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By Jessica Baxter | April 30, 2010

If you are a film fan who was born in the seventies, the last couple of years have been rough. Hollywood has basically been reinventing your childhood with systematic remakes of everything they can think of. Well, they finally got to Freddy.

Now I’m not saying that the original “A Nightmare On Elm Street” was cinematic genius, but they definitely had something there. Those movies were scary for their day. Practical effects made all that viscera look so, well, real. A young Johnny Depp getting sucked into his own water bed and being reduced to a blood geyser… that image will stick with you forever. Robert Englund, with his sly grin and vaudeville-esque puns, made Freddy not only scary but also fun. Repetitive as they may have become, those movies were fun. They were so bad that they were good.

Unfortunately, in 2010, some people would rather rehash an old idea than try to come up with a new way to get kids into movie theatres. So we have the “re-imagining” of “A Nightmare On Elm Street”. “Re-imagining” is a made-up word that means, “Sanctioned rip-off”. It also seems to mean stripping every fiber of creativity from an idea. And that’s exactly what they’ve done here. There are a lot of problems with “Nightmare” 2010, not the least of which is that it’s entirely unremarkable. There are plot holes, poor line delivery, poor lines, and lots of lazy C.G. Frankly, I’m having a hard time remembering any of it because it’s all so bad that it’s actually bad.

If you’re just joining us, “A Nightmare On Elm Street” tells the tale of a supernatural perv named Freddy Krueger who can kill people in their dreams. When he starts stalking a group of teenagers who all live on the titular Elm Street, they must learn the truth about Freddy and his connection to their past in order to finally get a good night’s sleep. Jackie Earl Haley (“Little Children,” “Watchmen”) is gravelly-voiced and weird looking enough to play Freddy in an alternate universe. But in this universe, he’s a mediocre hybrid of Rorschach and Englund’s Freddy. Though it’s not his fault, really. Englund is a tough act to follow, and they don’t give Haley any classic Freddy one-liners until very late in the film. It’s a very noticeable shift in tone, as if they started out trying to make a serious movie and then changed their minds. Before that, he’s just Growly Razorhands. He looks like Freddy but only from a distance. It almost feels like a fan film, or, at best, a Sy-Fy Original Movie. Haley, talented as he is, just can’t nail the role. No one can, because it already belongs to Englund. And therein lies the biggest problem of all. When watching this film, you can never stop thinking about the original movies. When Rob Zombie re-made “Halloween”, he at least managed to make you forget about his source material for a minute. But “Nightmare” director Samuel Bayer hasn’t struck out on his own at all. He’s just made a bad copy.

There are no Johnny Depps in this cast either. There aren’t even any Heather Langenkamps. There are just a bunch of young actors who can scream, bleed, run and die. Not that Gallner, Mara, Cassidy and Dekker have anything to work with. The script is a huge mess. It’s hard to sell lines like “[My therapist] thinks that all my problems come from my past” and “I didn’t kill her. I loved her, man!” The characters have no character to speak of. They let their Joy Division t-shirts, bohemian berets and guyliner do the talking. One boy wears a crucifix because “You’ve gotta believe in something, right?” He’ll never be an effective missionary with that attitude.

This is a town populated by reactionary parents who are terrible, terrible liars. As soon as their children start asking questions, they literally shift their eyes and try to change the subject. One girl asks why she doesn’t remember having gone to preschool with the other kids who are being stalked by Freddy. “Who can remember being five years old?” her mother counters. Uh… everybody? That’s when you usually start to remember stuff. Stuff like having gone to a super creepy preschool on the other side of town and playing hide-and-go-seek in a kiddie porn dungeon with a weird gardener named Freddy. Fortunately, they don’t have to remember. This preschool is still standing 13-years later, abandoned but completely untouched, enabling the kids to conveniently re-discover their past. Pretty much nothing in this movie makes sense. And because there aren’t any compelling characters to distract you from the plot holes, they’re all you can think about as you wait for the running time to tick down.

Of course, they left the film open-ended, so we will have lots more time to ponder these thematic enigmas in the next 10 movies. Freddy can never really die, even if Hollywood beats him like a dead horse.

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  1. […] November 9, 1984, A Nightmare On Elm Street changed the horror landscape of all time. Aside from introducing the world to horror icon Freddy […]

  2. Michael says:

    I agree with Ray. I found myself hoping that they would have explored the angle of Freddy being a wronged man who was falsely accused of those unheard of acts with these children. Given our original Freddy motive of simple revenge it would have made the most sense, especially since he was attacking the children and not those who actually burned him. Our new Freddy is just a crazy guy looking to continue to torture the same kids he tortured years earlier. Why kill them at all, if that’s how he got his jolly’s then why not just forever torture them in his dream world. If they do a sequel I hope it is based upon how he gained his power to control the dream world in the first place. The could be a movie worth looking forward to.

  3. Ray says:

    Remakes don’t have to be this lame if they bring something new to the table. I know very well that this is a shameless cash in created more or less in a demographic lab, so that didn’t happen here. However a remake in which Kreuger was an innocent man wronged by parents suffering from mass hysteria, and has come back for revenge would have been better. Maybe even good.

