Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Director: Samuel Bayer
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley
I have to start off this review by saying that I am a lifelong A Nightmare on Elm Street fan. With this in mind you might immediately think that this will make my review biased somehow. Rendered instantly invalid because no matter what I say, my love for anything related to A Nightmare on Elm Street will eclipse my critical and objective analysis of the film. But you’d be wrong in saying that. I was actually quite hesitant to go see this film in theaters, fearing that producer Michael Bay might have destroyed one of the most beloved horror icons in history, Freddy Kruger. Truth be told, I didn’t go to see it in theaters. I mean, just look at what Michael Bay produced with The Hitcher remake. The original is such a great film, a true horror classic. The Michael Bay produced remake turned out to be utter thrash, almost unwatchable. It has none of the qualities that made the original such a memorable film. But then again, horror remakes produced by Michael Bay are a mixed bag. I enjoyed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake he produced a while back. So I thought, who knows, maybe since Freddy Krueger is such a revered horror icon, he might make sure as a producer to treat this one with some respect?
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, this film tells the story of a group of teenagers who live on Elm Street. They are all having extremely similar nightmares. Apparently, a burnt man named Freddy Krueger who wears a striped red and black sweater and a Fedora hat is torturing them in their dreams. Usually nightmares are not a problem since they fade away as soon as you wake up, problem is, that the nightmares these Elm Street kids are having aren’t just nightmares! If this Freddy guy kills them in their nightmares, they die in the real world! Why is Freddy Krueger psychologically torturing these kids and killing them? Will they find a way to stop him?
The films offers us the classic dream sequences, along with some nifty new ones...
I went into this one expecting the worse. I’d read mostly negative reviews on it, with the odd one saying that it wasn’t as bad as they were making it out to be. I had to make sure. The film starts out with an interesting dream sequence, something completely new, yet familiar. It takes place inside of the diner that Alice works in the old Nightmare on Elm Street movies. In the old ones, Alice doesn’t even show up until the fourth film! But here she is, already on the first one she appears. Cool, I am feeling some familiarity with the characters and situations. When you are in an Elm Street movie, you kind of know when you are in a dream sequence, so you know you are in for something special. I am a fan of films with lots of dream sequences; they are one of the main reasons why I love this franchise. So I’m digging the movies vibe so far, I like the dream sequences, I love visiting the town of Springwood once again. Here we are once again being presented with a new batch of interchangeable teenagers who are going to die via some cool special effects sequences. Everything is cool up to the point where we finally see Freddy face! That’s when I said, what the hell?!! They really dropped the ball on this one! Why the hell did they get this so wrong? I mean, why choose an actor like Jackie Earle Haley only to make him play a character that doesn’t even resemble him?
Think about it. In the old movies, when you looked at Freddy Krueger, you essentially saw a burnt up version of Robert Englund. I mean, yeah he had make up on his face, but you could still tell it was Robert Englund. His face gave the character that much more personality. The make up didn’t make Englund’s facial features and expressions disappear. You could see Robert Englund’s expressions when he laughed his Freddy Krueger laugh. Not so with this new Freddy. When you look at the new Freddy, you don’t see a burnt version of Jackie Earle Haley. For some reason, the make up distorts his face so much that he doesn’t even look like the actor! I’m thinking the producers purposely made Krueger not look like the actor in case they wanted to replace Jackie Earle Haley on future installments with another actor in the role of Freddy. I guess a Freddy that didn’t look like anyone would be easier to replace. But whatever the reason, they got Freddy’s look all wrong. Completely wrong. I would have been okay with it had the character resembled Jackie Earle Haley somewhat. But as it is, this turned out to be a very impersonal version of Freddy Kruger, a very stiff face, with very little space for emotions or performance to show through the make up. There was no life in this Freddy’s face, and that was a big part of what made the original Freddy work so well.
There is a reason why they keep Freddy's face hidden mostly in shadows, it just didnt work!
