[As reactions stream in, I thought I should add this little bit here - this is not a review. Please do not spend your money based on this opinion. Because it looks like a lot of my peers HATED this movie. Me? Not so offended. This is NOT a REVIEW, just thoughts.]
I thought I’d take a spare moment I had this morning to reflect on the screening of the Platinum Dunes Nightmare on Elm Street re-make I had the pleasure of watching last night. I can’t really say that this is a “review” as much as it’s an outlet for me to collect my thoughts.
Surprisingly, I had a lot of thoughts (I know, right!?).
It’s pertinent, I feel, for me to disclose that I haven’t seen the original film or any entry in the series where Robert Eugland portrays Freddy. Wait. Scratch that, I did manage to see Freddy Vs. Jason.
Register whatever gut-reaction you had to that admission. Are you angry at me for some reason? Indifferent? Secretly empathizing?
That’s the interesting thing about Platinum Dunes’ plan to re-make the second round of classic movie monsters.
The first round are and will always be the Universal Movie Monsters. Even classic-era film monsters like Nosferateu seem to fall under the umbrella of Universal Movie Monsters in my head despite their invention having nothing to do with the studio. I imagine this has a lot to do with the musical revue show at Universal Studios Hollywood where all the classic monsters (and Beetlejuice for good measure) sang songs.
None of us, however, have the right to bitch about how Studio A or Filmmaker B managed to fuck up the first round of monsters – chances are the version we fell in love with was itself a remake. It’s odd, but valid, that we feel so close to the first incarnation of another group of movie monsters – I’m talking about Leatherface, Freddy, Jason, Mike Myers, probably some other thing I’m missing.
Yeah, disclosure number two: I’m really under-watched in the horror genre. I might be the most deceptively under-watched guy currently pretending he’s not on a regular basis. I treat the classics I haven’t seen like the hot girls I haven’t made out with: unless anyone expressly asks if I’ve made out with them, I’m going to act like I already have.
Here I am, having seen a remake whose plot I was only familiar with because it’s been parodied on television programs. Oh, and I’ve seen Johnny Depp’s death scene a whole bunch of times and a YouTube video of Freddy’s best kills, since Freddy Vs Jason revisited things, I seem to recall. It’s a weird feeling, where I’m disconnected from this film’s core-audience. Being a male between the ages of 13-49, it’s an odd feeling for me.
What I’m left as a method of criticism, as a jumping off point for thinking about the film, is the same thing every piece of fiction I experience is subject to: story. Not plot, story.
Settling into the movie, trying to ignore the idiots sitting to the left of me who thought they were on Mystery Science Theater 3000, I tried to think about what criteria I was looking for in this movie I had almost no previous connection to.
Freddy’s always been the jokiest of new horror group, maybe because he talks a lot. The one Freddy movie I saw had a bunch of meta humor embedded in it that provided my context as to how the character can be treated in its own universe. It’s also possible that one-liners and built-in laughs were a way of distracting from the elements of the film not aimed at scaring the shit out of you. A horror film, structurally, must be really difficult. The tension must be kept up at all times, which counter-acts shortcuts in exposition – Example: monologues don’t work in horror movies unless a kill or scare punctuates the end of it. The killer must have some internal logic working for it, even if that internal logic is like Mike Myers, who is just an unstoppable killing force. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator didn’t run, it had all the time in the world to kill the hell out of you. The characters can’t realize they are in a horror movie. If they do, they must still be a slave to the rules (watch Scream again). A laugh is a good way to break the tension if one of the cogs on your horror story isn’t working. The audience is going to laugh anyway, it’s the uncanny valley of a cinema scare. A gag over or under shot results in laughter, a gag hit perfectly is spine-chilling. Might as well let your audience laugh at jokes and cheeseball humor than at your attempts at making them feel fear. It’s why horror and comedy work so well together, it allows for a roller-coaster of tension followed by release, over-and-over until the film ends.
The new Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t have its tongue in its cheek. Instead, it’s taken an actual shot at probing the Freddy myth as a mystery/horror. Well, sort of.
