Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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I had a horrible dream last night. I dreamt that the 80`s slasher classic A Nightmare on Elm Street had been remade by talentless hacks…wait a minute – it was just a dream right?

Sadly not.

Nightmare for the noughties has reared its hideous head, and boy is it ugly!

This modern re-telling takes the terrifying concept of the serial killer stalking his victims in the one place they can’t hide, and does absolutely NOTHING with it! This is a movie that has been brought into existence with the sole purpose of cashing-in on its name – leaving us with a shallow and un-inspired re-tred of the original.

Plot wise, the movie doesn’t stray too far from its source material. A group of sexy teens (all looking at least 5-10 years older than they should) are being massacred in their nightmares by the supernatural, child-molester from beyond the grave – Freddy Kruger!  The group, led by our heroine Nancy, must work together if they are to stand any chance of stopping the diabolical dream demon before it’s too late!

So far, so familiar right? Not so – one way in which the remake does stray from the original is by neglecting to include any actual scares, suspense or character.

The remakes plot is as simple as they come, filled with non-sensical character motivations and dialogue consisting of nothing more than exposition. No time is devoted to setting up its world or its protagonists, and simply rushes from scene to scene without ever stopping to breathe. 

The contrast of the supernatural with reality works so effectively in the 1984 movie because of the time that went into setting up the believable world in which its other-worldly tale takes place. The slow burn approach of the original allowed its audience to spend time with its characters, and immerse themselves in the recognisable reality of their day-to-day lives. The characters are at first only unsettled by their nightmares, as Kruger is kept in the shadows until later on in the movie. Logically, the characters attempt to continue their lives as normal, dismissing their dreams as nothing more that what they are – dreams.

Part of the fun of the original is watching the characters slowly having to accept the extraordinary circumstances of their situation as their friends start mysteriously dying around them. The characters soon realise that that they are only truly safe while conscious, and must fend off the threat of sleep just as fiercely as Kruger himself. Finding nothing but scepticism from their parents, the characters exchange personal experiences, and study the science of nightmares in an attempt to better understand, and ultimately combat their demonic foe themselves. 

None of this setup and organic exploration is aparent in the remake, and the movie feels like it has just skipped the first few acts, and  jumped straight into the middle of the story. Right from the get go, Freddy publically claims a victim within the very first scene, thus destroying any sense of mystery the character may have had. In the original, Freddy spent the majority of the film in the shadows, and simply toyed with his victims first, before going in for the actual kill. All of the fun of the build-up is gone in a single stroke, and to make matters worse our protagonists always seem to miraculously figure everything out with any prompting. They accept their supernatural circumstance far to readily to be believable. No one in this movie earns their knowledge. Much like a porno, the remake is only interested in the money shots; which in horror movie terms of course means the scares.

Speaking of which, the scares themselves are generally terrible! The remake jettisons the disturbing and nightmarish imagery of the original, in favor of lame, and visually bland, jump scares. Evey scare goes something like this; a character will wander around a mildly spooky enviroment for 30 seconds or so, the score will drop and Freddy will suddenly dart into view and attack. Thats it.

No skill or artistry has gone into anything that occurs on-screen. In fact the scares become so repetitive, that they almost become tragically comical after a while.

Even the iconic moments regurgitated from the original fall flat. Director Samuel Bayer can not resist the urge to add his own OTT spin on everything. A good example of this is in the creepy moment of Kruger emerging from the wall over Nancy’s bed. In the original, this simple, yet effective practical effect is played out quietly and in one simple shot; its subtlety making it all the more menacing. In the remake a poorly rendered CG Kruger bursts from the wall behind Nancy as Jackie Earls face takes form, and begins to scream as CG claws tear from underneath the poorly rendered background. Lame, lame, lame! A perfectly creepy moment, ruined but being completely over blown. There is not one moment in this version that comes anywhere near to being as imaginative, or as frightening as anything from the original.

Which sadly leads me on to the biggest surprise of all – Jackie Earle Haley sucks as Freddy Kruger!

Jackie is an awesome actor – as anyone who has seen his portrayal as Roshak (Watchmen) or his minor, but memorable role in Shutter Island will testify. He seemed the perfect choice, and many nightmare fans rejoiced at the announcement of his casting.

Incredibly, Jackies Freddy is just not scary!

A lot of this comes down to his look. The film makers have gone for a realistic take on Kruger’s burns (which admittedly sounds like the way the go) but it just doesn’t work!  Original actor, Robert Englunds makeup may not have been realistic, but man was it more intimidating than this. Jackies makeup looks more reptilian than man, and I personally found it incredibly under whelming.

