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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Freddys Nightmares

I have never been a huge movie viewer. Sure, back when Sc-fi on TV was much more of a rarity I would watch whatever movies were available in order to feed the need but once the telefantasy boom really kicked off (early 90's) and I started having access to it (a bit later) I found that watching shows took precedence and when you watched as many shows as I did that didn't leave a lot of time for features.

Of course, I've seen the classics; Blade Runner, Star Wars, Alien, Planet of the Apes etc. and I have fond memories of some lesser movies that if I rewatched them now would probably disappoint, like Return of the Living Dead, Shockwave, Red Dawn, Last Starfighter and the like. On the whole though, I'm not a massive movie fan.

There are some characters however that, no matter how unfamiliar you may be with the actual movies, are iconic. Characters that have invaded the public psyche to such a degree that you are actually surprised when you confront yourself with the fact that you've never actually seen their movie. One such character is Freddy Kruger.

I've seen precisely 2 Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The original, many years ago as a child and New Nightmare, shortly after it's release on VHS. This one was actually a rare case of me seeking out a movie, intrigued as I was by it's "oh, look at me, I'm so clever" premise. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be something of a masterpiece. The point though is that I've seen 2 movies in a series of - looks it up, finds out it's 8, not counting the remake - and those years ago, and yet I feel like I know the character of Freddy Krueger as well as I know the dudes in a show I've watched every week for years. Why? God knows, but I suppose we must praise Wes Craven and Robert Englund for creating so memorable a villain.

Watching Freddys Nightmares on horror then is something of a strange experience, given that I went into it with quite a lot of preconceptions about the character that I now realise may not actually be correct. Those who read my Twitter feed (not many, I have only 20 followers and half of those are spammers) have had the dubious privilege of reading my thoughts on this series but it's only now that I do a little research for this post that I realise I could well have been talking shit. For one thing, I have been operating on the assumption that Freddy was a paedophile. Apparently this is not true, he just killed kids, with any reference to paedophilia having been excised from the script early on. So why was I convinced that he was? And if I've gotten that wrong, what else am I missing or misconstruing?

Even putting aside the fact that many of my ideas about the character of Freddy may be flawed, and therefore my complaints on that score unfounded, I still cannot bring myself to call this a good show. I wanted it to be. When I sat down to watch the pilot, "No More Mr. Nice Guy", I was genuinely excited about what I was about to see. The odd dodgy performance aside I wasn't disappointed but after that the series goes downhill fast. Freddy himself barely appears in most episodes, merely popping up to top and tail with a really poor pun in a kind of anthology host type of way.

Which would be fine if the show was presented as an anthology, but it isn't. Watching only the first 9 episodes, it's easy to spot any number of things that go against the anthology format. All of the stories are set in Springwood, the 'local legend' of Freddy Krueger is mentioned often, even if it's not a factor in the episode, locations such as the Beefy Boy fast food restaurant reoccur (with staff members mentioning events that occurred there in previous episodes) and one set of characters have returned for a 'sequel' to their initial appearance.

So, a confused format that keeps the star attraction off screen for a goodly portion of the run time. Is that the only problem the show has? Not really. The individual episodes don't really work either. Each episode is split into 2 chunks. Th first section features someone being tormented in some fashion, and ends with them either dead or insane. The second section takes a minor character from the first half, makes them the focus, torments them in some fashion and ends with them either dead or insane. It's so obvious that they wanted to be making a Twilight Zone hour with 2 distinct stories because the sections are often linked in only the most tenuous of ways and could easily be separate stories entirely.

Some of the episodes also suffer from the fact that they don't really have any kind of internal logical consistency. It's like the writers have taken the excuse of the dream concept to tell willfully bizarre stories that make no attempt to make sense. Weirdness for weirdness sake does not an interesting story tell. I should say that I have no problem with surrealism but some of these stories smack of laziness. "This script doesn't make sense, should we give it a polish?" "Nah, balls to it, it's all a dream isn't it?".

So, horror are showing this series, weeknights at 8:00. The show ran for 2 seasons but this channel does have a habit of repeating one season half a dozen times before moving on so I doubt I'll see season 2 anytime soon. Maybe that's a blessing. Maybe after this season ends I'll make the effort to track down a few of the movies, try to educate myself in a little Freddy lore before progressing. That way I can feel justified in slagging it off when they inevitably piss all over it.

Next : A made for TV sequel to a big screen adaptation of a sub par Stephen King novel.

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