Review: New Elm Street a Nightmare to Sit Through

Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Director: Samuel Bayer
Studio: Warner Brothers
Actors: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker

Having just watched the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, I realized that I have something in common with each of Freddy’s teen-aged victims: I also had trouble staying awake during this nightmare.

For anyone who might have been living in a bomb shelter for the last 30 years or so, the Elm Street saga follows Fred(dy) Krueger: a man with a glove of razor-sharp knives who terrorizes teenagers in their dreams. More than that though, if he kills you in your dream, you die in real life too. Bummer.

Anyway, Freddy has a bone to pick with each of the teenagers in a small Ohio town, so the plot involves watching as a he systematically hacks and slashes his way through body after body on his quest for revenge. The main theme running through the whole movie – how can you fight something that only hunts you while you sleep?

And that is precisely why I liked the original Elm Street series. I always thought it was a clever twist on the old unstoppable slasher villain. You can always outrun Jason or Michael Myers (at least in theory), but you can’t outrun sleep. At some point, you have to sleep, and when you do, you enter a terrifying dream scape limited only by the imagination of a child-killing, serial murderer.

Living in a post-Dark Knight world, I was curious what sort of gritty new direction an Elm Street re-imagining would go in. The answer: new movie, same ol’ street. The 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street brings very little new insight to the table, and instead, creates a shot for shot remake of an 80s classic. The only difference is, it makes it incredibly boring.

The film uses a standard formula for every scene. Teen is awake in some random environment, teen accidentally falls asleep, teen’s surroundings are suddenly altered and creepy, Freddy appears as a jump-scare. Whether they die or not at this point is largely irrelevant, because if they don’t, the formula will just repeat until they do. Then we start again with a new kid. 90 minutes of this.

I’ll cut the movie some slack though. I mean, having Freddy show up and mutilate people is sort of the whole point. However, the predictability of the formula sucks all the tension out of Freddy’s appearances.

On top of removing the unpredictability that a horror/suspense needs, the remake wrecked the remaining fun of the experience. The old Elm Street movies were great mostly because of Kruger’s sadistic personality. It was rare to actually have some insight into a horror villain’s mind, instead of just having them stumble and wordlessly shamble toward their ever-tripping victims. Englund’s ‘Freddy Kruger’ was intelligent, perverse, and sometimes, actually funny.

Jackie Earle Haley’s ‘Freddy Krueger’ isn’t any of these things. He looks like a burnt alien and whenever he’s actually given some sort of pun or clever dialogue to play with, he just grumbles it out and it simply lands with a thud instead of lingering around in our minds and creeping us the hell out.

The special effects, for the most part, were a welcome update though. There were some effects which worked better in the 80s version, but for the most part, the remake’s effects added a bit of polish and much needed darkness to many of the kill scenes. Still, this alone isn’t enough to salvage the film.

Ultimately, the new Elm Street remake is a completely unnecessary, shameless money grab from a familiar series, which really adds very little to the Krueger mythos. Rent the original and stay away from this boring nightmare of a film.

Episode 031: Drink, kids, DRINK!

Now or Never