A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
When Platinum Dunes and New Line Cinema partnered to remake “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in 2003, launching the horror remake trend that would dominate the genre for most of the decade, it was pretty much inevitable what would happen next. Michael Bay's obnoxiously slick remake factory would get its grubby mitts on the other eighties horror icons included under the New Line House of Horror banner. After Jason was retrofitted into a slick scare delivery machine in 2009, Freddy Krueger would unsurprisingly follow the next year. While Platinum Dune's Leatherface movies had defenders at the time, even though they were garbage, and their Jason movie could've been a lot worst, 2010's “A Nightmare on Elm Street” has attracted few fans in the nine – yes really – years since its release.
Instead of remixing the original story, 2010's “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a direct remake of Wes Craven's words. Nancy's last name is different and Tina is now called Kris but the character's roles are the same. The biggest difference this “Nightmare” enacts is adding a degree of doubt to Freddy's past. Now, the film presents the idea that Freddy maybe wasn't such a bad guy in life. Maybe he was framed for a crime – changed from murder to molestation, because I guess killing kids wasn't edgy enough for Platinum Dunes – he didn't commit. Never mind that this makes the nature of his revenge way less interesting. If Freddy was an innocent in life, why does he become such a depraved murderer in death? It's all a ruse anyway, as Freddy is revealed to be responsible by the end. Why add this difference then? There's no reason, other than a desire to make the new film different from the old one. It adds nothing to the story.
What new elements the remake add are equally uninspired. As you'd expect, 2010's “Nightmare” maintains the Platinum Dunes' house style. Everything is caked with grit and dirt while simultaneously looking as sleek and intentionally placed as possible. It's the car commercial version of real horror. The remake's nightmare sequences and death scenes are absolutely forgettable. All the dreams are Freddy lurking through the shadows. All the deaths are stabbings and slashings. Freddy's boiler room is piss-yellow lights seeping through indistinct machinery. The film loads down on jittery jump scares, Freddy's scarred face or claw leaping into the camera on more than one occasion. A good example of the lack of subtly here is the huge plume of sparks his claws produce every single time he drags them against any metal surface. And because the film has no respect for its audience's intelligence, there's an extended flashback explaining every factor of the killer's origin.
As deeply boring as this version of Freddy is, Haley is still easily the most interesting actor in the film. The rest of the cast are the blank underwear model types Platinum Dunes always shoved into their remakes. The teens are blindingly pretty young people that have zero personality behind their eyes, all of them acting in as bored a manner as possible. Even Rooney Mara, obviously a talented performer, gives a truly somnambulist performance. And, of course, 2010's “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is utterly ignorant of any of the original's themes or ideas. Springwood is just a town, not a suburban ideal. The adult's lies are not in service of a larger idea about parental abuse. They are just assholes for no reason. No deeper thought was put into any of this.
Under Wraps (1997)
Determined to be the mega-conglomerate to top all other mega-conglomerates, Disney will be launching their own streaming service next month. Disney's growing domination of the pop culture sphere has been widely damned but you have to give the evil corporation some credit for the sheer width of selection their streaming service will have. Many obscure offerings from the early days of the Disney Channel's basic cable days will be included on the service. (Including “So Weird,” available on home media for the first time ever, which is a pretty big deal for a select group of people.) Oddly absent from the list is the film officially considered the very first Disney Channel Original Movie. That is 1997's “Under Wraps,” a Halloween-set kid-friendly monster comedy that I watched probably a hundred times back in the day.
Twelve year old Marshall is obsessed with monster movies and horror, much to the chagrin of his much nerdier friend Gilbert. After learning creepy neighbor Mr. Kubat has been stiffing Gilbert on his paper route money, Marshall insist they confront the guy. This goes badly but, it's okay, because Mr. Kubat seemingly dies the next day. The boys, accompanying by snarky girl-next-door Amy, sneak into his house the next night. They discover an Egyptian sarcophagus in the basement. They also discover the re-animated mummy inside the sarcophagus. The undead goofball begins to pal around with the kids, Marshall quickly growing attached to him. The boy soon learns the wrapped-up corpse, quickly nicknamed Harold, has to fulfill special conditions of a curse or face destruction.
