Halloween: Original vs. Remake

We hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween! Another holiday has come and gone, however we had so much fun and great conversations about this topic that we’ve decide to extend it another week. We also want to thank everyone for reading and discussing horror movies with us all month. It is my pleasure to review this one, and heads up, I could talk forever about this one!

Michael Myers 1978
Photo: http://halloweenmovie.wikia.com

Halloween – The Original

Possibly my favorite movie from this era and definitely in my top five in the genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween is a classic. This was one of the first – maybe even the first – slasher movie I saw as a kid. I don’t want to gush and seem like a fan girl because I do poke fun at a few things too. So, here are a few of my favorite things about the original Halloween.

False Sense of Security: From the opening scenes, the audience sees this is a quite little suburban town. The teenagers are decent kids who party, but most teenagers do. The younger kids are excited about Halloween, and there are lots of shots of trick-or-treaters, trees, streets and houses. As the movie unravels, you feel sympathy for these townspeople. They have encountered a tragedy and evil that may defeat them and destroy their little town. You wouldn’t expect an evil force, and the original takes you from all those wonderful Halloween memories you have to fearing Michael Myers. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotion and disrupts what should be a fun-filled holiday.

Pure Evil: Myers is pure evil. It’s that simple. Some people are just born with an evil that consumes them. Whether you believe in this theory or not, the original Halloween did. There was no backstory. You do not know why Myers was a killer, and I never cared to know. I just accepted the “pure evil” within him because it was believable. He never says a word. He just punishes and kills, and that’s what makes him more threatening to me. Evil motivates him, and if you aren’t scared of evil, then what does scare you? The evil serves as a supernatural force, which is much harder to control than a person. It’s unpredictable, reckless, and illogical. The idea that you can’t control it is more effective from a horror standpoint and leaves you uneasy throughout the movie.

Jaime Lee Curtis: My pick for the top final girl. Curtis set the bar for final girls. She’s played several strong female characters over the years, and Halloween helped her establish that career role. In Halloween, her character is smart, responsible, fun, and studious, however she also smokes pot and hangs out with her friends. She is a normal teenager who becomes tormented by Myers. Her character was developed very well, and you follow her through her ups and downs. She was strong and weak; she fought and cried. She was a woman survivor. Curtis is and always will be Laurie Strode.

Michael Myers 2007
Photo: filmedge.net

Halloween – The Remake

I don’t think I saw Rob Zombie’s Halloween in theaters, and if I did, I apologize to who I saw it with! We’ve talked a little about re-imagining movies – such as A Nightmare of Elm Street – and that’s what Zombie’s version is. He took the original and built on it. It wasn’t a true remake because he added and changed a lot, and Zombiefied it as only he can do.

I have a few issues with this version, but as a stand-alone horror movie, it’s pretty intense.

No security: As an audience, you never feel safe watching this movie. Zombie takes you from a highly dysfunctional lower-class family, to an asylum, then back to the dysfunctional family. There is nothing pretty in or about this movie. As an audience, it’s difficult to feel shocked about anything that happens because you almost expect it. It’s predictable. Whereas in the original, the murders are a tragedy because terror invades a small quiet town. You get to know the town as a whole, instead of Myers. I don’t agree with Zombie’s choice because Myers and his life are terrifying enough. He strips all innocence from the beginning. And if you take away the town’s innocence from the beginning, you take it away forever and leave no hope.

The backstory: I appreciate a little backstory, but I feel the first half of this movie is way too long. Zombie refuses the idea of “pure evil,” and make Myers a product of his environment. Coming from a dysfunctional and abusive household, Myers snaps. Then he is so consumed by loss and hatred, it turns into evil. Comparing the two, I prefer the original idea, however I accept that modern audiences need this backstory. They want to know why, and they have to see progression. If Zombie had shortened it 20 more minutes, I think most people would not complain about the length. Reviewers seem split down the middle about this – you either love or dislike the backstory – I side with the latter.