  4. Michael Neel says:

    I completely agree. To me, the biggest flaw was the lack of tension and build up to the kills. Very little scary music/creeping around scenes, etc. In fact the best, most tense kills came in the last twenty minutes – which is also when the kills became much more creative. If they had made the entire movie like the last twenty minutes, I would have been able to look past the plot holes and flat acting (with the exception of Haley) and enjoyed myself.

    I also thought they did a piss-poor job of revealing the makeup. You saw the entire right side of his face very early on, leaving little mystery about how he looked – a bad call since the filmmakers must have known that everyone would be waiting to see how the new makeup measured up. They should have taken a page from Corman and waited until the last possible moment to show you – it would have been much creepier. The new makeup was pretty good – I had a few issues with the skin around the eyes – but I applaud them for trying to do something different with such an iconic face.

  5. Stina Chyn says:

    Wonderful review, Jessica! I saw it this afternoon at a Regal in the NE suburbs of Atlanta.

    Number of audience members: approximately a dozen including myself (I believe there were three or four females, counting me).

    Average age: 25

    I was the only Asian in the audience.

    Jackie Earl Haley (“Little Children,” “Watchmen”) is gravelly-voiced and weird looking enough to play Freddy in an alternate universe.

    You took the assessment right out of my mind.

  6. Warren Stanley says:

    damnit mark, I was hoping it would be good! of course I should have expected it knowing how disappointed I was after seeing Friday the 13th. How do you decide to make jason just some crazy dude that lives in the woods? he’s suppose to be an enigma, is he supernatural, is he human, can he be killed? apparently so, you can also go to his underground layer and play fort if you’d like.

  7. Jessica Baxter says:

    The webcam death was completely retarded. I wondered the same thing. Actually, the video probably wouldn’t have ended at all, right? Because no one was there to stop it. So it would have just kept recording him dead. Which would have been way scarier actually…But still there would be no one to upload it, unless Freddy is also the ghost in the machine.

  8. Mark Bell says:

    Yeah, last I checked, unless he fell on the “Stop Recording and Upload” button on the keyboard after his head slammed into the webcam, nothing about that sequence should’ve actually happened. Such a silly, lame idea…

  9. Mark Bell says:


    The “who can remember being 5 years old” comment was laugh-out-loud awesome in the film but my favorite part is when the one kid is attacked at the end of his webcam video, mainly because I have to ask the question: Who uploaded the video!?! Not like it was a streaming clip. OH, and how many webcam cameras do you know that go to static when they go offline and not, say, just go dark? I am a dork…

    After seeing the new one, my wife and I went home and re-watched the original (she had never seen it) to compare and… such a different vibe all around. The original was like an ’80s teen comedy that turned slasher. The new one is an unrelenting, dark “everyone’s f****d” affair. I like that in the ’80s Krueger was just a crazy, random child murderer and not a child molester-turned-murderer (or maybe he was, but they never go into it in that way in the first flick), and the practical effects do go miles towards making the sequences scarier PLUS Craven holds onto his jump scares, utilizing them at the end unlike the new one where they’re used seemingly every two seconds, to the point that they completely lose their effectiveness halfway through. The new film has a better actor playing the mother, but doesn’t go near the attempts at creating a bond between mother-daughter that the original does (which is saying something, because the mother’s acting in the original is AWFUL, but by the end you feel for her and Nancy when Freddy hits the fire). Finally, the soundtrack for the old film, when it’s not doing the classic theme, is so syntho-horrendous (I wanted to dance, not be tense, when Freddy is chasing someone down). And have you heard the “Nightmare” song over the end credits!?! Good Lord…

    Both flicks had their highs and lows. For me, the original was scarier, thus better, owing to all the practical effects and the memorable way the kills were implemented. Tina being tossed and slashed across the ceiling in the original is brutal, and the new one gets nowhere close to that level of visceral scare. But the film ain’t perfect. I think the re-make is a reflection of our cynical times compared to the ’80s (he was a crazy old child murderer in the ’80s, now he’s a sick child molester who gets to come back to his early victims’ dreams and torture them some more, specifically by first making them remember what he did to them and then killing them for ratting him out). I do wonder, though, if New Freddy was limited to his hitlist of “Kids He Felt Wronged Him,” because he seems to only focus on those children, while old Freddy was more of a “if it’s a teeneager, and it sleeps, it’s game” sort (which was the entire point of Depp’s character’s death in the original; he was Nancy’s boyfriend, Krueger wanted to f**k with Nancy, so he roped in Depp (who had no nightmares or connection to Krueger up until his sudden, and memorable, death)).

    Oh, and I understand why horror movies today feel the need to go into in-depth back story of our movie killers. I think it’s fallout from the need to explain everything away to a certain extent (because no one can just be evil, right, they had to get that way or something), but back stories seem to do little but introduce nonsensical plot holes into a film. Take the new flick, for example, Krueger was a gardener at the day-care center… who lived in the basement of the center (sketchy) and was allowed to hang out with the children (uber-sketchy and gross). What the f**k is up with this daycare center!?! Who ran that place? To top that off, near the climax of the film, our two heroes find the old daycare center and… it’s like it just shut down when its gardener ran off. All Krueger’s s**t is still in the basement, exactly as he left it. WHAT!?!

    In the end, this flick is fine. Not perfect, but who knows, maybe it will be as memorable to a new generation as the original was to me. I doubt it, though. All the horror re-makes are starting to look the same, the tone is bleak and unrelenting… they don’t stand out, they just get mixed together. Oh well.

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