A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Of all the famous horror films released in the 1980s, only one really needed to be remade.  That would be A Nightmare On Elm Street, Wes Craven’s overrated tale of a mysterious boogeyman haunting the imaginations of powerless teens while they sleep.  The film took on a fabulous concept (fatal nightmares) and buggered it up.  The final result just wasn’t scary.  Surely, someone else could do a better job with this cool idea.

Now, nearly 30 years later, we get this 21st Century update and Good Lord, what a disappointment.  Let’s start with the villain, Freddy Krueger.  Replacing Robert Englund is Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley who, like his predecessor, is barely in the movie until the final act. 

The difference between the two performances is quite striking.  Englund played the character like a Shakespearean villain doing vaudeville.  Haley’s interpretation is decidedly more serious (although there are occasional albeit lame attempts at one-liners) and sadly, quite forgettable.  Were it not for the fact that he’s wearing the exact same outfit as Englund, he is completely indistinguishable from any other generic bad guy you could think of.  And his grim, drone of a voice doesn’t help, either.

And what about that awful make-up?  He looks like a cross between Ron Perlman’s character from Beauty And The Beast and a Lost Boy.  Not scary or original at all.

As for the story, well it’s just as mediocre.  Once again, certain teenagers on a certain street are experiencing night terrors that are unexplained.  They’re being haunted by a burned guy in a fedora and striped sweater who comes at them with little finger knives on a glove. 

It’s just as well.  They’re not particularly well written or portrayed nor do they have much of anything to say.  So when they die in the usual gruesome manner, it’s hard to feel anything but indifference to their plight.

The difference between the original and this inferior remake involves the backstory of Krueger.  In this one, he’s a kindly gardener at a preschool who may or may not have done naughty things with the students in his “secret cave”.  (The film absurdly toys with the old Hitchcockian idea of an innocent man wrongly accused before coming to its senses.) 

Like the 1984 version, this remake can’t quite say what he really is:  an unrepentant pedophile.  Instead, it merely suggests this while simultaneously turning him into a vengeful murderer.  Why all the shyness, I wonder?  Taste issues?

I’ll say this for the change.  It makes sense.  (I never quite bought the logic of Craven’s original.  Krueger prefers preying on young kids, doesn’t he?)  But it’s not well executed at all.  The big reveals leave you feeling quite empty.  There’s very little to shock you here and a remarkable lack of conviction.

In fact, the movie relies a bit too much at times on recycling from its source material which easily explains the lack of surprise.  The famous scene of Heather Langenkamp relaxing in the tub while Freddy’s glove pops out of the water is shamelessly replayed here not to mention the moment when a girl screams in the classroom while in the midst of a terrible nightmare.  We get the memorable Freddy theme song again (“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”) and all those endless dark, noisy boiler room scenes.  Overall, the nightmare sequences, like the film in general, are extremely dull.

Apart from a few effective special effects (classmates turning to rubble, all that sludgy blood slowing down our heroine), it’s hard to imagine anyone who’s seen a single horror film falling for these tired, cliched tricks.  The constant false alarms and the relentless jumping-in-the-frame-after-several-seconds-of-dead-silence technique is beyond routine at this point.

Although the original Elm Street feature was ultimately unsuccessful artistically, at least it had some good qualities particularly the very funny big screen debut of Johnny Depp who showed immediate star potential.  And while I felt Englund’s Krueger was more campy than scary, at least you remembered him.

Can anyone say the same about Haley and this remake?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
2:36 p.m.

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. […] All the horrible films I subjected myself to this year:  Porky’s, A Nightmare On Elm Street (the remake), MacGruber, Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, The Grudge 2, Vampires Suck, Jackass The Movie, The […]

  2. […] Super 8, X-Men: First Class, Eclipse (the third Twilight movie), Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo, A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010), and The American – were properly reviewed in this space.  Only First Class and The American […]

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