Laurie Strode: Once Myers escapes, Halloween 2007 turns into a respectful remake. Scout Taylor-Compton portrays Strode’s character well, and she stays true to the innocent good-girl type. Her character is modernized, and for the purposes of the remake, that’s okay. However, audiences don’t really know her. The emphasis on Myers is so heavy, Halloween 2007 lacks teen character development, which should be as important as Myers’ story. In the remake, Strode doesn’t stand out above her friends, and she is not the only final girl. It’s a disservice to the character, and I wonder if Annie (Danielle Harris) survives because the first franchise kind of screwed her over.

Final Thoughts

Zombie does keep a lot of the original details, which shows he wasn’t trying to outdo the original Halloween. Myers dresses up as a ghost with the glasses, Zombie uses the original score, the masks are the same, the girls resemble the original girls, etc. It is gruesome and bloody, which I can take or leave. I also expect that from Rob Zombie. I enjoy the movie much more once Myers escapes, but the violence and kill scenes feel too long. For that reason, I can’t watch this movie often because it borders torture instead of quick-slasher fashion.

The verdict: The original. I watch it every Halloween night, and it is perhaps a perfect slasher movie.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Story of the Month: Nightmare on Elm Street and the Cure to Horror


I grew up as an air force kid, moving where my father was stationed.  In 1987, he was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, outside of Las Vegas and every few weeks took the windowless plane to Groom Lake (yep Area 51) to participate in classified activities.  What this meant for me was that I lived in the little base housing community at the end of the Nellis flight line.  We were there until he retired that winter, and it was here that I had a formative Halloween experience.

I rarely rained while we were in Vegas, but when it did it was torrential, often resulting in low flash floods.  My sister and I (My sister was nine and I was six at the time) were always fans of Halloween and being scared (my mom once chased us around the house in a weird theatrical art mask) and we adored Ghostbusters so we were eager for Halloween.  I think this was the year of our glow-in-the-dark skeleton costumes and masks…though I may be wrong.

Unfortunately for us there would be no trick-or-treating in the small base housing neighborhood.  That Halloween night we had one of the worst rain storms we experienced while in Nevada and it curtailed all door-to-door candy hunting.  My mom, also a Halloween nut decided we wouldn’t go quietly into the Halloween night, however, and we took a trip to our local video rental store to get some good horror movies and treats since to prevent the weather from dampening our Halloween spirit.

My mom rented A Nightmare on Elm Street 1-3.  We went home settled in and started the movies.

I honestly can’t say I remember much about that first viewing.  Other than abject terror.  My mom fell in love with Freddy, I thought, “Now I’m not even safe in my dreams!”  At that age I was kind of scared of everything.  It didn’t help having an older sibling who liked to frighten you, but Freddy was a whole new level.  I distinctly remember the creepy way Freddy’s arms extended in the alley while chasing Tina.  He brutal death.  How eerie her appearance in the body bag was.  I remember Kristen in 3 running down the hallway with a child’s skeleton that yelled at her “Put me down you’re hurting me!” a phrase my sister and I tortured each other with for years.  And I remember being more scared than I ever was before.  My six-year-old brain couldn’t handle all it was seeing.

The fear actually lasted for days.  My mom actually got annoyed and told me I couldn’t even watch Ghostbusters again until I got over it.  At one point I carried my Ray Stantz action figure proton pack down the halls with me for protection.  And even though she was annoyed, my mom tormented us a bit with the line, “Freddy’s gonna get you if you don’t watch out!”

My intrinsic fear of all things and everything lasted for a long time.  Even after moving from Las Vegas to Nashville I can remember being afraid walking down the long dark hallway of my parents’ house to my room.  Not wanting to look from my room to the living room into the shadows.  Keeping Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, dinosaur toys, and stuffed animals around my room as active guards while I slept…  It seemed I’d be one of those people who was afraid of anything even kind of scary.

Then one day…I just got over it.  The fear of the dark and of fictional monsters started to fade and horror movies lost their effect.  I loved slasher movies and can remember sometime between the ages of 10-12 watching a Friday 13th movie marathon with my sister at my grandparents’ house on some Thanksgiving or Christmas.

