Jackie Earle Haley - Freddy Krueger
Rooney Mara - Nancy Holbrook
Kyle Gallner - Quentin O'Grady
Katie Cassidy - Kris Fowles
Thomas Dekker - Jesse Braun
Kellan Lutz - Dean Russell
Clancy Brown - Alan Smith
Connie Britton - Gwen Holbrook
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 95 Minutes
Score - 1 Howl Outta 4
In 1984, Wes Craven unleashed his horror masterpiece to an unsuspecting audience: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The idea of a killer murdering you in your dreams was an original, and downright frightening, idea that gave many people nightmares once the film was over. It created a horror icon in Freddy Krueger, played perfectly with malicious glee by Robert Englund, and since has brought us 6 sequels [7 if you consider 2003's FREDDY VS. JASON as part of the NIGHTMARE timeline] that had varied levels of success both creatively and commercially.
With the mega-success of FREDDY VS. JASON, I was hoping it would steer away ideas of a future remake for the franchise, as that film revigorized the character and had potential to bring in other horror icons into the mix for some entertaining times. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Sequel discussions for FvJ went down by the wayside. And the fact that other major horror franchises were being "rebooted" such as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN, and FRIDAY THE 13TH, it was inevitable that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET would get its own makeover.
Now I don't hate remakes. In fact, I feel many horror films could use updates because the ideas could be improved upon or they're just outdated and could use a modern touch. However, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was one of those films that didn't need a remake. It's still as fantastic as it was 26 years ago and doesn't need improvement. But it was announced and nothing could be done about it. Jackie Earle Haley of LITTLE CHILDREN and WATCHMEN was playing Krueger, plus a good cast of young actors gave me hope that the film could be a bit decent. But then I forgot that Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes, producers of some of the worst remakes in history, was behind this, dashing those hopes.
But I saw A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 with an open mind, hoping it would be as close to the original sequels as possible. Unfortunately, the film is a massive disappointment on many levels.
Every horror fan knows the plot to this film. Several teenagers from Springwood, Ohio are having nightmares of the same burnt man with a single glove that's highlighted with razor sharp knives. It turns out this man is Fred Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a former groundskeeper at a pre-school who supposedly molested and possibly murdered some of the students. The parents of these children lynched Freddy by burning him, supposedly ending the terror. But now Freddy has gained supernatural abilities that allow him to step inside the dream world, attacking his former students (who are now High Schoolers) for telling on him. And if he kills you in your dreams, you die for real. Can Freddy be stopped or will the nightmares continue?
I have three words for this remake:
WHAT THE FUCK!?
I wasn't expecting much out of this remake. And my expectations were pretty much met. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 is an extremely disappointing revision of a classic film that's still highly regarded for being creative, memorable, and downright chilling. None of those adjectives work for the remake, as it's uninspired, forgettable, and overall lazy as hell. What went so wrong with this film?
Let's start with the main culprit: the screenplay. Now let me get the positives out of the way. I liked the idea of the "micro-nap". This is a legit phenomenon, as we micro-nap whenever we feel drowsy or daydream [or zone out]. It's never been addressed in the other films, so I thought it was clever to see how powerful sleep is. There's no way to escape dreaming even if you stay up for days on end. The exhaustion will take over no matter what, making one vulnerable to Freddy's attack. It definitely helped pick up the last half of the film, especially in the supermarket scene, which I actually liked. I do wish the idea of "what's real and what's not" when it came to this sub-plot was explored deeper. It was easy to tell when it was real and when it was a dream. I think it should have blurred the lines a bit more to really make it an effective narrative tool.
I also appreciate that there was an attempt to revise the Freddy origin. The question of whether he was innocent of pedophilia was an interesting one. Am I a fan of this direction? No, as I feel Freddy would have revelled in raping and murdering children. After all, he was the son of a 100 maniacs. He has every right to be an evil bastard. But I was okay with the fact that maybe he was burned for all the wrong reasons - if the screenwriters had actually let that simmer until the very end. Instead, it's brought up and then revealed right away that he was guilty as sin. What's the point in even bringing it up then if you're just gonna give it away so quickly? Again, it was an appealing attempt but it wasn't executed well enough to have any sort of impact.
As for the rest of the story itself, it's pretty much "been there-done that". It's so generic that I felt better off just watching the original. In fact, it's the same exact shit! I thought the point of a remake is to not only stay true to the source material, but actually change things up enough so the old story feels new again? This remake doesn't really do that. In fact, when I see the same scenes taken from the original and they're done WORSE than in 1984, a part of me dies inside.
But yeah, the script was very pedestrian. No character development for much of anyone in this film. People get killed and do the other characters really react to it? No, they're more concerned about themselves and how Freddy will kill them. For a group of friends, they seemed really disconnected from each other. And they were all interchangable. Yeah, some were more of a douchebag than others, but they were all pretty much stereotypes. I expect that in a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, not in a NIGHTMARE film. Freddy Krueger obviously was the most developed (with Quentin and Nancy right behind him), but even he could have used more fleshing out. The dialogue was bland and awkward at times, as everyone sounded the same for the most part. The scene where Nancy and Quentin confront Nancy's mother was just bizarre. It felt so forced and the information given SHOULD have been effective. But it just made me roll my eyes and laugh. What a waste. I mean, you had EIGHT films to work from and we're given this? I honestly didn't give a fuck about anyone in this film and I was rooting for Freddy the whole time. That doesn't make me sadistic. That makes me smart enough to know that the screenplay sucked.