There’s not a huge mystery. If you’ve kept up with your Simpsons Tree House of Horror episodes, you know how Freddy got the way he was. The movie let’s the characters re-discover Freddy’s myth anew, but they approach it through the science of micro-naps and the legend of the Pied Piper. What’s more, the film decides it’s going to spend a few dozen minutes of it’s running time asking you if Freddy could be innocent of crimes against children. There are nightmare sequences where you see Jackie Earle Haley in his make-up, trying to kill teenagers, and the narrative of the film is asking us to think of it as justified.
It’s a leap, and I don’t think anyone is falling for it wholly, but it does work. It works for the characters who are digging up repressed memories as they become more and more isolated within a waking Nightmare.
The choice to make Freddy a child molester instead of a child murderer is actually better too. Towards the end of the film, there is the implication that Nancy has been trapped by Freddy to be dream-raped into eternity by the burned corpse of her childhood abuser. That’s, like, R-rated level fucked up, which is a great part of making Freddy a threat.
Also adding to the WTF-ness of the concept is a brief scene where Freddy kills television’s John Conner in his sleep, we cut into reality to see the death, then we cut back into the dream where Freddy mentions that the brain has six minutes to live after the heart stops and it’s going to be filled with knife-fingered pain.
There are some things in the script that don’t make sense, mostly having to do with awkward attempts to remind us we’re in the present. There’s a fake Google called GigaBlast for all the internetting our protagonists have to do. It’s a clever way to deal with it, except one of the first uses of text in the film to provide information has a character looking at her friend’s obituary in a newspaper. You either have newspapers or you have GigaBlast, guys. The newspaper is even more awkward as the movie transitions further into the digital. We see what very well might be a Freddy kill caught on webcam, prompting the question: “who posted that video after the guy died alone?” Also, another analog piece of information – a class photo from the past – is ridiculously mistreated. There’s the photo of all the kids with the names printed on back. As Nancy is researching all the kids in the photo, she uses a Sharpie to X out the faces on the front side of the photo. BITCH, THOSE ARE YOUR MEMORIES. Use a tiny check mark, in pencil, on the back of the photo by the names like a normal person who acknowledges certain things are really permanent.
Small complaints, really, for a movie that I expected to merely tolerate.
I can already see why horror-franchise sequels can live and die by the motivations of their killer. It works very nicely here that our protagonists are targeted by Freddy because the dude is insane and wants to draw out their torment from many years ago, right before he kills them. I know it’s going to be harder for the writers of future Nightmares to give me a good reason why Freddy is killing these particular people.
To explain that, I want to talk about 24 for a second. I just finished re-watching the first season with a friend of mine because I was so disgusted with the currently-broadcasting Final Season of 24. Watching season one again emphasized what an empty shell of itself the current show is. In season one, there was a reason it was that day, that 24 hour period. In season one, they realize they have to at least reference food and traffic. In season one, the plot is suspenseful, but it’s always about the relationship of powerful men to their families on a subtextual level (if not a surface one). In short, there is a reason that story exists and it justifies its own format. Present Day in 24-Land, the format dictates the story. That’s why people watch it to see Jack Bauer go superhero every third episode instead of why they used to watch it: to find out what happened next.
This being a re-invention of the Nightmare franchise, it has the benefit of its villain being inextricably linked to the protagonists. That makes the writer’s job easier, it makes the actor’s jobs easier, it makes the experience as an audience member feel much more complete. I’m not a believer that the most effective horror is horror that can reasonably happen to you. Just because I wasn’t molested as a child doesn’t mean the idea of dying in an irrational dream-world isn’t frightening. The core is there, but story-wise, each character is justified for appearing. That might sound like a bare minimum expectation, but look to something like Jason X to see a film that doesn’t have a good reason for its villain to be killing those specific people. In that film, future Jason just kills the people who happen to be trapped in space with him. That’s not scary like a serial-killer that’s hunting you, that’s more like being trapped in a pit with a wild, rabid gorilla – that shit is out to kill you because that’s what it does.
My final word is that Nightmare on Elm street is enjoyable. I enjoyed myself. This flick will benefit from being the R-Rated horror on the cusp of the summer movie season. Granted, it’s going to get trampled flat by Iron Man 2, the flick that has the honor of kicking off the line of big summer movies, but at least it got out before Chris Nolan’s Inception, which will attempt to re-define how we talk about the representation of dreams in cinematic stories.
