Reviewed by Carmen Potts
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz
Directed by Samuel Bayer
At the risk of sounding biased or unfair right out of the gate, I have to ask a question that has been on my mind for the last few years: Why do people continue to hold out any hope for these Platinum Dunes remakes? I know brand names are exciting, but after several of these lame assembly line clones, Michael Bay and his posse have consistently proven that they don’t understand a single thing about telling stories or creating characters. Hell, they couldn’t even provide us with basic bloody entertainment in a Friday the 13th movie. That’s the absolute lowest of hurdles! What made anyone think they would fare better with something as imaginative and smart as A Nightmare on Elm Street?
The short answer is they don’t. At this point all of these remakes are pretty much indistinguishable from each other, and this new Nightmare perfectly fits in with the rest as another over-polished, soulless slice of music video stupidity.
If you know anything about Freddy Krueger (which would be everyone reading this site), you know the premise, which is exactly the same this time around: Several kids in the town of Springwood are being killed in their sleep by a burned maniac and must get to the bottom of his revenge quest. If you die in your sleep, you die for real. Great hook, right? It’s too bad all the depth of Wes Craven’s concept has gone waaaaay over the heads of the remake team.
Where to begin? Director Samuel Bayer embodies all the worst traits of the music video guy turned filmmaker. He over-stylizes every shot without any regard to pace, storytelling, characters, or performances. Bayer has even taken jabs at Craven’s original in the press, and many have commented on how he only took the gig to break out of music videos and into features. That complete lack of passion and understanding comes across in spades. But since this is exactly like every other Platinum Dunes movie, maybe we shouldn’t blame him. Maybe we should just level the blame at the producers, who always seem to be the real directors of these movies anyway.
Regardless, for a “creative team” that has displayed a complete indifference to Wes Craven, they sure love imitating him. Most of the original’s classic setpieces have been repeated – this time with a lot of bad CGI. It’s amazing to see all these iconic sequences sucked of all life, and the whole thing further hammers home why the horror genre loses its charm as filmmakers continue to get lazier with technology. The few nightmare sequences or gags they’re able to come up with on their own are largely uninspired. Even with an unlimited concept at their disposal, they do absolutely nothing new or interesting with the dream universe aside from your typical stalk-n-slash. Epic fail, guys.
The casting of the great Jackie Earl Haley was the one token of good faith and the sole reason many have held out hope for the remake. I hate to say it, but his Freddy Krueger is about as intimidating as a burned Martin Short. You can’t blame the man, though. He tries really hard. Had the character been re-envisioned from the ground up, Haley could have really sunk his teeth in and made it his own. But since he’s dressed in the familiar garb and forced to perform the same ol’ song and dance (albeit with the early darker iteration of Freddy), he comes off as a poor man’s Robert Englund. The new make-up (a mixture of prosthetics and CGI) doesn’t help either: The FX department pushes it so far towards the real that Freddy doesn’t look scary in the slightest. How terrified would you be if the scrawniest patient in a burn ward slapped on a razor glove and came at you?
And let’s talk about the glove, shall we? Remember the complete non-moment in the Friday the 13th remake when Jason randomly finds his hockey mask sitting on some guy’s floor? Well, that same lack of care has been put into Freddy’s origins. Moments that are supposed to be big and signature come off as under-played and limp. I’m still unsure where Freddy’s signature glove came from (he just “has” it in the finished film) aside from one limp visual connection. A lot of this has to do with the big third act twist that re-invents Freddy’s past crimes in a way that is both bold and utterly preposterous.
But what really kills this movie are the characters. There isn’t a single solitary person here to care about. The original Nightmare may be dated in many respects, but it was the intense character dynamics and relationships that kept you on edge just as much as when Freddy Krueger was onscreen. In the remake there’s no sense that anyone knows each other at all. The kids here are as stock as they come, and as a result nothing in this movie carries any weight. Every character is boring and completely one-dimensional, particularly Rooney Mara (who takes on Heather Langenkamp’s iconic role of Nancy). She is quite literally one of the blandest heroines to ever hit the screen, and I could feel myself nod off with each of her line deliveries. Sure, the original wasn’t exactly praised for its acting, but even Ronee Blakley comes off like a master thespian by comparison. Call me crazy, but when a Nightmare movie lulls you to sleep, that’s not a good thing.
While it may not reach Freddy’s Dead levels of suck, this new Nightmare commits a far worse offense: It’s mediocre to the point where it leaves absolutely no impression on you whatsoever. I know Platinum Dunes has been DC’s whipping boy for a long time, and most people will think this review no surprise, but let’s get something straight: Nothing would give us more pleasure than to see a PD film that makes us all eat crow. But the reality is their talents are not suited to the horror genre. And certainly not for Elm Street.
No one’s gonna lose sleep over this one.
2 out of 5
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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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