Then we have the CGI. Wow, this CGI looked really cheap. The scene where Freddy invades through the wall as he attempts to scare Nancy looks terrible in comparison to the scene in the original. It was like a cartoon! And the Tina death scene that's recreated for one of the characters is also lame in comparison. In the original, it was dragged out and looked really brutal and realistic, making it highly effective. Here, the death plays out and then the character is pretty much bouncing off walls like it's a pinball machine and gets slashed. The end. Ugh. I will say some of the transitions between reality and the dream were nicely done, especially in the supermarket scene and the scene at the jailhouse. And I enjoyed seeing the body bag scene again. I just felt that the effects should have been more organic as the CGI just hurt the film more than it helped it. When the effects for FREDDY VS. JASON, which were done in CGI by the way, look more big budget and actually enhanced the film and story more than a reboot does seven years later, something went wrong when it came to the special effects unit.
And for a rated R movie, it sure lacked in nudity and gore. I don't consider seeing Kyle Gallner in a speedo sexually stimulating. Now if Katie Cassidy was in her underwear, that would have been something! And the kills were bland. No creativity whatsoever.
The direction by Samuel Bayer was hit and miss for me. Let me just say that I thought the film had nice cinematography. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 is a pretty film, with nice polish and beautiful framing and composition. I think it may have been too polished for a film like this, but it didn't bug me. I also thought Bayer had a decent eye for things and he did show some style when it came to directing scenes. But this is a horror film and I'm expecting to get scared, or at least creeped out, by something. I don't consider making the sound design louder when people pop up on screen from off-frame so people can jump out of their seats to be scary. I expect tension. I expect suspense. Bayer, a music video director who worked on Nirvana's "Smell Like Teen Spirit" and Green Day's "Wake Me Up Before September Ends", doesn't display any of this. I wasn't scared once. I wasn't even creeped out. If you're gonna attempt to make Freddy Krueger scary again rather than funny, at least try and match the tone for the rest of the film. Also, the pacing was way off in this film. The middle portion almost bored me because it was centered more on Quentin and Nancy, who weren't really developed enough for me to care all that much about them. I just thought it was lazy filmmaking for the most part, even though Bayer tried to infuse some energy into his work.
The acting was probably the highlight of the movie. While Robert Englund will always be Freddy Krueger for all us horror fans, Jackie Earle Haley didn't do a bad job replacing him. In fact, he was the best part of the film for me. He made Freddy more menacing than the character had been in years, which was a nice touch. The voice didn't bother me all that much [the make up is another story], even though he spoke really slow for some reason. But the guy is a great actor and he did his best with the role. I think if he was allowed to give the character his own interpretation, it would have been a more interesting performance.
The rest of the actors were given lame characters but did the best they could do. Rooney Mara is a better actress than Heather Langenkamp, but I actually prefer Langenkamp as Nancy. I will say that Mara gave a subtle, more intellectual performance as the final girl. I liked what she brought to the table. I wish the screenplay gave her more things to do. Kyle Gallner played the Johnny Depp role very well. Out of all the teens, I liked him the most as he had the most depth and actually did things that made sense. Gallner and Mara also had some cute chemistry together. Katie Cassidy did her best as Kris[Tina], even though she seemed to force too much emotion in certain scenes, making her performance sometimes unbelievable. Thomas Dekker played the asshole. Nothing more, nothing less. And Kellan Lutz wasn't bad as Dean. Can't really judge him since he's not in the film all that much. And I gotta say that Clancy Brown and Connie Britton was really wasted in their parental roles. These two fine actors deserved better.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE HOPING THIS REMAKE IS NOTHING BUT A DREAM
- Dean "killed himself" by slicing his own throat with a knife. Not surprising really. I felt suicidal after watching TWILIGHT. I can't imagine how it feels to actually star in it.
- Don't fall asleep in class. You'll get Freddy Krueger's attention. That A+ is not worth dying over.
- Kris wears a number 10 shirt to bed. And a 10 she is! Ooh baby! ::drools::
- If your dog is missing and it's the middle of the night, don't bother looking for him. He's probably been killed by Freddy. Or better yet, he's making a fine cuisine at an Asian restaurant. Either way, you'll be barking up the wrong tree.
- In Nancy's dream, it snows in her room. The same thing happens in Lindsay Lohan's dreams, but she snorts it before anyone is able to interpret it.
- Jesse had the boiler room dream, wincing and crying after Freddy taunted him. This guy is supposed to save the world from Skynet? Hasta la vista, future!
- Freddy scared Nancy at the supermarket. Damn, just show her how high milk and meat prices have gotten! That'll put the fear in anyone!
- Nancy has to dream in order to pull out Freddy from the dream and bring him into reality. Um, isn't pulling out what got Freddy in trouble to begin with...?
- If you're going to hide from a horror villain, don't do it inside a closet. Unless you're Jamie Lee Curtis, R. Kelly, or Ricky Martin, you're fucked!
THE FINAL HOWL
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is another disappointing remake by Platinum Dunes. After thinking about it a couple of days, my thoughts on this film just soured. It's one of those rare cases where the review came about and changed my original score for it. It's lazy and bland - two things that a NIGHTMARE film should not be. Yeah, FREDDY'S DEAD was horrible but at least it wasn't bland. Pretty much on par with the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, showing us that sometimes a remake isn't a good idea. I think the only new information I gathered from this reboot is that Michael Bay is truly Freddy Krueger's worst nightmare. Stick with the original stuff. You're not missing anything worthwhile with this one. Off to the WTF? Vault with you.