These days I have a hard time being afraid of anything “scary.”  Yeah movies can creep me the eff out (The Grudge and Paranormal Activity 3 both achieved this) but nothing has made me afraid to that level again.  I started thinking of it as an adult and I told my mom I think she gave me a horror movie inoculation.  I received the most terrifying dose of something as a kid and later in life I might get some mild cases but nothing too devastating.  Even to the point where I volunteer to walk with ghosts and jump at the chance to see if the latest “most scary movie evvarr!” is actually scary at all (usually those are just dumb).

I had the chance to see Robert Englund in Nashville a few years ago and considered telling him that he and Wes Craven scared me so much as a kid that I was scared of everything for 3 years afterward but then never scared again.  I know Robert must hear “you scared me so much” a lot, playing one of the world’s iconic horror personality.  But I wonder if he’s ever been told his brand of horror actually cured people of fear?  If not I’ll be the first to tell the world: A Nightmare on Elm Street scared the fear right out of me.  My hope for the genre is that maybe someday someone will make a movie that can actually put the fear of horror back into me…but until then at least my last real Hollywood scare was by one of the best.

Thirteen Ghosts: Original vs. Remake

I saw the 2001 version of Thir13en Ghosts when it came on my college’s free movie channel (it showed second run theater films). When first watching it I really enjoyed it for its genre-spanning qualities, it was a bit funny, a bit creepy, a bit gory, and a bit action-y. It came to my utter surprise a few years later when I found out it was a remake. I saw 1960’s 13 Ghosts on basic cable and at the time I thought it was actually a goofy comedy, not a horror movie. I’ve since re-watched them both and have to say they are both great fun and a fine example of how to do a modern remake.

The Plot:

The basic plot for both films is essentially the same: A family having money problems receives notice that a wealthy Uncle has died and left them his house. The catch is that the house is haunted by twelve ghosts (the thirteenth being a mystery) and the spirits seem angry and threatening.  The ghosts interact with the characters but can only be seen using special glasses, something that surprised me was in the original.

In the original the family is told up front, the house is haunted, and it displays the classic “can you spend the night in a haunted house for a lot of money” trope. The ghosts threaten the characters via Ouija Board and the whole thing plays like a really great episode of Scooby-Doo, with a lot of misdirection and a good combination of real-world villains and supernatural spooks. The family doesn’t know it but there is treasure in the house and the son, Bucky, finds some money and the Lawyer, Ben, asks him to keep it a secret. We find the uncle, Plato Zorba, communed with ghosts with his housekeeper, Elaine Zacharides (played wonderfully by Margaret Hamilton of Wicked Witch of the West fame and even called “a witch” several times in the film) and twelve of the unfortunate spirits they channeled are trapped in the house awaiting a thirteenth to free them.

The remake is very much in the spirit of the original. A father, Arthur Kriticos (played by the terrific Tony Shaloub) loses his wife and now cares for his two kids (one of whom is Shannon Elizabeth) along with his live-in housekeeper. His Uncle, Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham!) leaves him his house and the family moves in. Unbeknownst to them but “knownst” to us (to quote Mel Brooks) Cyrus used to hunt ghosts and trapped twelve of them in the house for nefarious purposes. The lawyer, Ben, is still there and plays a similar if minimized role. Hamilton’s character is split between Matthew Lillard’s Dennis Rafkin and Embeth Davidtz’s Kalina Oretzia who hunted ghosts with Cyrus. Here the ghosts are part of a grand evil scheme of Cyrus’, but are still prisoners in the house waiting to be freed by a thirteenth ghost. It’s a clever way to update the story and stay true to the original.

The Ghosts

Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West herself, as Elaine in 13 Ghosts.

The ghosts in the original aren’t all as well defined but the effects on them work well to make them eerie, especially for the time. We know of a hanging ghost, an executioner, a lion and his tamer, a skeleton, an Italian chef, and eventually Zorba himself. The film effects used by theater-experience pioneer William Castle made for pretty good ghosts, even if the effects were rudimentary even for their time (yes at one point you can even see the strings on a fly!) The ghost footage is used and reused but it’s so interesting it catches the eye every time. Character reactions range from fear (the older sibling Medea is threatened and the father is afraid) to indifferent fun (Bucky actually enjoys their antics sometimes) but at their scariest you can see how well even low-budget effects can work when used correctly. In this film the thirteenth ghost is created by Ben, when the ghost of Zorba attains his vengeance on the lawyer for murdering him and prevents him from killing Bucky to claim the treasure for himself, thus freeing the ghosts but Elaine later reveals they will be back…but not in an ominous manner.

