A Nightmare On Elm Street

The Elm Street series was a classic 80’s horror franchise initially directed by spook maestro Wes Craven and starring Robert Englund as child killer Freddy.  It spawned six sequels, a TV series and an Elm St/Friday the 13th teaming. The first was the best although the others had their moments with its imaginative concept spinning ever more wildly with each successive film.  Now comes the inevitable remake with its roots firmly planted in the first film’s moody darkness.
In the quiet suburb of Springwood, its teenagers are having nightmares.  Among them are Elm Street resident Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner).  Dreaming of a sinister fedora wearing killer named Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), their visions become a horrid reality.  Tormenting their friends with his evil ways, it’s up to Nancy to discover the hidden secret past of the residents of Springwood.  Attempting to prove she has what it takes to defeat the ’son of a thousand maniacs’, she enters the insidious dream master’s realm and potentially her mortal doom.
Fans may probably look upon this remake as cinematic blasphemy.  Of the hundreds of modern horror films, Nightmare on Elm Street has been one of the most popular with laughs and thrills effectively combined. Thankfully it doesn’t disgrace its legacy too much as the film-makers closely adhere to the strong concept.  Craven’s original idea of people’s fear of nightmares and the lack of control in having them is good and is given some fresh twists here.  Especially noticeable is the imaginative flair so crucial in the original is still intact, giving a creative licence to sketch some inventive scenarios.
Whilst it’s initially very strange seeing someone other than Englund portray Freddy, Jackie Earle Haley makes a worthy replacement.  More bitter and sinister than before, Haley’s Freddy kills his victims with menacing ferocity.  His performance is the highlight in a film sadly lacking overall punch with a ‘watered down’ feel to its violence and lack of characters.  Although what’s on display is good, it’s missing any genuine scares to give it the energy which made the others so memorable.
Even if it would have been better to have seen an original horror film, A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the more passable remakes.  If not utilising the concept to its fullest, it does have a great lead in Haley and has potential to build upon for the inevitable sequel.  Whether it will define a new decade of horror is another question, although the original versions will always be there to keep a watchful eye on further wicked happenings.
Rating out of 10:  6

Harry Brown

Whatever can be said about Michael Caine he’s certainly a varied performer. Shifting between genres with ease, his experience has lent prestige to some less than memorable offerings.  Harry Brown finds itself in the mid-range of his career ladder as it heavily relies on his considerable talents.  First time director Daniel Barber certainly puts him through his paces as an urban vigilante dedicated to eradicating the streets of unruly parasites.
Recently widowed war veteran Harry Brown (Michael Caine) lives a quiet life on an English housing estate.  Spending his days playing chess with best friend Len (David Bradley), he attempts to ignore the growing violence around him.  When Len is killed by a local gang, Harry’s emotional mindset is shattered as he seeks answers to his death.  Using the language of violence as a response to the thug’s actions, Harry’s exploits are noted by local cop DI Frampton (Emily Mortimer).  Racing to stop him before events spiral out of control, not even she can fathom the level of vengeance gripping Harry’s troubled soul.
Harry Brown can be looked on in two ways - either as a stirring indictment on the justice system or as a revenge fantasy in the Death Wish vein.  Whilst it does veer into the latter with brutal force, it mostly succeeds when focussing on the former.  As a grief stricken Harry parlays his anger through bullets, his reason appears as a response to a micro managed police force where limited resources overlook areas controlled by gangs.  This in turn affects Frampton’s abilities as an officer as the financially strapped unit focuses on what they can contain leaving other areas in the hands of lawless groups.
This exploration in the chain of command from the police to the residents and gangs provides the film’s most interesting aspects.  In more experienced hands this would have made for a great film, however Barber’s directorial touches stumble in delivering its themes.  There isn’t much subtlety in Harry’s actions and the gang-members themselves come across as caricatures more than real people.  This flies in the face of its gritty photography and Caine’s role which he portrays with genuine believability.  Its script could have done with more polish although the intent is certainly noticeable even if its execution falters.
Harry Brown is often harrowing to watch as unfortunately the situations it covers seem all too real.  Barber’s story-telling skills could do more work although the conviction of the performances overcomes any missteps in detailing its tale on the price of justice.
Rating out of 10:  6