This past weekend, I was in the mood for a fun night at the picture show. The fiance and I got come Cokes, popcorn, Reese’s Pieces (together, a delicacy) and hunkered down for a good old fashioned fun horror flick, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. “This will be fun and certainly not at all disturbing to us on an emotional level,” we may very well have been saying during the previews for Step Up 3D and Predators.
We were wrong. We were so, so wrong.
What do you think when you think Freddy Krueger? I’ll give you a moment to come up with some answers.
Got ’em? Golden. Okay, the words you came up with may or may not include 1) sweater, 2) serious burn victim, 3) quips, 4) bad puns, 5) Robert Englund, 6) finger knives, 7) a fedora that makes you hope he’ll bust out a moonwalk at some point.
Lower on your list would be “child rapist.”
The mid-80s were a simpler time. A movie could refer to a character as a “child murderer” and we would either take that line with the implication that the guy was touching the kids, or live blissfully in a kinder world where he’s merely slaughtering them. That was fine. That was enough for us. But this new ANOES, well, that’s different.
For those who haven’t seen, allow me to spoiler. Literally the entire middle and final thirds are comprised of two teenagers, wan and skinny, discovering and coming to terms with the fact that they were raped by their pre-school’s gardener. This includes the pair finding fucked up Polaroids of their implied child bodies. This is so fucked.
I don’t go to romantic comedies to see Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn break up at the end, I don’t see Will Smith movies to watch him kill a dog and beg a mannequin to talk to him because he’s so lonely and I don’t see popcorn horror remakes of ’80s classics to watch beloved pedophillically-typecast actor Jackie Earle Haley mock a bunch of kids about their childhood trauma.
The OG Freddy wouldn’t do that. That’s too low even for him.
This points out my fundamental problem with most of the horror remakes that have come out in the last seven or eight years. You see, the period between Scream and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was a kind of barren wasteland for horror. We saw tacky B-grade lameness like Valentine and Thirteen Ghosts, attempted cash-ins on The Sixth Sense‘s success like The Others, and assorted what-the-fuck’s like feardotcom, Hollow Man and Jason X.
Now, granted, we had some greatness in there too, like May, Ginger Snaps, Cabin Fever, the first Final Destination (God I love Final Destination) and The Ring, but we also had a lot of crap.
2003 was a game changing year. That was the year that saw the release of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, a film that showed heavy influence from Texas Chainsaw. Finally a horror flick was pulling influence from the era that helped define it. This was a novel idea to me at this time.
Then, Hollywood just bit the bullet and remade TCM.
The remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre clearly illustrates my aforementioned problem with remakes. It took the original, and shit special effects and make-up all over it. This didn’t make it scarier. It just made it snuffier.
And that’s my problem with all of these remakes. They take what came before, strip it of what made it interesting and just throw in a whole bunch of overly-graphic images because they don’t have the skill of the originals to really tell a story and make the audience afraid. I’m tensed by a character running for her life from a madman. I’m made no more scared by an extreme close-up of her arm being severed, just because Michael Bay’s production company set down the explosives and picked up the corn syrup.
After that, many horror movies just followed suit. Rob Zombie’s Halloweens, the TCM prequel, Captivity, Grace, Hostel, even the Saw movies, which I love, are basically showcases of the modern excellence in blood ‘n gut filmmaking, coated in layers of disease, flies, oil and filthy fucking houses, rooms, factories and what have you. I mean, seriously, murderers, tidy up your damn killspace. I don’t want to shower after every shot of your kitchen table.
They’re not darker, they’re not scarier, they’re just shocking for the sake of being shocking because they can, and emptily so. They’re Ann Coulter.
There are a couple exceptions. My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th both had remakes that were fun to watch. These were the embodiment of what’s so fun about horror. Laughing as the slutty girl gets it, yelling “OH!” when the annoying comic relief gets sliced open, cheering when the two virgins make it out and cheering harder at the end when they’re totally about to be killed in the final scare before the credits. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. It’s cathartic.
Watching Jessica Biel wander around a house decorated with mason jars filled with pig guts and various stool samples? That’s not fun for me.
By the by, WHAT IS THE DEAL with all the pig parts in horror movies right now? I can name like five that, instead of creating an actual scare or interesting scene, just cut to chopped up pigs. Pig parts are the new loud-music-sting-when-the-heroine-turns-around-OH-SNAP-it’s-just-her-friend, and just as annoying.
Maybe I’m just getting old. Also, get off my lawn.
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.