• Sigrid Ellis

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    Sigrid Ellis is co-editor of the Hugo-nominated Queers Dig Time Lords and Chicks Dig Comics anthologies. She edits the best-selling Pretty Deadly from Image Comics. She is the flash-fiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction, from Lightspeed Press. She edited the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine for 2014. She lives with her partner, their two homeschooled children, her partner’s boyfriend, and a host of vertebrate and invertebrate pets in Saint Paul, MN.
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Nightmare on Elm Street, (2010)

I went and saw the Michael Bay remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street the other day. I wasn’t expecting it to be that good. After all, Michael Bay is known for big explosion movies that are light on plot and common sense, heavy on, well, explosions. What I found, in the deserted matinee theater, was a better movie than I’d expected.

I’ve written about the girls who lived, and I’ve written about the crazy-or-possessed sub-genre of horror, but I don’t think I’ve explicitly talked about what I love so dearly about the first Wes Craven Nightmare film. It’s the fact that the true horror in the movie comes not from demon Freddie Krueger, but from the willful malice of the teenager’s parents. The parents in the original movie are the source of the evil, and their insistence on refusing to acknowledge it leads to the murder of their children.

If ever there was a reason to avoid vendettas and revenge killings, that’s a good one right there. Who wants to curse their own children?

The remake downplays the parental evil. Not by changing the actual story at all, but by giving Nancy a sympathetic and supportive mother played by Connie Britton. Britton is probably best known for playing the smart, wise, tough, supportive mother Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights. Which is probably why she was cast in the first place! But her genuine sympathy and love is far less threatening that the original mother’s drunken and willful indifference. Her role as evil is further undercut when, in the flashback scene revealing Freddy’s fate, her character is the only one seen protesting that what the parents are about to do may be wrong.

So, that evil is muted in the remake. On the other hand, Freddy is solidly rendered by Jackie Earle Hayley and special effects. I was afraid that all the gore would be cranked up, because of the aforementioned Michael Bay, but it was nicely restrained. For the genre, you understand. For the genre.

The only fx decision I dispute is the fact that the remake telegraphs every transition from waking to sleeping. I was always, with one exception, confident of when the characters were safe and when they weren’t. To counter this, though, the script introduces the concept of dreaming while awake, “micronaps.” Speaking as someone who is regularly short on sleep, I know exactly what that means.

I have to say, the acting in this remake was a damn sight better than the original. Rooney Mara as Nancy and Kyle Gallner as Quentin are both great. They invest their characters with depth and personality, even within the confines of the extremely short film.

This isn’t the best film ever. But it’s far from the worst.


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