In the remake the ghosts have a defined purpose in the “Black Zodiac” and the house is a machine “designed by the devil and powered by the dead” from plans by an astrologer name Basileus used to open a portal to hell granting the machine’s master powers. What’s interesting about these ghosts is their design, each is appropriately gruesome with great names, “The First Born Son, the Torso, The Bound Woman, The Withered Lover, The Torn Prince, The Angry Princess, The Pilgrimess, The Great Child & Dire Mother, The Hammer, The Jackal (who is GREAT), and the Juggernaut,” with Arthur representing the thirteenth ghost created out of an act of pure love. Instead, the machine is thwarted and the ghosts captured by Cyrus (who is revealed to be alive!) turn on him and are freed from captivity. The design of the house is a little more out-of-reality but is still very creative and the use of glass and sealing spells adds even more to the looks unique look. The entire mythology created around these ghosts is terrific and it builds up to a fantastic conclusion.

What Makes them Work?

Both movies mix horror, humor, and mystery together in perfect doses. The 1960 version is a goofier film, both in some of its characters and its production values, but it is still very enjoyable. It’s not perfect but highly entertaining and like the original Dark Shadows TV show is charming and loveable for its William Castle cheesiness and skinflint budget. The story is still pretty solid and it even has a moderately positive ending. The remake is less “goofy” but is still silly and has some downright laugh-out-loud portions and a winking style that makes the audience know they aren’t taking it seriously while still playing it straight. It also holds its story together well with excellent characters and also a positive ending, rare in modern horror.

The Verdict:

Is surprisingly a TIE. I enjoyed both equally but differently, the original appealing to the simplistic ghost story lover in me, the remake to my modern, slick horror cravings. Neither strive to be cinematic classics or masterpieces but both are highly entertaining and make for terrific, ghostly viewing.

Dawn of the Dead: Original Vs. Remake

Few horror movies have been as influential on pop culture as George Romero’s Dead films. Though he started with the small, but revolutionary 1968 film Night of the Living Dead it was his follow up Dawn of the Dead in 1978 that made a greater impact on the future of zombie entertainment. These movies established the undead flesh eating zombie on film (then mostly referred to as “ghouls” in the culture) and interpersonal conflict between the human characters we follow during the story. It was Dawn however that created the idea of urban/suburban survivors scrounging for supplies and trying to subsist in a zombie-ravaged post-apocalypse. Over the years Romero’s first three zombie films developed a rabid cult following and the first film was the subject of a near perfect remake (directed by special effects guru Tom Savini) in 1990.

In 2004 a remake of Dawn of the Dead was released, directed by former commercial director Zach Snyder in his first feature film. Immediately the cult based around Romero’s original work rebelled, but as audiences, even die hard horror audiences, began to see the film it became clear this wasn’t just a cash-grab remake but, like Savini’s, one very much in the spirit of the original film.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The original Dawn of the Dead took what worked from the tight and focused Night of the Living Dead and expanded it into a broader world. It trades the isolated farm house for a suburban shopping mall, though it maintains the idea of a small group banding together. There is a lot that works and some that doesn’t, but it still makes for an entertaining film.

The Good:

  • Characters: With such a small cast you get to know and care about the main group of characters. Gaylen Ross and David Emge as the news broadcast couple are effective as neophytes who want to survive but don’t start out with everything it takes. Scott Reiniger is great as a SWAT member who actually cares about what he’s doing but realizes the cause is lost, and Ken Foree steals the show as Peter, another SWAT member who ends up as the defacto leader thanks to his cool head, forceful personality, and common sense. Even when annoying you genuinely like them and want them to survive the horror.
  • Location: The suburbs shopping mall and how they use it is remarkably effective and part of what ended up being the most influential. It’s the first time we’ve seen regular people scavenging for survival the ruins of the old world.
  • Effects: The zombie and gore effects are terrific. Some of the more gruesome zombies look truly gruesome. Given the age of the film, a lot of the practical effect really do hold up and as they are practical effects make a big impact on screen.

