Freddy Krueger returns in A Nightmare on Elm Street, a contemporary re-imagining of the horror classic. A group of surburban teenagers share one common bond: they are all being stalked by Freddy Krueger, a horribly disfigured killer who hunts them in their dreams. As long as they stay awake, they can protect one another…but when they sleep. there is no escape.
Nostalgia can be a cruel and fickle mistress.
Let me paint the scene for you. The year is 1988 and I have skipped school for probably the 2nd or 3rd time that week. It’s a Thursday and having just spent half an hour in an arcade playing probably Operation Wolf or Outrun. I head off to wait outside my favourite cinema to see a movie that will quite literally change my life.
I had seen the trailer for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” a few years before and it quite literally scared the living hell out of me. I was 11 years old at the time I saw the trailer and I had to wait 3 years before I could get to see one of these elusive “Freddy” movies for myself.
I waited in line for 10 minutes, which felt like years, while the cinema staff got the cinema ready. I used to insist that I got the first ticket for the movie that I was seeing and that day, I made sure I did. The movie was “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” and I’ve never been the same since. For the rest of my teen and young adolescent years my life was filled with Freddy memorabilia, posters and yes even a fedora or two.
While some kids favoured Michael, Jason or Leatherface, I was a Freddy guy.
Flash forward 22 years, a few bad sequels and a receding hairline later and we come to the 2010 remake of the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.
Now usually, I hate reviews where the guy talks about him/herself makes the review about them and not the film, but I had to let you know where I am coming from with this review so you’ll understand my reaction.
In the first 10 minutes of the movie I was over the moon. The film starts off in a diner where Dean (Kellan Lutz), has taken refuge from his dreams. He’s there wait for his girlfriend Kris (Katie Cassidy) to finish her shift.
So far, so good.
The opening scene has a very ‘Elm St.’ lighting palette that recalls the look of Part 4, heavy on the reds and greens and the fact that there’s a bit of uncomfortable gore made me feel very safe. But like all bad dreams, the nightmare kicks in pretty early on in this remake leaving you with the question of…why?
Whilst the tone of the film starts off well, there are moments when I felt I was having déjà vu to when I first saw the god-awful remake of Psycho in 98 (Thanks very much Gus Van Zandt, see what you started?). There is dialogue and shots that are literally word for word and shot for shot with the original 84 classic, which again begs the question….why?
Director Samuel Bayer helped kill rock and roll back in 1991 when he delivered the musical death knell to us all with the film clip, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Don’t get me wrong, he has a great eye for visuals and creates interesting dream like shots, but it seems that, like the mind of the numbed audience that he caters for with his music videos, he can’t sustain a narrative longer than 3:33 minutes.
One of the biggest reasons why the original movie and the subsequent series had the surreal and creepy atmosphere was due to the original score created by Charles Bernstein. When I watched last years redux of “Friday the 13th”, I was surprised and disappointed when they completely ignored Harry Manfredini’s entire score that, at that point had become inseparable with the Friday franchise.
This caused a lot of controversy amongst the fans and you would have thought that they would have listened to the negative reaction and done something to rectify the outrage for their next remake. Right?
Wrong. They again hired hack composer Steve Jablonsky, whose ominous tones have been bombarding us since Platinum Dunes first ‘redux’ The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2004). While watching the ‘Elm St.’ remake I noticed that people in the cinema were laughing at certain music cues. It was a real misfire on the makers’ part not to use the ‘traditional’ score, with the exception of the “One, Two Freddy’s Coming for you…”nursery rhyme.
Jablonsky should stick with doing just the Transformers films. At least the expectations for a good score are so low when considering the Transformer movies that you might not get dissapointed.
I dig Jackie Earle Haley. Hell, I’ve been a fan of his since The Bad News Bears and Losin’ It, so when I read on the internets that they were re-casting Freddy, disappointed as I was, there was only one guy I thought would do the role justice.
