Nightmare on Elm Street Mini Review, A (UK - BD)
Chris takes a quick look at the Blu-ray release of the recent horror remake...
In this contemporary reimagining of the horror classic a group of suburban teenagers are being stalked by a malevolent, horribly disfigured figure that haunts their nightmares. As one by one they succumb to the mysterious dream stalker they come to realise that the misdeeds of their parents may be responsible for their current situation. The remaining survivors must band together to uncover the truth of the past, but when death is only a dream away will any of them survive long enough to uncover the identity of their attacker?
Ah where to begin. Well first, let me apologise for yet another mini review. Unfortunately, despite requesting a check disc almost a month ago it was only sent a couple of days before the film’s release. It was accompanied by a threatening letter demanding that it be returned ASAP lest all future review material be withheld and my firstborn become the property of Warner Brothers. Neither of those things inclined me to review this disc at all, but then I remembered that I actually had something to say about the remake. I could pretty much do that in three words (those being ‘it’s utterly redundant’), but I thought I’d share some of my thoughts anyway before I move on to the technical stuff.
Firstly, let me start be saying that I don’t have anything against remakes. Some of my favourite films are remakes, such as John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s take on The Fly. However, what these films have in common is that they are generally accepted to be superior to the originals, or at the very least offer a radically different take on an old formula. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street does neither of these things. Rather than finding its own feet it rips off sequences from the original and its sequels wholesale, but with less subtlety and style. Seriously, it’s like a cynical checklist of iconic scenes being ticked off before your eyes: Freddy emerging from the wall above Nancy—check; Tina, sorry Kris, floating around the bedroom before being gutted—check; Freddy’s glove coming up out of the water when Nancy’s in the bathtub—check. Unfortunately each and every one of these scenes is a pale imitation of the original that inspired them.
The bits they do change just don’t work either. Unlike the original the red herring heroine plotline is played out for far too long (like a third of the film), and while the whole did he or didn’t he thing with Krueger was one of the more interesting deviations from the original the filmmakers didn’t have the balls to do something truly original or controversial and bottled it before the end. Perhaps the biggest problem is that I just didn't connect with any of the characters or believe in their relationships, which aren't nearly as fleshed-out those in the original feature (or even the sequels). Because they waste so much time building one character up to be the lead there's not enough time to fully establish the real lead, so you just don't root for her in the same way that you rooted for the original Nancy. I don't know about you, but I think it's a major problem when you don't care about the central character. It's also a bit of an issue when a horror film is devoid of scares, which this largely is. There's also some pretty appalling CGI work to contend with. On the whole it's quite a stylish looking film, the acting is no worse than the original Elm Street and Jackie Earle Haley is decent enough as Freddy (make-up aside), but none of that can save this remake from mediocrity.
Let’s kick the technical section off with the video, which as you’d expect looks pretty good given that the film is less than a year old. The film makes good use of colour throughout, particularly during the opening diner scene with its use of green and red neon evoking thoughts of Freddy. The 2.40:1 (1080/24p VC-1) transfer does an admirable job of bringing the palette to life with strong colour rendition and decent contrast. Detail is about as good as can reasonably be expected and processing looks to have been kept to a minimum, with no obvious signs of DNR, edge enhancement, or other digital tinkering. The image definitely has the edge over the theatrical showing I attended earlier in the year and all-in-all it's a pretty solid effort.
Unlike the pseudo 5.1 mix created for the original film’s Blu-ray outing, the remake’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has the advantage of being a true multi-channel mix. This makes it far more effective, with all five channels used to immerse the viewer in the on-screen events. The opening diner scene features some nice use of the surrounds, with rain and thunder adding plenty of atmosphere. There are also some neat little discrete touches, such as creaking floorboards, a rusty gate, hissing steam and Freddy's cackling moving around the soundstage. Bass is used effectively—especially to reinforce Krueger's gravelly voice—and dialogue is generally strong throughout. Steve Jablonsky's music is reminiscent of Charles Bernstein’s original score, but it’s not as creepy and I really missed the sting of the synths during the jumpier moments. It's functional enough though. Still, on balance I’d have to say that the audio presentation is probably the disc’s strongest element.
The extras kick off with a relatively brief making of featurette that covers the genesis of the remake and casting JEH as Freddy. Next up is the Maniacal Movie Mode, which is another one of Warner’s picture-in-picture supplements. Most if not all of the principal cast and crew pop up in windows throughout the film’s ninety-minute runtime, offering a look behind-the-scenes and granting insight into the creative process. The frequency of the PiP segments came as a welcome surprise. Six Focus Points delve deeper into the creative process and cover everything from make-up effects and wardrobe, to pyrotechnics and casting (albeit in very limited detail). Bringing up the rear we have a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them deleted scenes and an alternate ending, which is fairly similar to the ending in the finished film up to a point. The deviation isn’t particularly inspiring, so I can see why it was changed. Although not supplied with the review copy the retail release will include a DVD and Digital Copy.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic and as such wasn't in need of a remake. The entire exercise was one in futility, so it's no surprise that the finished article is a by-the-numbers slasher film that fails to do anything new or exciting with such an imaginative concept. With that said, the disc is audio-visually impressive and the supplemental features are better than the first look would indicate, so fans should be pleased enough. Me, I'll be sticking with the original. Oh, I do have one last question—why only ten chapter stops for the entire film? Is there a shortage I’m not aware of?
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 25th October 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Descriptive Narration English 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai
Subtitles: Danish, Dutch, Chinese, English HoH, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai
Extras: Featurette, Maniacal Movie Mode, Focus Points, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Samuel Bayer
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton
Length: 96 minutes
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