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A Nightmare On Elm Street

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on May 10, 2010



Full disclosure here: I am a huge fan of the original film, written and directed by one of the masters of horror, Wes Craven. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not seen it (P.S. it has a young Johnny Depp in his first film role), and even though it’s kinda dated because it feels so damn 80s in some ways, it’s still really effective and it’s far creepier than people seem to remember. The reason why I decided to watch this remake is because all accounts were indicating that the filmmakers were taking it a bit more ‘seriously’ than I feel the other horror classic remakes were handled (such as The Amityville Horror,  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween–which I refuse to see because Rob Zombie is almost as bad a director as Eli Roth). Alas, the film was not good, as I expected it to be, but there was an odd twist to what made it sub-par: the similarities to the original.I’m going to try to tackle the problems of this film in different categories: casting/acting and characters, script, ‘pseudoscience’, Freddy, backstory, and references to the original. I may cross back and forth between categories, though. I am going to proceed with this review as if you have seen the original or at least know enough about it so that nothing will be horribly spoilerific, but consider yourselves warned…

The story is essentially the same as before. There are teenagers who are now dying in their sleep in horrible, violent ways, and the culprit is a horribly disfigured man in a stripped sweater, hat, and a fingerblade glove named Freddy Krueger. Freddy is targeting these teens because their parents burned him alive after they found out that he was the one responsible for the horrible things happening to their children. The introduction to Freddy’s torment of the teenagers happens immediately in this film, with no real rhyme or reason. Once that occurs, there’s a lot of weepy-eyed chatting amongst the “friends” and plenty of super-embarrassing dream sequences that occur in public.

My screaming is a direct result of your teaching methods, sir... nothing more.

Where this film deviates from the original involves the backstory of Freddy. In the original, Craven chose to be ambiguous about Freddy’s pedophilia, though it was clearly implied–young children were going missing and were found dead, and he was the one to blame. This film makes it perfectly clear that Freddy was luring the children into this place called “the cave” and sexually abusing them. This aspect made Freddy more creepy in many ways, but not at all scarier. It also played into the darker direction for Freddy’s character, which didn’t end up working for the film overall. Whereas in the original, the parents burned Freddy alive in their vigilantism because the court system screwed them over; in this film, the parents took the words of their very young children, decided to forgo the legal system, and burned him alive anyway.

"I knew I should have worn a singlet."

This story is told in such a way that the filmmakers want you to doubt the guilt of Freddy, even though he already made his creepy relationship with Nancy abundantly clear by this point. Freddy’s guilt was never in doubt in the original, and part of what made it clear was the fact that he had the iconic fingerblade glove that Nancy’s mother kept as a reminder that they had done away with Freddy. Now, the writers of the remake might want to pay attention– that is how one establishes certain character traits or reasons for things existing in the film. While Freddy in the original would clearly continue to use his beloved weapon of choice, there was absolutely nothing that indicated the Freddy in this film had anything remotely similar other than a generic garden fork.

The garden fork is a gateway weapon to fingerblades.

The cast was non-varied enough to make their roles practically irrelevant. As for our heroine, Nancy (played by Rooney Mara), she was a far weaker and less compelling version of her former self. She didn’t exude the strength or determination of the original Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp). Instead of having her boyfriend to lean on (Johnny Depp’s role), this Nancy has Quentin, a boy who has been crushing on her forever and perpetually looks like he is about to burst into tears (played by Kyle Gallner, who I swear can only do the dark, brooding, emo character in horror films… or at least, that’s pretty much all I’ve seen of him). And then the ‘best friend’, Kris (Katie Cassidy), was clearly cast just to be the pretty blond thing that gets torn up.

"Are you a natural blonde?"

Also, the general consensus is that Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from Watchmen, and ‘the pedophile’ in Little Children) is probably the only other person one could cast in the role of Freddy Krueger other than the original actor, Robert Englund. I will say that while Hayley is a very good actor, I must preferred Englund, and it’s not just because he’s what I am used to. Let me break it down for you this way, for starters:

Creepy psychokiller who haunts you in your dreams and mocks you as you die.