His career-shifting role in Little Children cemented, for me, just how well this guy plays an insidiously evil character. Now, he wasn’t the reason why this film doesn’t work, but even a good actor like him can’t save this film from being laugh out loud awful at times.
Apart from Jackie Earle Haley, the rest of the cast can be described as serviceable at best. There are some really stunningly poor performances and a couple of veteran actors like Clancy Brown that try, and ultimately fail to give you anything from such a poorly written script.
There comes a certain point in your life when you know you are getting older. For instance, in the original film, I had a huge crush on Heather Langenkamp who played Nancy. In the 2010 version, I found the actress, Rooney Mara’s Nancy unattractive and bland. Might have been the actress’ capabilities but I found myself noticing Nancy’s Mother Gwen, (Connie Britton) giving a much better performance and was much more attractive.
The same went for Kris’ Mother Nora, played by Lia D. Mortensen. As for the males roles in the film? Shockingly miscast and embarrassingly shameful to watch as a fan of the series and as a male. If Thomas Dekker and Kyle Gallner need another job, they can put up their hands for the next Twilight/Transformers films. They definitely come from the Robert Pattinson/Shia Lebouf school of acting. The original had Johnny Depp. Enough said.
It must be noted as well that although the film features the character of Freddy and Nancy, this Nancy’s last name is Holbrook, not Thompson as in the original.
Throughout the series, the character of Freddy was cruel and evil, but he did have a quick wit and a wicked tongue. The only time that I can recall that he curses in the entire series was in Part 3 when he was about to slash Zsa Zsa Gabor on a TV program. I’m not a prude and I think that bad language can be used to effect, but I had a problem with the ‘new’ Freddy’s cursing. As I said, the language does not offend me at all, but it wasn’t consistent with the character and somehow cheapened the effectiveness of his demeanour.
There was a lot of talk about moving Freddy back into the shadows and making him scary again. I’m sorry but when you have a scene where you see Freddy in almost full light then two shots later, lurking in the shadows again, you should really look in the trashcan in the editing suite to check for elicit substances as it was so ridiculously put together that it brought me right out of the movie.
In the original film, there is a scene where Nancy is asleep in bed at Tina’s house. Freddy appears to be trying to come through the wall and into our reality. It’s a great effect and probably one of the most talked about scares in the first part of the film. It was a practical effect, where they used a stretched piece of spandex to create the illusion. In the remake it’s totally CGI. It looks terrible and again emphasises what’s wrong with the new movie.
The only real ‘new’ story plot point introduced in the new movie is the invention of what they are calling ‘micro-naps’. ‘Micro-naps’ apparently are little slices of sleep where the person doesn’t know whether they are awake or not. Uh, hello?? McFly?? Wasn’t that what was happening in the original series or are audiences so dumb that they have to actually explain what happens when the character closes their eyes? Hmm anyway, not a lot has changed, only now Freddy’s back-story is totally different, watered down and less effective. Much like the film itself.
The film does looks great, and the sound designer was on the ball, but loud cymbal crashes to make you jump is such a cliché nowadays, I think it’s time to bury the ‘boo’ scares and the use of sound effects to scare you in favour of getting back to the way films used to scare you, with tension, and pacing.
I think that there were two reasons why the original film worked and why this one comes off as a poor mans Krueger. Wes Craven and Robert Englund. Take one of those elements away and you are skating on thin ice. Take both of them away and well…you end up with the 2010 version.
For a film aimed at people that can’t sustain a thought for longer than the average radio song and have no idea what tension is then this film will work for them. For the rest of us out there that like good acting, good writing and an overall sense of consistency, skip this film entirely and crack out your DVD of the original (and far superior) nightmare. Hell, even Freddy’s Nightmares was better than this.
I’ve always said, I’d rather a bad sequel than an awful remake.
I give this film 1.5 out of 5 stars and it is currently in cinemas.