The Bad:

  • Tangents: The film lacks the focused intensity of Night, which behaved as a short wild ride. It meanders from SWAT raids to redneck hunts. Sometimes the scenes feel unnecessary and given the length of the film you wonder how many of the extraneous scenes and montages need to be in there as they can kind of take you out of it.
  • The Stupid: There is a LOT of stupid in this movie. From characters that behave in incredibly dumb ways to enhance artificial tension (by not being able to get their keys or forgetting a bag) to entire sequences that really take away from the mood. While zombie movies tend to agree other people can be more dangerous than zombies…rampaging bikers riding through the mall hitting zombies with pies is a tonal left turn. And to me is a massive black mark on an otherwise great narrative arc.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Surprisingly the remake actually follows the intro of the original Night of the Living Dead more than Dawn. A 10 minute build to set up the world and events is followed by a plot-punch in the face as the zombies take over. It takes what the original film did, stripped some of the goofier stuff, and added a bit of modernization to make a great progenitor for modern zombie horror.

The Good:

  • Characters: AGAIN the characters are the strongest part of the film. The larger cast starts with principle character Ana played by Sara Polley, and later adds Ving Rhames, Mekhi Pfeiffer, Jake Weber, Lindy Booth, and even Matt Frewer in supporting roles. The cast is bigger but each character feels as though they have a purpose and you care about their outcomes, whether you want for them to make it or to be brutally shotgunned. My favorite is Michael Kelly as CJ. You initially hate his character but as the story progresses he ends up being one of the best. A testament to the writing and performance. Ken Foree does a cameo saying his famous quote from the original as does Tom Savini, appearing as a sheriff. And he is one cool mofo.

  • Sound Design: There is an old saying that sound design is something that you don’t notice unless it goes wrong. The original made some odd sound and music queues, from western-style bullet ricochets to silly music stings. The remake is spot on in sound design and the ambiance is incredible because of it. The musical design is absolutely terrific, the Johnny Cash intro, the Richard Cheese montage, and the Jim Carroll outro are stand outs. Zombie cries are eerie and combat impact is brutal. Notably the zombie baby is pretty freaky…
  • Narrative: Written by James Gunn now of, Guardians of the Galaxy fame, from Romero’s script, the story is, if anything, stronger than the original. We grow with characters and hope for their success. As their various trials and tribulations unfold we invest wholly and are gutted with each death. It’s hard to think of a modern zombie movie with so many effective individual story subplots, arcs, and resolutions. It might be missing some of the anti-consumerism of the original, but Romero’s handling of that subject was a bit ham-fisted to me anyway.

The Bad:

  • Modern Zombies: I’m not a fan of modern zombies and this movie is one of the first that made the undead zombie stronger and faster than the living. Biologically alone this makes no sense at all and fast zombies just feel added to create a better sense of danger. I think the sheer number and ferocity of humans who want to eat you is bad enough without making them move like extras in a kung fu film.
  • The Downer Ending: One of the best aspects of the original film is it has a positive ending. While things aren’t looking great overall, characters show resolve and conclude this chapter of their narrative with a little positivity.  The character we all invested in the most comes through in the end. Modern horror likes to let the bad guys win or end on a note in minor key and Dawn 2004 does this. While the ending is ambiguous you do discover the plan you’ve invested in is in at least some way a failure. It is a decent ending but I’d have liked to see something good for the characters we’ve been built up to love.

The Verdict:

Some thought has to be given to the impact of the original but enjoying a movie is a visceral feeling and I actually prefer the remake. While both movies have great benefits I feel Romero’s relatively guerrilla style made for a film that is less well made and the story didn’t quite have the effective edge of the remake. A lot of this hinges on the climax, as we I feel the remake benefited from having the zombies as the primary cause of the climax rather than a bunch of roving Hell’s Angels. As I said in my Nightmare post a remake can work if you give it to a good writer/director. Zach Snyder, unlike a lot of directors who came from TV and music videos (I’m looking at you Samuel Bayer) is very good at telling a story visually (if he can be a bit cliché and overdone) and Gunn delivered an excellent story as he has proved he is capable of doing since. Both make for good viewing, if you want to see where modern zombie horror originated (millennials who think Zombie-Personal Drama started with The Walking Dead are about to learn something) the original Dawn of the Dead will show you that and give you a great story. For an exciting film with a better developed sense of what works and what doesn’t the remake wins for me.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Original vs. Remake

In 1984 horror maestro Wes Craven created the characters, world, and lore of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The original masterpiece introduced Robert Englund as the iconic monster Freddy Krueger, spawned seven franchise sequels, turned New Line Cinema into a profitable new industry player, and launched the mainstream careers of its director and several cast members.

