Friday, 29 January 2010

More Elm Street...

I wasn't intending to turn my blog into an ongoing review of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but I watched the 2nd film last night and I think there are some interesting points to be raised from a writing point of view.

One of the things the first film got right was being clear on its rules. Freddy comes after you in your dreams, anything he does to you in your dreams happens to you in real life, if you're holding onto anything when you wake up you bring it out into the real world and so on. This involves a little suspension of disbelief but the parameters are there and they make it work by not trying too hard to explain it.

Here be spoilers.

In the second film Freddy is taking over the body of the main character Jesse. This is not handled particularly effectively (would've been nice to see elements of the Freddy persona gradually coming out in his waking life) but again it works fine as long as you don't question it.

So as the film progresses we reach the point where Jesse is killing for Freddy - he has a kind of transformation and then he kills people with Freddy's claw. The problem starts when it's not always clear whether the characters in the film are seeing Jesse with the claw, or seeing Jesse as Freddy - the film tries to play it both ways.

The problems get worse because as well as taking over bodies and causing havoc in dreams Freddy also seems to be able to make weird stuff happen in the real world - like making birds explode and affecting the temperature and making objects move and stuff. The issue here is if he can have so much power over the real world, why does he need to take over Jesse's body in the first place? And come to think of it, what was the problem with killing people in dreams to begin with? Did he just get bored? Yes, you could argue that he's lost his power over dreams because of what Nancy did to him in the first film and he was just waiting for someone as susceptible as Jesse to come along so he could take over his body, but none of that is in the script.

This also leads to a larger, more problematic question - what does Freddy want? It's never established at any point what he wants other than just being evil for the sake of being evil. The subtitle to the film is 'Freddy's Revenge' but it's not enough to set up character motivations through the subtitle. You could argue that in the first film he didn't really have any larger goals either, but in the first film he was less of a person and more of a malevolent force, like Michael Myers or the shark in Jaws - he didn't need motivation because he was in a way elemental rather than sentient. In this film he makes it clear from the beginning that he wants something - he wants to take over Jesse's body. But for what?

The question cripples the film when Freddy eventually gets what he wants and gets out into the real world. He runs around killing kids at a pool party, but it all seems a bit pointless. Is this it? Surely he could have done it just as easily from dreams and had a lot more fun in the process. It makes for a good scene, but there's nothing really behind it. One line would've sorted it out, something in Nancy's diary about Freddy wanting to kill a certain number of people, or wanting to return to the real world to cause chaos or whatever - just something to set it up. As it is, the whole thing falls a bit flat.

That said, it is an enjoyable film and moves a long fairly quickly towards a satisfying conclusion. And the effects are awesome.

And I worryingly remembered absolutely nothing from the time I watched it while drunk.

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