Pedophilic Scarecrow from The Wizard Of Oz.

More on that later…

The relationships between the characters were horribly muddled throughout most of the movie, and the closeness that bonded the teens in the original film was clearly missing here. I never got the feeling that the two girls in this film were best friends, or even really knew much about each other. So the idea that all of these teens who barely spoke to one another would confide in each other about the demented dreams they were having makes literally no sense in terms of character. And speaking of making no sense, the way they they interpreted “sleeping” and “dreaming” was so ridiculously loose so that they could have reasons for adding more nightmare scenes while the kids were awake and having ‘micronaps’. It was a ridiculous twist of how sleep works, and it made no sense in various contexts. Plus Quentin’s abuse of his prescribed ADD medication (basically a form of speed) was so laughable. Yes, yes, I know, it’s a horror film… but I really hated how the writers (Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer) tried to twist things in order to give us more lame nightmare sequences with Freddy dragging his blades across a pipe, causing it to spark.

I have more pictures that convey this very idea.

There’s also absolutely no explanation as to why many of these dream sequences take place in this boiler room setting that invokes the original. There’s nothing in this film that actually informs these sequences of such a setting, which further confuses the whole Freddy story.

Now for my biggest pet peeve: the callbacks to the original. Some scenes were nearly shot-for-shot identical, if not exactly that. While that doesn’t always bother me (except for such films as the remake of Psycho, which was literally a shot-for-shot remake of the original by Gus Van Sant and was actually TERRIBLE), the problem was that it often either made no sense or led to nowhere.

I swear her legs were edited out of this image... his hand is literally right between her bent knees.

That scene only existed to mimic the original, and it didn’t even follow through like the original did. Samuel Bayer, the director of the film, took all of Wes Cravens most recognizable and iconic scenes from the original and basically supplanted them into his film with his only little spins on them, which made them not only worse but also a bit sad. One of the most highly anticipated sequences is Kris’ death, which is clearly a take on Tina’s death from the original. The original was chilling and horrific as we watched Tina being dragged up the wall and across the ceiling by an invisible force, bleeding heavily from the numerous cuts across her body. Bayer’s take? He has Kris’s body violently lifted into the air, slammed back and forth between the walls by a force that is clearly inhuman (but apparently leaves no signs of broken bones or bruising)….and then she dies with a single swipe to the torso.

How beautifully artistic... and totally pointless.

And, of course, there’s the hallway sequence with Kris’ (Tina’s) body in a transparent body bag…


That bit shows up, again, with literally no legitimate reason other than to ‘pay tribute’ to the original and, apparently, to illustrate how the kids are able to appear wide-awake but their brains shut down for mircosleeping. I could go on with these parallels, but I think I’ll spare you. Just trust me when I say all instances of ‘callbacks’ to the original were 100% groan-worthy.

And now I circle back around to Freddy. Freddy, in his original form, was creepy partially because he was so damn gleeful in his attacks on the teenagers. He mocked them, teased them, toyed with them, drove them crazy, and his one-liners were far more sarcastic and evil than they were in his subsequent film installments. This version of Freddy, as I said, took a darker path, which meant that Freddy was portrayed as more menacing and broodingly sadistic than the original; and yet, they forced one-liners from him. It was painful to hear Haley dropping lines like, “How’s this for a wet dream?” while also putting forth such chilling concepts as, “The brain keeps working for seven minutes after the body dies. I still have six minutes left to play with you.” Seriously, choose a path. It didn’t make sense for this dark and demented Freddy to pull the same one-liners as the original, and only called attention to the fact that this was a horrible remake of a far superior film.

This shot says, "Remember how good you had it in the 1984 version?"