Being a television movie made for children, “Under Wraps” does have to appeal to the young ones. Its kiddie protagonists, designed to be as hip as possible for pre-teens in 1997, range back and forth between sort of likable and sort-of annoying. Marshall makes for a decent hero. His love of gory slasher movies – he's introduced watching something called “Wart-Head IV” and has a room full of rubber mask and props – immediately endears him to me. Gilbert, played by minor child star Adam Wylie, veers more towards the annoying. He's an exaggerated nerd, constantly threating about everything and stumbling into trouble. Clara Bryant's Amy is probably more caustic and bitchy than a main character in a kid's movie need be. Her snipping at the other kids gets a little too personal at times.
When I was roughly the same age as the characters in “Under Wraps,” I was a regular Disney Channel watcher. Because the cable network re-broadcast their original movies constantly, I saw “Under Wraps” a lot. I remembered it being pretty good. Moments definitely stuck in my memory. Like the stop-motion opening credits, a joke involving howling wolves and crashing thunder, and the first thing the mummy does upon being awoken. Unlike fellow spooky DCOM “Halloweentown,” which holds up shockingly well, “Under Wraps” isn't as good now as it was then. The kid-movie adventure stuff feels pretty uninspired and the characters irritate slightly. Still, the mummy is pretty funny and that is worth something. [7/10]
It's for You
You'll have to excuse me. I didn't plan for this. The third season of “Tales from the Cryptkeeper” contains a Christmas episode. “It's for You” revolves around an idea modern children will find especially baffling. For Christmas, Gary receives just the gift he wanted: His very own landline in his bedroom! Even though his parents warn him not too, he immediately goes about using the phone to prank call and harass people in the local neighborhood. This is all great fun for Gary and his friend until he calls a mysterious old lady at random. The lady then calls him back. And keeps calling him back. Her incessant ringing soon isn't leaving him alone at all. He attempts to confront the woman in person and uncovers her terrible secret.
Here's an episode premise that couldn't be more antiquated. The idea of a landline is totally obsolete, much less the premise of a young kid being excited by having his own. We take cellphones utterly for granted now. Caller I.D. is also something we take for granted now, making both the set-up for this episode and its moral – don't go making phony calls, kids – seem baffling. (Caller I.D. already existed in 1999 too, meaning this episode was already out-of-date by the time it aired.) Gary is another “Tales from the Cryptkeeper” protagonist who is presented as a juvenile prankster that actually acts like a psychopath. His prank calls include harassing a single mom and leaving a threatening phone call for a little child. That ends up being far more disturbing than the ghostly old woman who haunts him, though she is mildly creepy. Luckily, the Christmas element of this episode is pretty minor so it doesn't spoil my Halloween mood too much. [5/10]
A More Permanent Hell
The penultimate episode of “Forever Knight's” second season certainly has a more interesting premise than your usual episode. An astrophysicist at a planetarium has seemingly killed herself. As Nick and Schanke investigate, they discover why. The scientist has discovered that a massive asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. In three months, the human race will face extinction. Naturally, this information quickly leaks to the public and the world goes crazy. Natalie asks to become a vampire. Schanke worries about his family. Riots break out. Nick, however, notices some inconsistency in the initial suicide and continues to investigate. Meanwhile, LaCroix recalls his origins, bitten by his own vampire daughter during the final days of Pompei.
Obviously, we can presume that “Forever Knight” isn't going to end the world in the second-to-last episode of its second season. Nevertheless, “A More Permanent Hell” does have a fascinating premise. Seeing how this lot of characters react to the apocalyptic news, thrusting them into the heart of a doomsday scenario, sure allows for some interesting growth. The episode continues the increasing intimacy between Nick and Natalie, especially as she begs him to become a vampire only to become frightened by what that entails. Even LaCroix gets a moment of contriction, left to wonder what the point of it all truly his. (The flashbacks to his origins are fantastic to see, even if the period details leave a lot to be desired.) Honestly, the only issues I have with “A More Permanent Hell” is the idea that facets of society like police work, radio stations, or goth clubs would be able to function at all in the face of such cataclysmic news. [7/10]