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A Nightmare on Remake Street?

by Andy Gibbons

Ok, it’s time to address a thorny issue – that of remakes and specifically Platinum Dunes’ (the production company spearheaded by Michael Bay) reworking of some classic horror movies. Last night Warner Bros. screened PD’s latest update – their ‘re-imagining’ of Wes Craven’s seminal 1984 slasher flick A Nightmare On Elm Street and to describe it as ‘by-the-numbers’ is doing it a favour. Sure Jackie Earle Haley (below) is pretty disturbing as razor-fingered dream monster Freddy Krueger and there is blood by the bucket load but it’s in no way as scary or groundbreaking as the original which, as far as I’m concerned, is a real shame.


Let me start by saying that from a business point of view, I can totally understand why Bay and his partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form are in the remake market – it turns out they make a tidy profit on every movie that roles off their production line. Set against pretty low budgets (their 2003 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake cost around $10 million to make and earned more than ten times that at the box office while 2005’s The Amityville Horror ended up some $90 million in the black), the rewards are handsome because there’s an audience hungry for horror who are keen to fill up the multiplexes on every opening weekend. It’s also kind of ingenious in a Dick Dastardly kind of way – you have all these teenagers who’ve heard about these ‘classic’ movies from back in the day but what are the chances any of them will ever sit down at home with a DVD and watch a film older than they are? So instead hire a few actors the audience may have heard of, give the movie a contemporary soundtrack (which will earn more money through CD sales and downloads) and throw some CGI splatter at the screen and bingo – maximum output for minimal input. You can almost hear Muttley’s throaty laugh as Bay and co. count the cash that A Nightmare On Elm Street will inevitably bring in.

Now while I guess you almost admire the business acumen here, the biggest worry for me is the lack of originality and creativity. We live in a digital age where CGI makes anything possible on screen for a relatively low cost. You want Freddy to pull someone backwards through a mirror into his dream world? No problem. But back in 1984 Wes Craven didn’t have these toys at his disposal – he had to get creative to earn his shocks and that was part of the charm. I know it’s easy to say that we’re now in 2010 so we should be using whatever technology is available to make better films and I really wouldn’t mind if better films were being produced but frankly they’re not. How about the guys at Platinum Dunes put some of their ill-gotten gains to good use and give truly original up-and-coming horror directors like Adam Green (Hatchet), Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) or Lee Demabre (Smash Cut) the chance to develop something which would give us all a fright?



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