One other scene had me worried. There is this one scene in the original film where Nancy is safely tucked away in her bed and we see Freddy Krueger slowly emerging from the wall above her bed. We see his face, his silhouette forming on the walls surface. It’s one of the defining moments of the original series, one of those iconic images you instantly remember when you think of the Nightmare films. And on that original film they pulled it off beautifully with practical effects. Sadly, the modern filmmaker relies too heavily on CGI for too many things. Creativity has been smashed to smithereens because computer generated effects offer the modern filmmaker a quicker way of finishing a movie. It’s easy to shoot something and say “we’ll fix that in post!” Sadly, this very important key sequence was butchered by bad CGI. I mean, I would have had no problem with if it didn’t look like it was CGI. That’s supposed to be the trick of computer generated images right? To trick us into believing that what we are seeing is real somehow, no matter how fantastical it may be. Sadly, this was not he case with this sequence. Instead, we get this cartoon version of Freddy Krueger popping out of the wall in a scene that almost completely destroyed any hopes of this remake being any good for me. I mean, seriously, how could the director say “sure, that scene is perfect! Let’s go with that!” It was atrociously bad!
This key sequence from the original didnt translate well on the remake.
But still, I ventured further. I had to see just how bad or good this remake was going to be. I mean, the film was just starting maybe it would get better as it went along? Thankfully this movie got some respectability when it started to get into Freddy Krueger’s origins. Who he used to be, and how he ended up being the charred, clawed killer in the Elm Street kids dreams. I loved that whole sequence where we actually get to see Freddy’s whole backstory told! This is something that these new remakes benefit from. The old horror franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween slowly built up the story of these horror icons through each subsequent film. Each movie would reveal to us a little more about the characters origins. These new remakes benefit from the fact that they already have the whole backstory of these characters set, these filmmakers have already seen all the old Nightmare on Elm Street films so they got a more complete version of the characters background to work with. So that’s what this movie did with Freddy’s origin story. We get a really complete look at who Freddy was and why the parents decided to take justice into their own hands and all that. We actually get to see Freddy afraid of dying! By the time Freddy gets burned I was freaking applauding! Like I said, I’m a fan. I’d never seen Freddy’s origin tale told so well, and so completely. So at least this remake got that right.
And from that point on the film was more watchable for me. I mean, I still hated Freddy’s look, but the movie went down the right road for me during its second and third half. The filmmakers were obviously going for a scarier Freddy. This isn’t Robert Englund’s one line spewing, joke a minute version of Freddy Krueger. One of the elements they augmented in order to make Freddy scarier was his pedophiliac inclinations. The older movies only hinted at the fact that he sexually abused children. In fact, I think it was only hinted at in the movies and they focused more on him being a child murderer. If I remember correctly, I believe it was only in the Freddy’s Nightmare’s episode where the parents burn Freddy that Freddy mentions something that clearly lets us see he is a pedophile, but on the movies? I seem to remember only hints to this matter. Not so on this new movie where the filmmakers made sure that we understood this was the reason he was being burned alive! This pedophile element gave this new version of Freddy a more sinister aura.
So ladies and gentlemen, in my opinion what we got here is a remake that isn’t all that disastrous in my book. Yeah they got Freddy’s face all wrong and messed up a key sequence with bad cgi, but for the most part I enjoyed the film. It got Freddy’s origin sequence so freaking right. And you know what; it had some stylish direction to it. The director, Samuel Bayer is primarily known for being a music video director, directing videos for everthing from The Smashing Pumpkins to Marilyn Manson, so at least we got someone on the directors chair with a sense of style and cool. I really liked a lot of the shots, and most of the dream sequences were pulled off just right. It showed respect for the original (most of the time) while it offered up a couple of new dream sequences that I enjoyed as well. Still, they left out Johnny Depp's death on this one, the one where he gets sucked into his water bed along with his t.v. set! Bummer. So anways, I didnt hate this one, it had some things wrong with it, but it wasnt a total disaster in my book. Looking forward to another one, let’s hope they get Freddy’s face right on the inevitable sequel.
Rating: 3 out of 5