A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Never Sleep Again
Release Date- April 30th, 2010
Running Time- 95-Minutes
Screenplay- Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer
Director- Samuel Bayer
Starring- Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy with Connie Britton and Clancy Brown
When it comes to the Elm Street series I enjoy them, but I’m not the biggest fan of the series with the exception of the original, which is one of my favorites and one of the few horror films that’s actually scary. As the series went on Freddy started to get a bit too comedic and by Freddy’s Dead he was pretty much a homicidal bugs bunny. New Nightmare is the only other one I rate very highly though I see that as more of a spinoff if anything. I grew up with the Elm Street series and again I do enjoy them, but I’m not as big a fan of the franchise as other horror fans and while I wasn’t thrilled about a remake I thought perhaps this could be a way to make Freddy scary again since I prefer the evil Freddy over the more comedic. However with Platinum Dunes involved my expectations were quite low. As popular as the first Elm St film was and how well received it was and with the first sequel despite not getting overly positive reviews even at the time of its release was also a box office success, but it was part 3 that launched Freddy into pop culture icon and helped make the series one of the most iconic in the horror genre and with word of a remake the standard this will ruin the series started popping up. I see it like this if Freddy riding a broomstick with a witches hat can’t ruin the series neither will a remake even if its a terrible film. In the end A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 was a nice try, but just never fully works. In my opinion this would probably be the weakest of the series if not this than Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, but odds are I’d have to pick this as the weakest, but I did again think it was a nice attempt and I’m glad a darker and scarier Freddy was attempted. I don’t mind comedic Freddy since Elm Street 4: Dream Master is my 2nd favorite of the series (I rate New Nightmare higher, but again see it as a spinoff). But even though I enjoyed the 4th and the other parts for that matter I also disliked how comedic Freddy became since in the original he was quite terrifying.
When it comes to fan of the series there are two types; the ones like me that prefer the darker and more evil Freddy and than there are the fans that prefer the more comedic Freddy. Even though as I stated I prefer the scarier Freddy I do think the series went in the right direction. There are only so many sequels you can make before your villain loses their scare factor and by making Freddy more comedic it gave the franchise a twist from all the others. But like I said I prefer the scarier more evil Freddy like the original and while part 2 does attempt at retaining that it’s just not overly successful (though I thought the film was simply ok). As fun as 3-6 were and again I do think the right move was made it also saddened me to see a character that was truly frightening become so comedic and sure Freddy was funny and entertaining, but in the original film he was terrifying. As the popularity of the character and series grew both became pop culture icons and when little kids start dressing up as Freddy for Halloween (which I did as a kid) it’s really difficult to truly make him a villain again unless the right filmmaker is brought in and Wes Craven more or less was able to do that in New Nightmare. But when people think of Freddy I think most will think of the comedic Freddy and that’s sort of the problem here. For the most part the remake attempts at making Freddy scary and evil again, but knowing how split the fans are between scary and comedic this film also adds in some comedy and it sort of felt out of place and didn’t really fit in with the tone of the film.
Before it was even released the remake had a few strikes against it; it was yet another remake of a classic or cult classic, Robert Englund was out as Freddy and Samuel Bayer a music video director was hired. I know the fear of some fans were this would be too MTV Hollywood stylized, but I hate to break it to you that happened back in the 80s as Robert Englund would often appear on MTV as Freddy and the films starting with part 3 were a little more Hollywood stylized. At the end of the day the Elm Street remake does turn out a little better than I expected due to the factors going against it, but again I still see this as the weakest and far, far inferior to the original film.
The screenplay by Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer is for the most part subpar. The plot is more or less the same as the original only with more characters thrown in. This could have been a time to reinvent the series, but instead the writers play it safe. Taking a series in a new direction could be a failure as films like Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers attempted that in regards of staying true to the series, but also adding something different. However Elm Street was successful at keeping true to the series and taking it in a new direction, but Strick & Heisserer play it safe and we’ve seen this done before and done far better. Even though the story is mostly the same this one isn’t exactly a rehash either and none of the changes or the scenes in common are effectively written. Outside of Freddy the only characters from the original are Nancy (Mara) and her mother (Britton) and both are totally opposite (the mother though also has a different name) I’m not sure why the Nancy character was in the film since again she’s nothing like the original at all. The one thing I have to give the series credit for even in the weaker ones is they usually had strong characters, but here the characters are dull and lifeless and for the most part are exactly the same. They all mope around being miserable. Nancy who was such a great character in the original is boring in the remake. Rooney Mara was solid, but totally failed by her writers. None of the characters will gain much attachment and you really won’t care if they all die or not. After a quick start Strick & Heisserer slow things down to focus on the characters, which is what in the end sinks the film since again they were boring and inter-changeable and weren’t strong enough at all to carry the film.
There was such a missed opportunity here since the script does make Freddy (Haley) mean and evil. In the original series Freddy is a child killer, but if not mistaken he’s never said to be a pedophile. Here Freddy is a pedophile, which to me is the lowest life form. This was a golden chance to really make Freddy evil, but its ruined by lame characters. Throughout the film Freddy does have a few one liners, which seem out of place and just aren’t funny. There isn’t anything funny about pedophilia and Freddy simply should have been played dark and evil.
Samuel Bayer best known due directing music videos makes his directorial debut with Elm Street. Most music video directors fail to make the leap to feature films with a few exceptions such as David Fincher. Bayer has very mixed results. The pacing is a bit sluggish in spots, which is more on the writing, but Bayer never really sets up much of a tone either and contributes to the flaws. The suspense and tension is light and all the scares are horror 101. The few scenes in common with the original come across as cheap knockoffs and are never effective. Samuel Bayer however does craft a nice looking film in terms of the visuals and had he been able to deliver some suspense the Elm Street remake could have been quite eerie, but like many other music video directors, Bayer seems a bit out of his league. The only other positive besides the visuals is the film is generally well made. The direction by Bayer isn’t bad, but its just bits and pieces of the original as well as other films and its cliched and not at all effective.
As I mentioned with Robert Englund out a lot of fans were angry, which is more than understandable, but I see it as if Karloff can be replaced as the Frankenstein Monster anything is fair game. However growing up with Englund in the role its quite odd to say the least. Obviously I would have preferred to see Robert Englund back, but I’m just saying many actors that made a role famous were later replaced. I personally would rate Robert Englund’s performance in the original right up there with Karloff as the Monster, Lugosi as Dracula and Chaney as the Wolf Man. Jackie Earle Haley is an excellent actor, but just wasn’t right for this role. Haley’s Freddy is never really scary despite the best efforts from those involved and he’s never very imposing either. I don’t know if its again Haley not right for the role or if it was more the writing and directing or perhaps all three. Jackie does give a good performance as Freddy, but something just wasn’t fully working.
Overall A Nightmare on Elm Street has its moments, but its just never very good either. The film while never really doing anything different from the original or sequels had the potential to be very good, but a weak script with boring characters and a director who makes a film by the book in the end sinks the production.