In 2010 a remake was announced, which surprised few as nearly every horror franchise was in the process of being remade. It attempted to establish new lore, Jackie Earle Hailey took over as Krueger, and it endeavored to re-launch the franchise as “true horror” rather than the comedy-horror many of the original series sequels tended toward.

Having main-lined the entire franchise I have to declare the remake to be an abject failure in its execution that, despite some very strong performances from its new cast, embodies every ounce of flawed thinking in Hollywood’s remake culture. To compare them I’ve tried to break down some broad concepts to analyze what works when it works and what completely fails.


Wes Craven’s premise is simple enough to be summed up quickly: Teenagers from the Elm Street neighborhood in the town of Springwood are having nightmares that turn out to be fatal. The cause is determined to be a monster named Freddy Krueger, a child killer in real life who was burned alive by angry parents and now his evil continues to be visited on their children.

The remake premise is similar but added elements that strangely made it less effective. In the remake kids are having bad dreams that also turn out to be fatal. The cause here is determined to be that they all went to the same pre-school where there was a gardener, Freddy Krueger, who seemed to be good to the kids but several children claimed he was molesting them. The parents track him down based on the kids’ accusations and burn him alive in a factory. After he dying Freddy hunts down the kids from the pre-school who accused him and kills them in their dreams.

What makes Craven’s premise so effective while the remake falls short? Craven made some conscious choices on how he built his story. The town of Springwood was designed to be “pure Americana” essentially any suburban town USA. Elm Street was chosen as a ubiquitous street name (as Freddy says in Freddy’s Dead “every town has an Elm Street”). It’s remarkably effective because it makes the audience of mostly teens feel like it could be their street, their town, and any one of them. Furthermore Craven chose dreams as the killing ground because everyone eventually falls asleep. As much as you fight it you will sleep, you will dream, when you dream he’ll get you. Craven’s entire premise was universal and broad. It could be any of us.

The remake surprisingly narrowed its field of victims. It isn’t generic street and town USA, it’s a specific school and within that school a specific population. We see a photograph of the kids who are being killed in their dreams displaying who the victims are and will be. Since we all didn’t go to Badham Pre-School while Fred Krueger was there, this means the audience’s “fear” is based wholly on their attachment to the potential victims and they feel no subconscious threat to themselves. It puts a lot of pressure on the narrative’s characters…which is what is covered next.


The four principle teens of Craven’s film in their first scene together. Through physical interaction and positioning in the frame you can tell a lot about each one and their relationships without dialogue.

Watching Craven’s Nightmare especially in the wake of Friday 13th and Halloween, it has a surprisingly low body count. Three kids and seemingly one parent. BUT, because of the way Wes Craven uses his characters we feel every death. We first meet Tina, a pretty blonde girl from a troubled home. Less than 5 minutes in we meet Nancy, her straight laced boyfriend Glen, and Tina’s roguish boyfriend Rod. These three characters are all introduced in one scene, relationships established through visual cues during plot-based dialogue revealing all the characters are having similar bad dreams. When, in a nod to Psycho, Tina dies in the first 15 minutes (still one of the most brutal deaths I can think of in a horror movie) we then follow Nancy as she shows resolve, courage, creativity, and self-sacrifice in fighting to keep herself and her friends alive; against parents who don’t believe her; and Freddy who haunts her dreams. As other characters die we feel their deaths. We’ve spent so much time with them, experiencing their development and their world we fear for them. When Nancy cries for Glen we’re there with her. When she faces Freddy we cheer for her. As for Freddy, what can be said? Robert Englund created what is probably the most famous and iconic modern slasher villain. Used sparingly by Craven, always in shadow or obscured, Freddy hunts his victims, stalks them, teases them…Freddy enjoys his work. We love his charisma as a villain but dread his sadism and applaud Nancy’s ultimate victory over him.

