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Where’s the bloody good fun? A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Slash and Burn

By John Brodeur

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Samuel Bayer

1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street held a special place in the hearts and minds of a particular generation. Teenagers far and wide lined up to take in a film that blurred the line between fantasy and reality, with a protagonist in Freddy Krueger whose only purpose was to leave a trail of pretty young corpses. And Robert Englund’s sinister-but-snarky Krueger became a cultural icon. If you were a teenage boy in the 1980s, you dressed as Freddy for Halloween at least once; even today when we see someone wearing a top with chunky horizontal stripes, we call it a “Freddy Krueger sweater.”

Of course the franchise also helped fast-track the slasher genre’s shift to pure camp, the unwitting connector between Michael Myers and Chucky. And the original Nightmare wasn’t exactly high art, either: Save a star-making turn from Englund (though he never had a big- ticket leading role outside of a Nightmare film, he was an awfully familiar disfigured face for two decades), it was memorable only for a few iconic kill scenes.

What this is all getting at is there’s more riding on Samuel Bayer’s Nightmare remake than you might have thought. This film has actual cultural significance. Really.

So maybe Bayer isn’t to be blamed for treating his debut feature (after 20 years of directing music videos) with kid gloves—this Nightmare certainly won’t go down as the biggest P.O.S. in the illustrious canon of horror-flick franchise reboots. But the bar is mighty low: Indeed, this is a watered-down, SVU’d-up (Freddy’s a molester now, not a murderer) hull of the original. With a budget nearly 20 times that of the first Nightmare, Bayer’s picture doesn’t even manage to out-gore its source—for some reason, he skimps where it really counts. Might have been best to skip the CGI and go back to the well of Red No. 5.

The plot is roughly the same, but its few thrills and updates are weak and expected. Here, the corpses-to-be are played by such no-name actors as Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy and Kyle Gallner, and the role of Krueger is played by Jackie Earle Haley—a fine actor whose skills are of little use here. Haley’s stuck in the low grumble of his Rorschach from last year’s Watchmen, and given nary a decent one-liner. He’s creepy and gross—which is fine—but he’s not even funny? This is not the Freddy we signed up for.

Animal Cruelties

Furry Vengeance

Directed by Roger Kumble

My editor is calling me, wondering, at the 11th hour, where is my review? Can we expect it, like, now? How difficult can it be, when you’ve been doing weekly reviews for nigh on 20 years? Houston, do we have a problem?

I can’t blame family emergency, or the typical lunacy of a two working parent/four kid schedule, for the snail’s length pace this review took getting to the proper authorities. No, it was simply a sheer case of not wishing to relive what had to have been among the most painful 92 minutes of my entire life. This includes the time I was in labor with my eldest, and the Catholic hospital took a really long time getting me the pre-approved epidural. Furry Vengeance, ostensibly a pro-green, anti-development family film, is essentially an homage to crotch shots and, literally, ball busting. Apparently, the environmentally friendly bit has to do with the fact that those implementing said tortures are (poorly animated) woodland critters, who are merely trying to save their preserve from the likes of builder Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser). And so, we have Dan getting sprayed by skunks. Chased by bears with underwear (don’t ask). Bitten and nibbled and gnawed on by raccoons, and other animals that don’t properly exist in the American wilderness.

It’s an absolutely mind-numbing experience, making me re-think my unwillingness to give Alvin and the Chipmunks a fair chance. On top of the utter badness of the entire movie, which actually took two numbskulls by the names of Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert to pen, is the simple tragedy of Brendan Fraser. Granted, he got his start in gen-x’r flicks like School Ties and Encino Man. But his stellar turn in Gods and Monsters gave his acting career legs, The Mummy gave him matinee panache, and the fact of George and the Jungle simply made him look like a good sport. Since then, though, he’s meandered on autopilot, appearing in trash like the Mummy sequels and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Now, Furry Vengeance, in which he looks bloated and desperate. He shares most of his screen time with a marauding raccoon, and some of it suspended in a port-o-john. It had to have been a rough shoot, but no more so than having to sit through the finished product.

—Laura Leon


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