Do I recommend this film? Absolutely not. Do not waste your time on this remake; if you want to see A Nightmare On Elm Street, watch the original, instead. It doesn’t beat you over the head with the concepts in invokes, and it’s fare more satisfying to watch than this catastrophe. I won’t even bother watching the sequel when it comes out, either (as it inevitably will); even if it’s more polished than the original sequel, I just can’t get on board with this film as a set-up.


14 Responses to “A Nightmare On Elm Street”

  1. That girl that you know said

    Wow, okay. I didn’t think it was good either, but I wouldn’t say it was that bad. it was still somewhat entertaining. I also thought he did a good job as Freddy, though Englund will always be better. Anyway, I did think the blatant pedophile angle was more creepy and disturbing, but I guess not as scary. Yes, original Nancy was better and seemed more determined to live, and the 4 friends actually acted like they were friends. As is usually the case, the first is far superior.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      OK see, you responded by agreeing with a lot of my pet peeves with the film. but said that you don’t think it was “that bad”. What was entertaining to you? Was it just laughing at the horrible attempts to reference the original with the semblance of purpose? Was it the terrible script being so bad that it was almost good? Please elaborate (I’m not actually trying to bully you– I really want to know since we have talked about this film before my post :P).

      • That girl that you know said

        Christ, Panda, I don’t know. It was just kind of entertaining. I am aware it has those issues, I just didn’t think it was as bad as you did.

  2. Geno said

    I refuse to see the movie and your review is spot on with the reasons why. I also remember reading that not once in the entire movie are the kids having any fun what so ever and its completely serious the whole way through.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Well it DOES show the little kids playing jump-rope with the Freddy song… or at least playing jump-rope (not sure about the song, now that I think about it). But yeah, it’s incredibly serious and drab from the get-go. It’s seriously not worth the effort–I gave it the benefit of the doubt, and it failed, sadly. You’re right, though; it’s not worth your time :P.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  3. richardsblah said

    Great review, as ever, Panda. I’m not even remotely interested in this one. Total waste of time. I got sick and tired of Freddy from about the second sequel to the original, and I don’t see him becoming more interesting by way of recasting. The problem was, as with many horror franchises, that he became too high profile, and as a result, far less scary. When people are debating who should play the bad guy, you’re not making a horror movie anymore.

    I’ve so had it with these pointless remakes, man. It just goes on and on. Ka ching!

    I love the Scarecrow caption, by the way. 😀

    Check out my new sequels blog. Love to get your feedback. 😉

    • That girl that you know said

      Richard, have you seen Wes Craven’s New Nightmare? I thought it was an enjoyable revival of the character.

      • richardsblah said

        Yeah, I saw it. It was certainly better than the sequels which came before, or after, it. But for me it was more clever than scary. By that point Freddy was the celebrity, and as soon as that happened he was no longer scary, just a sort of crispy James Bond who makes wisecracks and kills people.

        • Cantankerous Panda said

          Aw, I think of Freddy as more than that. I mean, I get that he became this celebrity even within his own world, and that was kinda weird. I like how that played in Freddy v. Jason, actually. But I never thought that it made me less scary. I still get a bit freaked out when I watch the first one. I think exposure has certainly done away with the fear I used to feel as a kid, but he still creeps me out. Although recognizing Robert Englund probably helps lessen that fear, as well.

      • Cantankerous Panda said

        I have to admit that I totally slept with a stuffed animal at the foot of my bed when I went to camp that summer.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Actually, I had some fun with some of the sequels. A New Nightmare was enjoyable and really freaked me out (I was pretty young when it came out, and the whole “attacking from under the covers at the foot of your bed” thing really got to me). I also loved Freddy v. Jason for being so intentionally ridiculous.

      I’m glad my caption entertained you :P. It’s so true, though. It’s kinda creepy simply for that reason, but yeah, it’s not enough.

      Thanks, as always, for the feedback! I’m on my way to your blog :).

  4. richardsblah said

    By the way, I haven’t read your Kick-Ass review yet because I’m hoping to see it this week. I’ll get back to you on that one. 😉

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