A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Welcome to a new kind of nightmare
Welcome to a new kind of nightmare
The new Nightmare on Elm Street movie, which is a remake of the original 1984 classic, terrified me in a way I didn’t expect. Allow me to travel back in time to the roots of the franchise, as I reminisce on the previous Nightmare movies (I just watched all of them in the past two weeks in order to catch up). The first Elm Street was a jolt of brilliance in concept; the idea that a slasher could control someone’s dreams and kill them in their sleep was and still is a potent one in the horror genre. Wes Craven had created a monster to be remembered in Freddy Krueger, who was unlike any other famous movie slasher before him with his razor-bladed glove, fedora hat, striped sweater, burned skin, and sick sense of humor. With the following sequels, the results were hit-or-miss without Craven’s direct involvement. With the exceptions of the Craven-involved Dream Warriors and New Nightmare, the series dipped in quality as Freddy became a comic version of his former self with puns and one-liners. Now with the remake, the production company Platinum Dunes (which was also behind the fairly entertaining Friday the 13th remake) wanted to strip away the cheese and make him scary again. Oh, Nightmare circa 2010 is scary, but only in the sense that I felt like I could fall asleep at any moment during it and then Robert Englund will invade my dream and say, “I told you so,” before offing me.
Plot Synopsis: While sitting with his girlfriend Kris at the Springwood diner late at night, Dean soon falls asleep and then mysteriously kills himself in front of her and their friends Nancy, Jesse, and Quentin. After the funeral, Kris begins having nightmare’s about a strange, burned man wielding a glove made of finger knives. She soon believes that Dean was having the same dreams as her and refuses to go to sleep. One night, Jesse (her ex-boyfriend) shows up to comfort her and convinces her that she’s safe with him. But once Jesse wakes up he finds Kris floating and swirling mid-air before she is spontaneously slashed and collapses to the ground covered in blood. Mistaking Jesse to be the killer after he sets off the house alarm, the police finally catch up to him after he goes to warn Nancy about the dreams and the horrific man that controls them. Soon, Nancy and Quentin eventually find out that this man is Freddy Krueger, a convicted pedophile who was burned by their own parents, and Freddy may be back for revenge.
Was the cast supposed to be in a perpetual daze for the entire movie or were they just bored filming it? Either way, I didn’t care for many of the teenage characters. The one that actually had a decent performance was Katie Cassidy (Kris), but she’s not around for too long. Thomas Dekker (Jesse) seemed to be at least trying, even though he didn’t really stand out. Unfortunately, the two people who we should be caring about, Rooney Mara (Nancy) and Kyle Gallner (Quentin) were the dullest of the young actors. Mara’s performance in particular killed a lot of the tension in some scary scenes because of her lack of reaction. If a burned man were coming at me with a glove made out of knives, I wouldn’t be blankly staring at him like he’s a schoolteacher giving me a history lesson. And Gallner goes through the whole movie with one facial expression; he looks like he’s on the verge of crying in every scene. There’s also a Psycho-like trick going on where the viewer thinks Kris is the main character at first, but the writers forget that Nancy also needs some decent screen time before we switch over to her.
But what of Jackie Earle Haley, the new Freddy Krueger? I get the sense that Haley tried his best and his performance is appropriately menacing, but the new makeup didn’t work very well. When he’s in the shadows, the makeup looks fine, but once we get a good look at his face, the results just look odd and unintimidating (seriously, he looks like a fish). Now when I heard that they were changing Freddy’s origin a bit from his original motivations, it sounded like a good idea since they were adding a new angle where we weren’t sure if he really committed crimes as a human or not. What I didn’t expect was from this change in origin was that it would make the most iconic aspect of the man, his bladed glove, not make any sense! In the original he’s a full on child killer so the glove makes sense, here he’s only a pedophile. It doesn’t add up. Not only that, but the writers couldn’t even stick with their intentions of making him a serious killer again. By the third act, he’s spewing out cheesy puns again. What the hell?
Continuing Platinum Dunes’ trend of hiring music video directors is Samuel Bayer, whom I thought could have really created something special (he directed Nirvana’s iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video). What I learned was that Bayer could shoot a good-looking movie with crisp cinematography, but he can’t put together a smooth flowing plot. The pacing feels almost non-existent with scenes strung together in a boring connect-the-dots fashion, especially in the first half. There’s also only a modicum of suspense and tension because the dream sequences seem to be happening every five minutes and there’s none of that unease that the audience felt in the original movies when they were unsure whether something was real or not. In the remake, it’s immediately apparent when a dream occurs. I was growing numb to them by the end, especially since none of them were very memorable or creative (the best ones are lifted right from the first movie). Bayer also pretty much abuses every chance he has to create a jump scare in a scene. Jumps are good when used sparingly, but when they’re the only trick you’ve got, they become boring and predictable.
I’m ranting, and I realize that, but things weren’t all sour. As I said before, the look of the movie is cool and well shot and Jackie Earle Haley was decent despite the weak makeup for Freddy. Also, the way that the teen’s parents, played strongly by Clancy Brown and Connie Britton, are almost as villainous as Freddy is a decent story angle that kept me slightly interested. The first kill scene was actually pretty brutal and startling too. But the fact of the matter is that in the end, this is just a bad horror movie. It’s not scary, it’s annoying (enough with the jump scares!), it’s bad as a remake, and it’s bad as an individual movie. But worst of all, it is just dull and boring. Even the worst of the Nightmare sequels weren’t like that. Ok, maybe Freddy’s Revenge was.
Initial Rating: 1/4 Revised Rating: 0.5/4