On top of that, Jackies take on the character lacks the menace and the diabolical humor of Englunds portrayal.  Robert Englunds Freddy was a truly devilish creation. His monster took sadistic pleasure from terrorizing his victims and the actor chewed the scenery in the role. None of which comes across here. Early’s take is just plain boring; lacking presence and personality, his character does nothing but spout weak one liners and clunky exposition.  

Also, his decision to voice the character as a mumbled, slightly retarded version of his Roshak character from Watchmen was a real misfire.

Come to think of it, then only new trait the actor brings to the character is that he says the word “Fuck” a lot. Great…?

I also couldn’t help but notice that Krugers razor glove (the most iconic part of Kruger character) barely registers in the movie at all. This unique weapon of choice is used to great effect by Englund in the original series, and is a truly frightening symbol of terror. Here, its origin and construction isn’t even shown. Kruger is not shown building it, and the protagonists barely even mention him having it through out the entire picture. To me this, is yet another example of the film makers simply not getting what made their character so scary to begin with.

To be completely fair, I don’t blame the actor entirely for this forgettable Freddy. To be honest, excluding the slightly bland actress playing Nancy, the cast in general is fine, and do the best with what they had to work with.  It’s just the terrible script the actors had to go on is atrocious, leaving very little room for character to be built upon. 

One thing I will give the movie credit for is attempting to deliver a little more back story to Krugers character; specifically the reason why he is targeting this particular group of kids. There was even a moment when I thought the movie was going to attempt something interesting, and challenge our preconceived notions of who Freddy is. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD – The movie plays on the idea that Freddy Kruger was in fact innocent, and that the parents of Springwood murdered an innocent man on the grounds of their children’s lies – hence why Kruger is so pissed and returning from beyond the grave for vengeance.

I really liked this concept, adding a new layer of depth to the almost pantomine-esque evilness of its villan. An interesting (and new) idea, that in more capable hands could have led to some fascinating moments of internal conflict amongst its cast. Possibly even leading to a more satisfying and thought-provoking ending than the by-the-numbers resolve we get. Here was a chance for the remake to shine, and stamp its own unique mark onto the series…

But of course this idea gets lost amongst all of the nonsense, and vanishes as quickly as it appears. I imagine the producers feared that making Kruger an almost tragic figure was too much of a gamble –  and so one clunky exposition scene later – everything is reset. Kruger is back to being the creepy super-nonce he always was. What a shame.

Oh, and it should be noted that as the movie progresses, any sense of logic and believability gets thrown completely out the window as it draws to its conclusion. NEOS 2010 has some wild ideas about the biological effects of sleep deprivation on the human body, and the back story of Kruger makes not a lick of sense if you stop to think about it. So if you have managed to endure the movie up until this point in hope of a satisfying conclusion – its not coming! – I therefore suggest you leave now and beat the traffic.

Anyway, to summarize I really have nothing good to say about this movie. I admit that the original Nightmare (while still a classic) hasnt aged that well, and is terminally trapped in the 1980s. Some fresh blood and modern production values could have really brought this aging series back to life!

Unfortunately, this is just not the case. NOES 2010 and is more of a re-hash than a re-boot.

This new nightmare is just plain pointless, and NO thought or craft has gone into a single frame of it. It pains me to think that this Nightmare on Elm Street will be a lot of younger viewers first taste of the series. In some ways, if this was simply a modern sequel to the existing series, I would have found it far less offensive. The fact that this terrible movie is essentially replacing the original really bothers me!

This is NOT the iconic Freddy Kruger the world embraced. This is the frat boy, high school dramatization of A Nightmare on Elm Street; brought to you by people with no understanding of why it source material worked in the first place. I would happily take any of the original series lack luster sequels over this garbage any day of the week.

A truly nightmarish experience in all the wrong ways.

1.5/10

…and just to wash the awful taste out of my mouth – here is the original 1984 trailer for good measures.

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2 Responses to “Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)”

  1. James Says:

    Problem with the film and the series and hell, horror in general, its about HORROR.

    Intrinsic, inevitable flaw. You’ll never get a good story, you’ll never get deep characters because its all about some weido jumping out of the crypt or wherever.

    Best you can do is keep up the tempo, have some good ideas and hope, pray, the audience isn’t paying too much attention.

    Its cinematic junk food – NOES is typical horror farce – but its real problem is that its painfully dull.

    • Danjo Kazooe Says:

      Wow, I couldnt agree less! 😛

      Some of best films out there are horror movies, or at least have horror elements to them. The Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Alien etc – all include compelling characters and story.

      I think the problem with horror is that the good gets lost slightly amoungst all the crap. Horror is a cheap, and thriving genre for talentless hacks to make a few bucks off, and is littered with trash.

      Just like romantic comedies for example – there is soooo much cinematic diarrhea out there that you sometimes forget that there are actually a few genuinely good examples of the genre out there too.

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