Kris, Jesse, and Nancy in the 2010 remake. It’s hard to find an image of the principle teens together as they never share screen time.

The remake attempted to follow many of the same concepts but made several serious mistakes. Kris, a character reminiscent of Tina, is the one we follow and invest in at first but for one third of the film, instead of ten minutes. When she dies thirty minutes in the audience now must re-invest in Nancy, with whom we’ve spent meager time as she’s had to split so much screen time with Kris. We meet Nancy in the opening scene but know little about her character since we’ve spent so much time establishing the original lead. Based on their interactions we don’t even know the relationship between Kris and Nancy. She works at the diner. Has had some bad dreams. She’s an artist. We know the kinds of things that might appear in an obit, but nothing about her personally. And with an hour to resolve the story we also have to establish why we need to care about her struggle. We also have Quentin (who through several lines of dialogue and a few scenes is established as having feelings for Nancy, these filmmakers really need to learn how to tell a story visually…) who we also meet early but then have to establish as well over the film’s last 45 minutes to an hour. Then we have Freddy. He’s darker and “scarier” supposedly but in making him more menacing they’ve sucked all his personality away. Jackie Earle Hailey does a phenomenal job with the character he has, but he lacks the foreplay of Englund’s Freddy. He doesn’t toy with you with the same glee or mind-bend your reality like Craven’s Freddy. They made him far closer to the characters Craven and Englund actively tried to avoid. By breaking up the story amongst so many “leads” Kris, Nancy, Quentin, Freddy, we never fully establish whose story we’re telling which is the final point.

Whose Story is this?

Looking back young Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy is one of the most admirable of all final girls. She’s smart, resourceful, a natural leader, and possesses an incredible will to survive.

Film historian Michael Jeck is fond of asking “who are we in this movie?” It’s a very effective way to analyze a story and see if a narrative works. So who are we in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street? It’s easy. We are Nancy. It is her story. Even introduced after Tina, we understand Tina relies on her for courage and strength. Glen comes to her for leadership. Rod comes to her for trust. Nancy’s parents are troubled; her mom starts out in denial then drinks heavily once her admission of her role in creating Krueger. Her father is protective but distant and also has to wrestle with his role in murdering Freddy. So we identify with, follow, and admire Nancy’s narrative. As for Freddy? He’s a dark menace. His story is told so quickly and so late we never bother to ask how or why. What he can do and who he is has been established through earlier action so he’s a mysterious boogeyman and his backstory provides just enough information to make us hate as well as fear him.

“This is god…” Englund as Freddy Krueger.

Who are we in the remake? I actually don’t know and this is a major, major flaw in its narrative and design. First we’re Kris, searching for facts about her friend Dean’s killer. Then we’re split between Nancy and Quentin. Then we are told in depth Freddy’s backstory via flashback and narrative. So we as the audience are Kris, Nancy-Quentin, AND Freddy (the villain stripped of his all mystery) all at once. The result is a mess of a story with NO anchors for the audience. Its protagonists seeing things, describing the things they just saw or did, and repeating the premise concepts endlessly. Dare I say, the filmmakers had the seed of a courageous new direction and balked at the last minute. I remember seeing this film and theaters and thinking, “wow what if Freddy is innocent?” It would turn it into Freddy’s story as the character you identify with, the one taking his vengeance on the kids who falsely accused him and the parents who brutally murdered him. But when we reveal the kids were telling the truth, that he was a despicable molester…we definitely cannot identify with his story, so we’re yo-yoed back into Nancy and Quentin, whose characters lack so much conviction and mettle we don’t really want to be them either. Would I have liked an innocent Freddy? I’m not a purist so maybe/maybe not it would have depended on the execution, but it would have at least justified the remake…

Jackie Earle Hailey is an excellent performer and makes for a menacing Freddy, but his character is written with no additional traits beyond his rage.

Why Remake?

Iconic and eerie, achieved through practical effects Freddy stalks Nancy through the walls.

