Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Directed By: Samuel Bayer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton
Studio: New Line
Film Length: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: October 5, 2010
The Film **½
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a cinematic "re-imagining" (code for "remake with pretension") of the 1980s horror classic from Wes Craven. As before, the story involves a group of teenagers being terrorized in their dreams by a razor-gloved, striped sweater and fedora-wearing boogeyman named Freddie Kreuger (Haley). When these nightmares manifest in serious real life consequences for their friend Dean (Lutz), his classmates Nancy (Mara), Quentin (Gallner), Kris (Cassidy), and Jesse (Dekker), start to piece together common elements in their own vivid nightmares. Afraid to sleep and increasingly suspicious that their parents are hiding crucial information from them, the teenagers try to piece together the relationship between their shared nightmares and their own barely remembered childhoods before Freddie can claim them as his next victims.
Since 2003, the folks behind the "Platinum Dunes" production company (inclusive of producers Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, and Andrew Form), have been turning out a steady stream of modern re-makes of vintage 70s and 80s horror films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, and Friday the Thirteenth with generally positive financial results. These "re-imaginings" apply modern production values to stories that borrow the iconography of their predecessors while jettisoning all of the thorny continuity issues inherent to producing straight ahead sequels. Given their track record, I was not surprised to learn that they were pursuing a remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, as it has been one of the most lucrative horror franchises of the past three decades.
Starting with the positive, Director Samuel Bayer does manage to improve on the original in a number of technical ways. The production design and special effects do not have as many low-budget seams showing as Wes Craven's 1984 film. Bayer also makes the right call in his preference for practical effects with minor CG enhancements, with only one serious contrary example where a CG effect is so jarringly applied that it feels like it is interrupting the movie. The cast of teenagers is across the board a stronger group of actors. Kyle Gallner may be no Johnny Depp, but Johnny Depp was no Johnny Depp either in 1984. As parents, I think Connie Britton and Clancy Brown are more than a fair trade for Ronee Blakley and John Saxon, although as is also the case with Depp and Gallner, their characters and relationships are only partially analogous to each other. In terms of the screenplay, I liked the fact that they jettisoned the campy elements of Freddy's character that had undermined many of the sequels, and the concept of "micronaps" is a fun one that creates the possibility that a sleep deprived character could fall into a dangerous waking dream at almost any point.
Unfortunately, these positive elements do not counter several shortcomings also introduced by the filmmakers. Most noticeably, the lack of imagination that went into the nightmare set-pieces. This was the element that set A Nightmare on Elm Street apart from other slasher films. The filmmakers seem content to recycle the iconography of the first film with only minor twists and less vivid imagery. Other than the boiler room scenes, everything is shot with a gunmetal cool palette that emphasizes blues and greys. This can add suspense in the sense that the viewer can frequently not be certain whether or not a character has entered a "nightmare", but this could have been more creatively handled by cleverly planned transitions between scenes. As a result, the film feels like a pretty generic entry in the "slasher/dead teenager"genre.
As taleneted as the young (and presumably inexpensive) cast is, I believe the screenwriters strayed in making them all a bunch of moody sensitive teens. The premise suggested by the title almost demands that the teenagers be boy and girl next door types. The characterizations in this remake may be more consistent with the childhood trauma the film's plot suggets some of the children withstood, but the original film never had to show you a close-up of a street sign to convince the viewer that they were on Elm Street. The apple-cheeked All-American characterizations of the teenagers did that by itself. While I am definitely a fan of Jackie Earle Haley as an actor, and he certainly seems to relish playing the menacing aspects of the Freddie Kreuger character, he is undermined somewhat by the filmmaker's decision to try to reason through everything. Freddy's make-up makes him look more like a burn victim than the original design, but it also makes him look somewhat less demonic/nightmarish. Haley's relatively small stature and frame do not help him seem any more menacing, either. The screenplay's efforts to expand on Freddy's backstory, and even a somewhat original thread which forces the teenagers to contemplate whether or not their parents may have been responsible for lynching an innocent man, rob the character of some of his mystique. One of the conceits of the previous Nightmare films is that audiences developed a strange affection for the character that was in no way based in empathy, which is an emotion that may serve a Frankenstein or Wolfman story well, but does not work in the contect of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Folks who were annoyed by Christian Bale's affected intimidating growl of a voice he used to play Batman when in costume may very well be put-off by Haley's similar intonations in this role.
