Thoughts on… A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street, 2010.

Directed by Samuel Bayer.
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Connie Britton and Clancy Brown.


SYNOPSIS:

A disfigured killer with a razor-glove invades the dreams of a group of teenagers.


For those few people unfamiliar with the concept of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the basic gist sees the charred, razor-clawed serial killer Freddy Krueger tormenting a bunch of teenagers via their dreams, the catch being that if he kills them in the dream world they can kiss goodbye to graduation. And so it is with this franchise reboot from producer Michael Bay and first time director Samuel Bayer, with Watchmen’s Jackie Earle Haley slipping on the glove vacated by Robert Englund. Taking its inspiration from the plot of Wes Craven’s classic 1984 slasher, Freddy sets out for revenge against the mob responsible for his death by slaughtering their offspring. With their classmates dying all around them, the socially awkward duo of Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner) attempt to unravel the mystery before they fall asleep and become the latest victim of the monstrous child-killer.

It would be pointless to use this review as a rhetoric on Hollywood’s continuing fetish for remaking classic movies at the expensive of original ideas. It’s happening, it’s been happening for a long time, and whether we like it or not, it’s going to keep happening. With that being said it’s also difficult to judge a ‘re-imagining’ purely on its own merits, particularly when the source material is so ingrained in popular culture and its main character is a bona fide icon of the horror genre.

This is the one of the problems facing Platinum Dunes, although in fairness it’s one they’ve had to contend with before. First up was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003, followed by last year’s reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise. Both of these turned out a lot better than they could have (see Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake) but ultimately neither of them managed to match up to their original. A Nightmare on Elm Street continues this trend, but for me the bigger issue here is Freddy himself. Leatherface is a man in a mask. Jason Voorhees is a man in a mask. Michael Myers is a man in a mask. Freddy Krueger is Robert Englund.

Now I’m a fan of Jackie Earle Haley and without a doubt the man has a special talent for playing sinister lunatics. His take on Freddy is infinitely darker than Englund’s wise-cracking joker of the latter instalments and the fact that they’ve went a step further than Craven and made him an out-and-out child-molester helps to make the character just that little bit more grotesque. I really wanted to like his interpretation of the bastard son of a thousand maniacs and while he does a pretty good job, I just couldn’t get around the fact he wasn’t Robert Englund.

It’s pretty easy to harp on about how the film fails to live up to the original but in all honesty is that really necessary? I’m fairly confident that most people – cast and crew included – knew this was simply never going to be the case. That in itself isn’t enough to make it a bad movie and in fact as far as recent remakes go A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the better entries. Blood flows freely, the teen characters aren’t quite as clichéd or annoying as usual and The Kurgan himself Clancy Brown makes an appearance as one of the mob who torch Freddy. It’s certainly no worse than some of the Englund sequels and newcomers to the franchise may suffer a few sleepless nights at the hands of Haley’s sadistic dream demon. At least, that is, until they catch the original.

Gary Collinson

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