Why even do a remake of an iconic film? It’s a valid question considering how much of the industry relies on them. Modern remakes typically seem to be done to make money off the name, which is fine especially when given to writers and directors who realize what made the original successful and incorporate this into their own version. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 this was its greatest failure. It doesn’t have any idea why Craven’s film was successful and scary. It was about characters we identify with and care about fighting a monster from which there is no escape. It’s told with deft visual style, frame-filling narrative, iconic scenes, and uses every single second of its 90 minute running time.

CGI Freddy stalking Nancy through the walls moves too much, animates too much, and loses the simple sinister edge of the original. It’s hard to be viscerally afraid of a cartoon.  A perfect analogy of everything wrong with the remake.

The remake only seems to focus on a killer in dreams and telling his back story. It establishes no characters we believe in, no iconic scenes save for those from the original gruesomely updated with CGI or severely hobbled by nonsensical construction (a nightmare in the bath ends up in the snow?!), and muddles the villain’s backstory with over-exposition and ambiguous motivation for his victims to remember him. It took a tight, focused narrative and turned it into a chaotic, careless monstrosity. If nothing else it helps prove why Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street will stand as the magnum opus from one of the masters of horror and the 2010 remake a mere shadow of its effectiveness. Will the 2010 version ever achieve the same level of success and appreciation as Craven’s? Only in its dreams…

My Bloody Valentine: Original vs. Remake

Happy October, everyone! We’re excited to bring you our annual Halloween-themed posts for the month. For 2015, original and remade horror movies will go head-to-head, and we’ll try to pick a favorite. We hope you enjoy the reviews, and comments are always welcome!

My Bloody Valentine: Original (1981) vs. Remake (2009)

Photo: denofgeek
Photo: drafthouse.com
Photo: denofgeek
Photo: denofgeek









When the remake came out, I remember several bad reviews because they changed nearly everything. I can understand how purists would argue it’s terrible because so much changed. However, I think you have to look at it like a re-imagining, much like Zombie’s Halloweens, which is not always easy. With that in mind, I love these movies, and they deliver delightful horror fun in different ways.


I was surprised by how much I loved the original My Bloody Valentine. It has a solid story, strong characters, and is shot very well. The laundromat scene is probably one of the best kill scenes during this time period. The camera work in this scene has a monster-movie feel to it and increases your heart rate a little. The remake of My Bloody Valentine is just good slasher fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and when you watch them back-to-back, I don’t think the remake was supposed to. They did not intended to outdo the original, just modernize it for a new generation.

There really aren’t a lot of similarities. Sarah’s character is the same. They both use Axel’s name, and the Harry Warden story line is used. Both slasher movies are set around Valentine’s Day, and we can assume the killer gets away. That’s about it.


These are what set the movies apart. The stories are completely different: they reversed the two main characters, the killer is different, etc. Here’s a breakdown:

  • The original focuses more on the “curse” or urban legend surrounding the holiday. For example, if the kids have the Valentine’s Day party, people will die. The killer moves the hearts upside down when he kills, and we see way more extracted human hearts. In the remake, the holiday is more of an aside, and the movie could take place any time of year. This allows the original to have more purpose, whereas the remake feels almost like a senseless revenge film.
  • Both take place in a small town, but the original has more of a close-knit feel. In the remake, the characters don’t seem to like each other. They back-stab, allow adultery, and just put up with one another. In the original, the adults hang together and watch out for the younger adults, and the YAs party together. There’s also an even mix of both age groups in the original, and you get to know the town. In the remake, you only get to know the younger adults, who act like their 50 instead of 25.
  • The remake is more scandalous. I’m sure this was done to appeal to 21-century audiences, and it works. As much as I love comradery, I enjoy watching Irene (Betsy Rue) chase the trucker down while completely naked. Tom (Jensen Ackles) locking himself in the cage is pretty ingenious. Sarah (Jaime King) trying to save the little skank sleeping with her husband is touching. The remake was also meant for 3D, which does not add a lot, but it adds a more fun element.

So, how to I rank them? It’s a tie for me. Both My Bloody Valentines entertain and rank high in my slasher movie cannon. For a solid film, watch the original; for a less serious treat, watch the remake. Either way, both are tons of bloody fun!