Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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

A Nightmare on Elm StreetA Nightmare on Elm Street [Blu-ray]The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection (New Line Platinum Series)


venoms5 said...

I didn't bother with this one either in the theater, Fran. I only really liked the first and third movies. I remember reading a rumor that they were changing Krueger's backstory to make him more sympathetic, that the parents wrongfully burned him and he comes back for revenge. It seems that isn't the case at all.

I do remember an interview in Fangoria, or one of the other horror mags that they wanted to give Freddy a more skeletal appearance here. This being a "big and glossy studio film", there were the expected jabs at the make up in the original movies.

I will definitely rent this, though.

HorrO said...

See this is why I love reading your blog. We can agree on so many things. So many people bashed this movie, and I don't think they even gave it a fair chance no matter how much they tell you they did. I'm sure you will get at least one comment on how this movie sucked. Yea, it wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible. It is hard to see Freddy in a different light. Lets say they did other sequels instead of a remake. Robert can't play Freddy forever so eventually there would be a change. I agree they went a little over board with his face. As I mentioned in my review, Freddy is harder to remake because you can see the actor's face in him. With Jason, and Michael, they have masks so it doesn't matter who plays them. I didn't like the scene when she was sleeping, not only because of what you mentioned, but I felt like it was forced. I felt that and the bathroom scene didn't fit with the flow of the movie, but they felt they had to include it. I LOVE back story. The more the better so I also enjoyed learning more about Freddy. I am a big Freddy fan so I was just excited to see a new movie. Really, they would have had to do much worse for me to hate this movie.

Franco Macabro said...

@Venom5: I love the first and third entries, in fact DREAM WARRRIORS is my ultimate favorite of all the Freddy movies. But I like them all for different reasons. They were an important fan of my becoming a horror fan!

They did put some doubt there, questioning the fact about him being a pedophile or not, but its cleared up quickly when we see Freddy speaking of how much he loved Nancy's dress and how he took them to a "secret cave"

I see, they were going for a more skeletal appearance..I dont know I guess Freddy was never about that. He was just a guy with a burned face. Let's see how they deal with the make up next time, same as in the old ones, Im sure there will be some changes with every film.

Its definetly worth a rental Venom!

@HorrO: Glad you liked my review, it seems this is a very polarizing movie, as many people hate it as love it. ANd its happening amongst horror fans themselves, some love it some hate it. I think any true blue Freddy fan will love it, how could they not, we get to know Freddy a whole lot more.

When Freddy was bursting into flames I was like "OH MY GOD!" I'd never seen that like that! I mean, in the other movies they only talked about these things happening, and I think it was only in part 6 FREDDY's DEAD where we got a glimpse of how he got burned, but never in such detail, loved it. I wish they had gone further even and showed the supernatural side of things as to how he got his dream powers.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

I was one of the people who gave a negative review for this film. And I still stand by it. I honestly didn't enjoy it. It wasn't the worst remake ever made, but there could have been so much more done with the movie. Why rehash old dreams, just to make them worse? And I didn't really find the characters all that interesting. I thought Katie Cassidy [the blonde] was the strongest character and she was quickly eliminated. And I agree about the CGI. Just terrible looking.

I honestly thought Jackie Earle Haley was the best part of the film. He's no Robert Englund, but at least he gave a convincing performance and did make Freddy a bit scarier. The make up didn't really bother me because I knew what they were going for. But it could have been better.

Like I said, I don't think it's the worst remake ever. I was just disappointed with it because even the lesser sequels in the franchise did more than this version did. I respect that you enjoyed the film, Franco. I just wish I could share in it. Great review.

Franco Macabro said...

They had to rehash the same dreams from the previous movies because its a remake, and as such they are going to go through the same plot points and situations. I did appreciate the couple of new dreams that were squeezed in there as well.

I agree though, the old dreams could have been livened up somehow or made better, because they essentially did the same things. For example the dream with the girl floating in the air above the bed, that whole sequence was way bloodier in the original, this new one felt like a pussier version of it because it was less bloody.

I did enjoy Jackey as Freddy, I mean, at least we get a decent actor underneath the make up, that is a plus for me. But if what they wanted was to make Freddy look kind of skeletical, they should have just done the make up on with out altering the actors face, Jackey Earle Haley is already kind of skeletical looking anyways!

Im at least happy that it wasnt a total let down, well, at least for me it wasnt. Im hoping these movies will keep getting better with each sequel. I hope the producers follow the patter of the old Freddy movies and put up and coming competent young directors to helm these movies, I think thats why the old ones ended up being so good in the end.

Thanks for commenting Wolf!

Castor said...

Heard so much bad rap about this movie that I never gave it a chance. Interesting that you gave 4 out of 5 despite that, maybe I will give a chance on Netflix on Halloween ;)

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Pretty poor remake in my opinion. It was neither scary, nor tense. Did you really liked it that much? :)

Anonymous said...

I did give it a chance and I've learned to accept remakes. In my humble opinion The Last House on the Left remake was far better than the original.

That said, I respectfully disagree with you good sir. The NOES remake (for me) fell flat on every level for me: thin characterizations (a Joy Division t-shirt makes you socially awkward?), no sense of tension building or atmosphere (jump scares every two seconds, very over glossed dream sequences) and Freddy is just, well, there. Jackie Earle channeled his inner Rorschach and it felt hollow.

