The seemingly undying trend of horror remakes continues and fails to make the cut, again. The latest horror icon to take the fall is Freddy Krueger. As a child of the eighties, Freddy and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was something I grew up with. Thus when I first heard that horror remake production company Platinum Dunes had secured the rights to my beloved ‘bastard son of a thousand maniacs’ I was immediately in full on fan boy fury, rage and abhorrence; ready to suit up in the Freddy costume, complete with glove (that no longer fit) that I wore for Halloween at age six and do whatever it took to keep this from happening.
Then came the casting news that Jackie Earle Haley had been cast in the very big shoes that Robert Englund originally filled as Freddy. My hopes picked up a bit as Haley’s body of work over the last several years has been extremely good. It didn’t seem likely that he would nonchalantly pick up a roll, especially one held with such high esteem that an entire generation has etched into their minds. Thus I went into this remake, reboot, re-imagining which ever buzzword de jour is being used to describe it, with an open mind.
If this reboot, it’s far from a remake, has any positives it’s the first thirty minutes. It opens up pretty strong and certainly did a good job of putting me on the edge of my seat. Freddy is vicious and unrelenting. It feels like he could suddenly appear in any frame and often does. Opening in a cafe and a dream sequence blood is shed within in the first five minutes. Fifteen minutes in and we already have a pretty gruesome, intense kill.
So Nightmare starts off strong, three good kills, a scary threatening Freddy all is well but suddenly goes completely off the rails. Know this Nightmare fans: outside of Freddy’s glove and dreams, gross liberties have been taken with everything else in the film. While I am not opposed to a fresh approach to familiar material and characters, the direction taken with this Nightmare is just that.
At one point in the film, Freddy becomes nearly sympathetic, which is just pathetic. Granted they come back round to putting the knives back on the fingers but by the time they did I had already stopped caring, and was no longer on edge. Freddy also becomes a chatty Kathy talking way too much. Part of what made him so unique were his one liners and his menace. After the first half of the film he just feels like less of a threat. Sure he can still be menacing but not nearly as much as he started out.
As for the rest of the characters they are pretty much paper thin throwaways that serve as a buffet of victims. Typical slasher flick fare here. This version’s Nancy (Rooney Mara) is more of an artsy loaner who works at the local dinner. Considering she has had a hard time sleeping, she never looks tired. Compared to her wanna be boyfriend Quentin (Kyle Gallner) who always appears disheveled, strung out on a mix of pharmaceuticals and energy drinks and on the verge of passing out. Besides the fact that the characters on screen are pretty soulless, the old moral tales from the past are no more. The kids having sex being the first to get offed for instance, and the good christian girl lasting until the end. Neither of these archetypes even exist in this film. I guess that’s part of this “not being your parents Nightmare” theme.
In this version of the tale, it seems Freddy is just going around indiscriminately offing kids for no obvious reason in the beginning. They turn out to be connected which explains why he was selecting each of them, though it also makes Freddy a different kind of monster. This was another part where it made Freddy feel a bit shorter on the threat side of things. It’s still a revenge tale but his motives are a bit different and thus less scary. Around the time they get into the back story the pacing of the film also takes a pretty dramatic turn and it has a hard time recuperating. With the pretty quick pace that things started out with it never gets back up to that speed and ends up feeling lengthy and boring going into story details that end up feeling like filler.
So by now it seems that all hope is lost with the re-imagining of Nightmare on Elm Street. However, I hold out a small glimmer of hope that this will encourage a new generation to go back and explore the original films in the franchise. For better or worse I am not yet ready to write of Haley’s Freddy. He had some moments of greatness but ultimately suffered from a bad script. If for some reason the planned sequels for this go ahead and get made perhaps they can get around these problems now that the character background is setup.
I give A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) 1.5 epinephrine shots out of 5
By John Coovert