The Video ****½
The VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer of the film is letterboxed to its original proportions of approximately 2.4:1. Aside from the "boiler room" scenes, the film has a very cool palette with an emphasis on blues and greys both via production design choices and the use of filtering. The intended palette is rendered with excellent detail and a good range of contrast. I noticed exactly one instance of aliasing shimmer and what looks like some very slight contrast manipulation in a few spots, but no other signs of digital video artifacts.
The Audio *****
Sound is courtesy of a DTS HD-MA 5.1 track. The film has a mix that is every bit as dimensional and dynamic as one would hope for in a "boogey-man" horror film. Unseen things will be moving through and going "bump" in the darkness surrounding the viewer at all of the key moments, and the score's inevitable "make you jump" stingers make full use of the available dynamic headroom. The lossless rendering on this Blu-ray does it full justice in a near-field listening environment. Alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 language dubs are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The Extras ***½
When the disc is first spun-up, the viewer is greeted with the following skippable promos presented in VC-1 encoded high definition video:
WB Digital Copy Promo (:58) telling the viewer how easy fast and portable they are
Warner Blu-ray Promo (2:01) emphasizing interactive features available via the technology
Proper special features are all video based and are presented in VC-1 encoded high definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise indicated below:
First up is Freddy Kreuger Reborn (13:54) which focuses on how the iconic boogeyman was re-imagined and re-cast for this new version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. This featurette touched on several aspects that are expanded upon in more detail in the other features inclusive of props, costumes, make-up, and actor Jackie Earle Haley. It offers a mix of talking head interviews, film clips, and behind the scenes footage. On-camera comments are provided by Director Samuel Bayer, Screenwriter Eric Heisserer, Rooney Mara ("Nancy"), Thomas Dekker ("Jesse"), Producer Brad Fuller, Co-Producer John Rickard, Executive Producer Mike Drake, Kyle Gallner ("Quentin"), Producer Andrew Form, Jackie Earle Haley ("Freddy Kreuger"), Kellan Lutz ("Dean"), Special Make-up Effects Designer Andrew Clement, and Cinematographer Jeff Cutter.
Next is WB Maniacal Movie Mode (94 minutes) which is the most substantial supplement on the disc. As with previous "Maximum Movie Mode" features on Warner Blu-ray discs, it runs the complete length of the film with pop-up windows offering (mostly) context-specific behind the scenes glimpses and picture-in-picture commentary from various participants. There are also seven points where the viewer is invited via an on-screen prompt to watch a branching "Focus Point" featurette that expands on one particular topic being discussed. The Focus Points are also accessible outside of the "WB Maniacal Movie Mode" context and are described in detail below. Unlike some of the more elaborate "Maximum Movie Mode" feature, there are no elaborate "pause the movie" sidebars. There is some good behind the scenes information on many technical aspects of the production (especially costumes, make-up, and production design), but I was surprised by how little input there was from director Samuel Bayer. One of the more interesting passages occurs late in the film where producers discuss a sequence that was deleted involving Kyle Gallner's character encountering Freddy in a unique space. The sequence was apparently shot and still photos of actors in costume are shown, but this sequence does not appear in the Additional Footage section of the blu-ray supplements. On-screen comments are provided by Fuller, Form, Bayer, Haley, Costume Designer Mari-An Cio, Lutz, Rickard, Clement, Lumb, Dekker, Heisserer, Katie Cassidy ("Kris"), Drake, Cutter, Special Effects Coordinator John Milinac, and Stunt Coordinator Kurt Bryant.