At least Nightmare got a word in before that happens.
- ACTION: Dave paces, looking at his cell phone. Alien sits on the couch, eating chips.
- Dave: Dammit.
- Alien: What's wrong?
- ACTION: Dave sits on the couch, still poking at his phone.
- Dave: Jeff said he'd call me about brunch with him and Megan.
- ACTION: Alien raises chip bag.
- Alien: I have chips.
- ACTION: Dave waves it off.
- Dave: Chips aren't brunch.
- Alien: What is brunch?
- ACTION: Dave pauses.
- Dave: Uh. A combination meal between breakfast and lunch. It's usually, like, a weekend thing. Because you drink there.
- ACTION: Pause. Alien looks at Dave, Dave goes back to the phone. Alien looks at chip bag, back at Dave.
- Alien: You're displeased the chips are not a liquid?
- ACTION: Dave sighs.
- Dave: No. You drink. Alcohol. Brunch usually comes with some kind of alcoholic drink.
- Alien: Give me examples.
- Dave: Why are you so curious about everything?
- Alien: It's my prerogative.
- ACTION: Alien blinks.
- Alien: Also, I'm lonely when you leave.
- ACTION: Alien makes sad face.
- ACTION: Da7e rolls his eyes.
- Dave: There's a mimosa, which is champagne and orange juice, there's a bloody-
- ALIEN: That explains how I got intoxicated drinking that orange juice in the refrigerator!
- ACTION: Dave cocks an eyebrow.
- ALIEN: Continue.
- Dave (Fast): Bloody Mary, which is a vodka based drink. (normal speed) Did you say you got drunk off Orange Juice?
- ALIEN: Yes.
- ACTION: Beat.
- ALIEN: It must have been Mimosa.
- Dave: The champagne is the alcoholic part of a Mimosa. The orange juice is the mixer.
- ALIEN: Then why would one want to fornicate in a room full of alcohol?
- Dave: They wouldn't! They would drown! Where are you getting this from?
- ALIEN: I've recently purchased an album on your iTunes music portal-
- Dave: Oh my God! "No sex in the Champagne Room!" YOU'RE the one who has been downloading that Chynah Doll to my laptop?
- ALIEN: I thought you knew.
- Dave: I thought I was secretly gay! And like...Sleep binge online shopping.
- ALIEN: Is that something you have a history of doing?
- Dave: I woke up after my college graduation party the winning bidder of eBay auction of a box of 100 dildos.
- ALIEN: What is a dildo?
- Dave: A fake penis.
- ALIEN: The male sex organ?
- Dave: Yes.
- ACTION: Alien looks at Dave's crotch.
- ALIEN: Why would you need 100? You don't look nearly that fertile. Was it for some kind of mating ritual? Perhaps a display?
- Dave: It wasn't FOR anything. I would appreciate it if we don't discuss each other's fertility in this household.
- ALIEN: But is that not why you called Jeff? To lure him to brunch for mutual socializing with Megan, a female?
- Dave: No! Well. Yes. But there are lots of steps in between those things.
- ALIEN: Do you sedate her with some sort of discharge?
- Dave: No. And never say that to anyone.
- ALIEN: How will you persuade Megan to engage in intercourse?
- Dave: You said you had been watching our media to learn about our culture, why did you ask me if I discharged?
- ALIEN: Things are much different her than they way they are represented on your broadcasts that have reached our receivers.
- ACTION: He stuffs chips in his mouth.
- ALIEN: It's only been a few years since we've been able to separate the human concept of recreations and fictionalization in storytelling and the reality embedded in the narrative.
- Dave: What?
- ALIEN: On 24, Jack Bauer never urinates or makes excrement. Yet I've seen you do so five times within a hour.
- Dave: I see you've found my DVDs. And the other night I...I broke the seal at the bar, okay?
- ALIEN: I don't understand that idiom, and I don't care to.
- ACTION: He goes back to eating chips.
- ACTION: Dave is making a peanut butter and honey sandwich on the counter next to the fridge.
- ACTION: Alien walks over to the fridge, grabs the handle and opens it, so the door blocks our view of Dave.
