In Defense of 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' 2010

Take away the jokes and you've removed 90% of the reason for Freddy Krueger's Greed Decade fame. Turn him into something real and repugnant and the blowback is nuclear.

Nightmare on Elm Street

Director: Samuel Bayer
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton
Rated: R
Studio: New Line Cinema
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-04-30 (General release)
UK date: 2010-05-07 (General release)

It's all the movies fault, when you think about it. Monsters aren't supposed to be endearing. Instead, they are supposed to haunt the very fabric of your nightmares and dreamscapes. Similarly, human versions of said villains aren't supposed to be ripe for idolatry, their horrific forms finding their way on t-shirts, tumblers, and other pop culture marketing mementos. They are criminals, after all, walking reminders of the inherent dangers lurking within all societies. When the '80s delivered the notion of easily available home video to the average viewer, it awakened a weird attitude toward terror. Locked in the living room, able to share the scare experience with only their own chosen circle of influence, fear quickly morphed into familiarity, and then strangely enough, fun.

So it's been interesting to see the amount of real vitriol flung at the recent remakes of so-called "classic" '70s and '80s horror films. While their status as all time masterworks is questionable at best, their beloved nature illustrates something unusual about the entire do-over ideal. Granted, no compilation of opinion can be truly accurate. As noted many times before, mainstream film critics and commentators generally hate the genre, dismissing it outright without giving it a moment's mindful consideration. The Evil Dead or John Carpenter's version of The Thing could be the creepiest, most craven experience in all of fear and yet someone in the shadow of their own monitor will deem it unworthy of satisfying its own cinematic mandates -- if they consider it at all.

When you combine that with the personal level of attention these films have received since Betamax battled the VHS, it's easy to explain such fury. Movies are like memories, forged from experience, reaction, context, and above all, impressionable entertainment value. Friday the 13th might stand as your own personal benchmark based on a number of factors -- the film itself, the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the direction, the campy performances, the last act reveal of a psychotic Betsy Palmer. Over time, these recollections build up and take root within your history, becoming the foundation for entire internal narratives and justifications. In essence, whenever you decide to reinvent something, you run the risk of alienating the faithful while further angering those who will never be a fan.

Still, the level of hate for Samuel Bayer's take on A Nightmare on Elm Street is almost unparalleled among recent releases. There wasn't this much outward disgust when Marcus Nispel unveiled his streamlined look at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the aforementioned journey of Jason Voorhees. Apparently, Freddy Krueger is God in comparison to his like minded brothers in slaughter, and with franchises past and future hanging in the balance, no one wanted to see their favorite charred funnyman marginalized so. While many have picked on the filmmaking and the lack of likeable leads (there is no heroic Nancy to play hunter to Krueger's 'ghost'), the main complaint is how the dream dude with the glove of knives as been stripped of all his… celebrity.

Indeed, the chief beef about the new Freddy Krueger is his lack of antihero magnetism. When Robert Englund originated the role, he played it purely for shivers. The shapeshifting ghoul was nasty and wicked, worming his way into the dreams of teens before tearing them limb from limb. It wasn't until later in the series run that Freddy turned into a spookshow stand-up comedian, his one liners matching the inventive F/X film kills as a means of keeping the growing cult coming back for more. By the time originator Wes Craven revisited his phenomenon with his wonderfully meta New Nightmare, any serious take on Krueger was considered blasphemous. By then, he was a trickster, a merry prankster who just so happens to strip you of your life as well as your social dignity. As the bastard son of a 1000 maniacs, he was the Joker, the Jester, and the Grim Reaper all in one.

So what does the 2010 movie do to him that's so offensive? The same thing that Nispel did to Camp Crystal Lake's least favorite son back in 2009 -- it took him seriously. The reason the Friday the 13th remake was so satisfying to those of us who've long appreciated the Sean Cunningham slasher film is that, instead of treating the killer like a shambling, solemn sacred cow, it took Jason back to what he always was -- a monstrous, unapologetic killing machine. No cutesy quirks, no corkscrew through the cranium splatter -- just a mass murderer doing what his disturbed pre-adolescent programming required. Kill. Kill. KILL! Outside of such a character retrofit, the update remained faithful to the original films, loaded with loose teens, moral compassing, and galloons of free-flowing grue.

By the end of the '80s, Freddy Krueger and Jason were like the Universal creatures that used to terrify one's grandparents. Instead of being cruel, there were cartoons. But A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 decided to do away with all the quips and kiddie falderal. Instead of pandering to a mindset not quite prepared for what Freddy truly is (one of the main reasons the sequels skirted the issue of his predilection for more and more goofball deaths), it turned him into a very veiled threat. In the update, however, Freddy's motives are made crystal clear. As a child molester and pedophile, he was as deadly to his victims in their waking hours as he would later become in their dreams. His intentions are clear -- shut these tattletale brats up, keep his sickening sexual secret to himself, and get revenge on anyone who snitched - and who then brought about his fiery end.

In the original, there was no patina of perversion. Freddy was a child killer, nothing more. Parents invoked vigilante justice and he decided to visit the nightmares of their offspring to set things straight. But in Bayer's take, everything we learn about the man stems from his time as a gardener at a day care center, the kids he took a particular interest in, and what happened in the "magic cave" in his disgusting, foul-smelling hovel of a room. For generations raised on the boogeyman possibilities of the child care employee, this can't be comforting. How can you laugh at someone who, unlike Freddy 1.0, sees you as something desirable and defilable? Take away the jokes and you've removed 90% of the reason for Krueger's Greed Decade fame. Turn him into something real and repugnant and the blowback is nuclear.

Granted, not every film is fashioned to be universally popular or appreciated, and there are many who will argue that Freddy's new standing as a child rapist has nothing to do with why they hate A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010. But a certain sense of logic dictates that if you mess with a memory, you're bound to disturb its keeper. Extrapolate that out into the personality defining elements of media and the impact is even greater. The success of the Nightmare franchise 30 years ago had little to do with the individual films (most are mediocre) and rested solely on the tattered sweater of an enigmatic evil with a glimmer in his eye and a raspberry on his lips. Making said scare source something realistic was destined to destroy all that. That's why the new Nightmare on Elm Street is so effective. That's also why it's so reviled.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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