Not too mention you could see the ending coming from a mile away. Oh and I thought the child killer angle, fully explained and overhyped, really humanized the character and was supposed to make us empathize with him. I thought this genuinely sucked the fear out of it. The original hinted at what he could be without outright stating it, much more effective in my opinion. As there is no greater fear than what you make up in your mind.

Franco Macabro said...

@Castor: I decided to bring my rating down one whole score, so now the movie is a 3 out of 5. I just thought about the positives and the negatives and decided upon this. But I stand by every word I said, I still had a great time with this movie as a Freddy Fan.

This movie is one that divides its audience, half loves it half hates it. It's not the greatest of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, but it was well made, it was stylized, and it really dug into Freddy's past.

@Nebular: Yeah, I really did dig it. It got really good for me about half way through, it starts off with a couple of unnecessary jump scares and bad computer generated images, but once it got going, it got good in my book.

@Planet of Terror: Yeah, I read that debate you had with another blogger on how much you hated it, it was pretty funny! On that debate I sided with the other blogger who seemed to find the same charms in it as I did.

Previous Nightmare sequels have never had the deepest characters or anything, these are your regular Elm Street kids having nightmares, these movies have never really offered up much in terms of depth in character, these are sleep deprived kids having nightmares and dying in them, thats about as deep as previous ones got. I mean, each kid had their own problem and then Freddy exploited that problem in their dreams, thats about as far as it went, and thats pretty much what this one offered as well. Whats the big deal with wearing a Joy Division t-shirt?

As for the "humanization" of Freddy, they gave us the same things previous Freddy movies had already given us as far as Freddys story goes. It was in a more condensed fashion, as opposed to being spread out through all the movies they told Freddy's whole story in one sweep.

Though there is still more to explore, they left out all the stuff dealing with the rape of his mother by all those maniacs in the insane asylum, I would have loved to see that told as well!

I thought that the fact that they explored Freedy's darker side, like his pedophilia angle, made him scarier. We weren't meant to sympathize with him. At one point in the film it is put into question if its all true or not, but because it's all revealed to be true, he truly was a child molester/murderer, if anything that made Freddy even more evil then on previous films where it was only hinted at.

And come one, Freddy isn't a mystery anymore, every horror fan in the world knows what he is all about anymore, whats the point of trying to make him mysterious, everyone knows what he is all about anyways. Freddy lost his 'mystique' a long time ago, I guess filmmakers figured whats the point.

I did appreciate the filmmakers attempt at making freddy, darker, more serious, more of a threat. But hey Cortez, you know how this movie is, polarizing all the way! I guess I just fell into the positive camp, I saw redeeming qualities in it, more good than bad in it.

I know it aint perfect, but it wasn't pure garbage either. Technically speaking the colors, cinematography, the overall look of the film was top notch.

Thanks for commenting Cortez

Diana said...

I loved this movie! I haven't seen any of the originals, though. So I didn't have anything to compare it to, and the story line was new to me. I really liked all the characters too. I enjoyed this movie a lot. I really want to watch the originals now...

Franco Macabro said...

Glad to see Im not alone on this one Diana!

The original Nightmare On Elm Street films are a really fun bunch of films, with the exception of the first one (which is a pretty straight forward horror film with no jokes in it whatsoever) you might notice a slight change in tone when watching the old ones. When compared to the new Freddy, the Freddy in those old movies is more of a jokester. Saying one liners and funny dialog whenever he can.

Have fun enjoying those originals, they are worth looking up!

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

If my mathematics are correct (maths was never my strong suit) then there are nine films relating to Elm St/Freddy, and only one of them was any good. Therefore the law of averages dictate that this will be utter garbage. If one also factors in that this is a remake that only increases the probability that this will be cinematic excrement....I shall avoid this!

Franco Macabro said...

It's cool Shaun, I didnt expect lots of love for this movie since it has the words "Michael Bay" and "Remake" attached to it. Also, Im a huge Freddy nut, I love the character and the movies, so I was happy to see these movies get a new lease on life. I hope we do get to see more of these films.

Thanks for commenting Shaun!

skochems said...

Really good review, do you have an email we can chat at? You seemed to have a lot of the same views on the movie as me... I actually stumbled upon your blog in looking for a photo to attach to mine, maybe we can do some linking? Email me,

BRENT said...

I'm afraid that I thought this was absolute garbage!! Sorry but this is as poor a re-make as the recent Friday the Thirteenth. Neither scary or tense.
I remeber seeing the Freddy movies in theatres as a teen and being scared. The re-make doesn't scare so for me it totally fails to deliver what the original did.
To me that what the Elm street series was, horror, but this mess just isn't horror. Where are the scares the original deivered??
It certainly has divided people's opinions. Most I know hate it!!

Franco Macabro said...

Agree BRENT, half hate it, half love it. It's been like that all over, I've read some reviewers bashing it, some loving it. I was somewhere in between. I just loved seeing Freddy come back to life again, and this movie made some cash, I wonder why they havent made a sequel? Same goes for Friday the 13th remake, it made money, why no more sequels? Had this been the eighties we would've already been on a second sequel by now!

Thanks for commenting BRENT!


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