A collection of featurettes called Focus Points are accessible directly from the Special Features menu as well as via branching options during the "WB Maniacal Movie Mode" feature.
Make-up Makes the Character (3:34) focuses on the design and implementation of the elaborate make-up appliances and digital enhancements that went into creating the look of Freddie Kreuger. On-camera comments are provided by Haley, Bayer, Clement, Drake, and Fuller.
Micronaps (2:38) Looks at one of the more clever ideas introduced in the screenplay, its basis in sleep deprivation research, and how it was visually realized in the film. On-camera comments are provided by Fuller, Heisserer, Form, Bayer, dekker, Drake, and Haley.
The Hat () Focuses on Freddie Kreuger's iconic Fedora and the lengths that the filmmakers went to get it just right for this modern reimagining. Comments are provided by Haley, Rickard, Ceo, Fuller, Drake, and Cutter.
Practical Fire (2:32) Focuses on the special effects departments efforts with a key scene involving a character being surrounded and engulfed by flames. Comments are provided by Heisserer, bayer, Fuller, and Milinac.
The Sweater (2:29) Focuses on yet another piece of wardrobe that figures into Freddie Kreuger's iconography. Comments are provided by Rickjard, Cio, Haley, and Cutter.
The Glove (2:24) Looks at Freddy Kreuger's signature hand-wear, how it was placed in the context of the character's back-story, and how it was realized by the prop department for various purposes and scenes. Comments are provioded by Drake, Propery Master William Dambra, Special Effects Artist Joe Mack, Haley, and Fuller.
The Victims (3:51) Focuses on the teenagers being stalked by Freddy as well as the actors who play them. On-camera comments are offered by Mara, Gallner, Dekker, Lutz, and Cassidy.
Additional Footage includes three deleted or alternate scenes that did not make it through to the film's final cut:
Hospital Opening (1:11) is a substantially different first introduction to Freddy Kreuger than the diner scene that opens the finished film
Nightmare Street (:58) is an additional brief "waking nightmare" sequence that would have fit into the film immediately after the scene where Nancy and Quentin abandon their car. It was likely deleted to improve the pacing of the film's final act.
Alternate Ending (6:12) is a substantially re-worked final confrontation between Freddie and the last two teenagers standing that had some interesting ideas, including one where Freddie changes his appearance, but ultimately did not work very well. There is much discussion of this deleted sequence in the "Maniacal Movie Mode" visual commentary for viewers seeking insight to what was intended and why it was cut.
A BD-Live link provides the viewer access to the Warner BD-Live Portal which does not currently have any content related to A Nightmare on Elm Sreet not otherwsie available on the disc beyond the ability to host and/or participate in a community screening.
A separate DVD includes SD DVD and Digital Copyversions of the film as has been the case for all Warner theatrical new release titles in 2010. The SD DVD is bare bones with no extras and only a 384kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Fans of the film seeking portability to non BD-equipped environments or fans of mpeg video noise (which is very noticeable in this encoding) will appreciate this offering. The digital copy is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media and downloads from the disc directly with a code provided on a physical insert in the disc case.
The disc is enclosed in a standard sized Blu-ray case with an additional spindle/hub on the inside cover to accomodate the SD DVD with Digital Copy bonus disc. The only insert is a sheet with the code to unlock the digital copy. The hard case is in turn enclosed in a slipcover which reporduces most of the art from the standard disc with lenticular 3D enhancements on the front.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a modern "re-imagining" of the Wes Craven original that despite a high level of technical spit and polish and a talented cast, does not capture enough of what made the original film special to make it work. The end result is a fairly prosaic, professionally made horror film that fails to distinguish itself significantly from other entries in the "dead teenager" genre. It is presented on disc with very good high definition video and a reference-quality lossless surround-sound audio track that will draw the viewer into the film's dream world perhaps even more effectively than the on-screen imagery. Extras are generous and of modest depth including deleted scenes, featurettes, a visual commentary that focuses primarily on technical and design aspects of the film, and a separate disc with SD DVD and digital copy versions of the film.