealed he was a pedophile as well. But I am not super-familiar with the later films.

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