A Nightmare on Elm Street: I didn’t much mind when Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes horror production company went about its lucrative business, remaking 70s and 80s horror staples like Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Amityville Horror; none of what I’ve seen have been good, but if they want to lie to themselves that removing the roman numerals constitutes a “reimagining,” hey, it’s not the worst of Bay’s crimes. But Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is actually a terrific horror movie, creepy and fun with a far better hook than so many slasher series. Accordingly, the new Nightmare (not to be confused with New Nightmare, the last real Freddy sequel, which is old enough that it served as Wes Craven’s dry run for Scream, which is about to be fourquelized) at least manages to scrounge up a hook its PlatDu sibs lacked, and not just not employing professional horror-drainer Marcus Nispel: hiring Jackie Earle Haley to play the new Freddy Krueger, presumably less quippy than when we last saw him, decapitated but winking at the camera at the end of Freddy vs. Jason. Unfortunately, everything else in the Nightmare ads points to the Platinum Dunes aesthetic: music-video covers of your favorite horror scenes; slick production values, no discernible personality, apart from the guttural voice Haley honed in Little Children, Watchmen, and Shutter Island. But Haley is there, so I’ll be checking out Nightmare for his performance, and to suss out whether New Freddy is physically fit to fight New Jason.
Please Give: I’ve enjoyed all of Nicole Holofcener’s movies to some degree, but Please Give might be her best. Her funny, smartly observed story of New Yorker guilt and malaise comes together in ways that Friends with Money didn’t, quite: thematically unified but not too tidy. Holofcener writes such intimate, effective scenes between her characters—a couple (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) who sells vintage second-hand furniture after buying it from children of the deceased; their teenage daughter (Sarah Steele); their elderly neighbor (Ann Guilbert) and her two granddaughters (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall)—that the size of the cast almost sneaks up on you, a stealth ensemble. Keener feels guilty about her mildly predatory job, guilty about waiting for Guilbert to die so they can take over the apartment next door, guilty about her relative wealth and privilege, and it’s this dissatisfaction with satisfaction that drives the movie’s New Yorky searching. Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall, meanwhile, make convincing sisters, even if their contrasting manifestations of unspoken loneliness (Peet is mouthy and cynical; Hall, quiet and dutiful) are a little screenplay-ready, as Nick hints at in his review. Peet in particular shines as Holofcener exploits her capacity for meanness. It’s probably the best new movie I’ve seen all month.
Harry Brown: Michael Caine stars in what sounds like Gran Torino for real, and which I didn’t have that much interest in seeing (love for Caine’s cockney notwithstanding) until I read Henry Stewart’s analysis of its over-the-top grit and catchphrase-mongering.
The Human Centipede: If this gross-out shocker is supposed to be an actual feature film, I’m not sure why they’ve given the game away in the title. The creation of a revolting human centipede better happen in the first half-hour, followed by its revolting adventures, or… whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’m still not seeing this, and FYI, makers of indie horror: if I don’t want to see what you’re up to, you’ve created something that sounds either incredibly rote or incredibly vile. So, congratulations.
Furry Vengeance: However, if Jigsaw locked me in a room and made me choose between watching live-animated critter revenge comedy Furry Vengeance, watching The Human Centipede, and digging out a key embedded in my thigh, let’s just say Furry Vengeance might prompt me to ask: “How deep in my thigh?”