- ACTION: Alien reaches towards the fridge, but stops.
- ACTION: He peers inside.
- ALIEN: Where is my pudding?
- Dave (OC): What?
- ALIEN: My pudding. My pudding is gone.
- ACTION: He shuts the door.
- Alien: I fear my pudding is-is...how do you say it. My pudding is on the lamb!
- DAVE: That is ridiculous.
- ALIEN: It is not! It is the most rational explanation.
- DAVE: You have more pudding mix. You can make more pudding.
- ALIEN: I choose to track down the original pudding. It must be punished for its insolence. By consumption.
- DAVE: Pudding doesn't move. Not by itself.
- ALIEN: It must. A! I had put a blue piece of masking tape on the tupperware containing the pudding, marking it as mine. B! No one has entered the apartment since I put mix to milk. Therefore! C! The pudding has become sentient!
- ACTION: Dave stops making the sandwich and hangs his head.
- ACTION: Alien makes "hunt the pudding" gestures.
- ALIEN: How does it move? Does it levitate? There doesn't seem to be a residue trail...
- DAVE: It was me!
- ALIEN: What?
- DAVE: I ate it! I ate your pudding!
- ALIEN: Did you not see the blue tape? That was our agreement.
- DAVE: I saw the tape. I was high, I thought I could get away with it.
- ALIEN: You were high?
- DAVE: Yes.
- ALIEN: Intoxicated on marijuana?
- DAVE: Yes.
- ALIEN: I don't understand. Did you...rape my pudding?
- DAVE: What? No! What makes you think that?
- ALIEN: The evil weed of the Jazz player turns even the calmest of men to murderous rapists!
- DAVE: I don't know what exact era you're getting your propaganda from, but that's a myth. You've seen me smoke pot.
- ALIEN: Pot is marijuana? That just makes you hungry and difficult to understand. And when I watch you it makes me hungry. HUNGRY FOR PUDDING! Pudding I make, then save the leftovers for the future. And guess what, Sharon, the future is now!
- DAVE: Sharon?
- ALIEN: Is "Sharon's" proper usage not to separate clauses in melodramatic statements?
- DAVE: I like that you've been watching TV, but it frightens me that you've watched so much of it. I just ate your pudding. I was hungry and I ate it. You can make more. I will buy more mix.
- ALIEN: Will you buy me mix that boils and mixes itself with milk?
- DAVE: I'll cancel our SoapNet subscription on cable and buy you pudding packs. Win-Win.
- ALIEN: This would be more acceptable if I was eating pudding.
- DAVE: Most things in life would be.
I have a bunch of nicknames that my friends have given me. “Gonzo” actually comes up more than you would think.
However, when I was blogging about porn, “Gonzo” didn’t come up because it’s a style of pornography. In Journalism, I don’t do “Gonzo,” so that never followed me around. My friend Phil got the Gonzo fist tattoo inspired by HST’s campaign for sheriff.
Yet I’m still most frequently called “Pukes” or “Dirty Mongoose.”
At the New York “Kick-Ass” online press junket
During my interview with Chloe Moretz (for LatinoReview.com, in support of Kick-Ass), about halfway through the interview, I noticed that this girl had quite a way about her when it came to interviews.
She must have been a few hours in - answering the same questions for the cloudy-eyed junketeers - but still she had her energy high and seemed like she was having some fun.
So, I snapped my iPhone on to record her talking.
Note to self: when doing this in the future, keep the iPhone on landscape. Selective cropping has been used in this video, hence the pixelation…sigh…
Anyway, thought this would be fun for those of you who won’t get to meet dear Chloe until she’s superfamous. Kick-Ass made 7.6 million on Friday.
I’m trying something and releasing this video for Debris as a video instead of as a playable MP3. Why?
Well, mostly because you can embed and share it if you want to. If not, just take a listen. This is the leadoff “single” from the upcoming and final Citizen Nowhere album.
I like it as a song too, obviously. It goes from 16 bit sounds to full on oboe runs. MMMMMM, that’s good MIDI.
This will probably be the last track you hear off this album until it’s done. The other is called Loose Lips and you can listen to it the old fashioned/non-embed-able way HERE.