Nightmare on Elm Street, A (2010)
I think it’s safe to say that we’re all getting at least a little bit tired with all the classic film series being resurrected via remake/reboot. The 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street, while not among the best remakes the genre has ever seen, is at least one of the stronger of the recent crop of re-imaginings. It’s certainly one of the best remakes Platinum Dunes has yet produced, though to some that’s damning it with faint praise. It is, to be honest, mostly a mess of a film, but it survives its weaknesses due to one element that stands head and shoulders above all other elements of the film.
The Springwood Diner, the nexus point for the sleepless youth of Springwood, Ohio, is the site of what seems to be a grisly suicide. Dean (Kellan Lutz), battling a bad case of night terrors slashes his own throat open while his girlfriend Kris (Katie Cassidy) looks on in horror. Also present for this spectacle is Nancy (Rooney Mara) who works as a waitress at the diner and Quentin (Kyle Gallner), who sits in a booth and quietly pines for Nancy’s affection.
At Dean’s funeral, Kris sees an apparition: a pretty blonde girl in a dress marked by four diagonal razor slashes. This waking dream, a picture on Dean’s memorial wreath that shows the two of them in preschool even though Kris doesn’t recall meeting Dean until High School lead Kris to believe that there was much more to Dean’s death than anyone is willing to admit. She begins digging into her past but her efforts, and her life, are cut short by a horribly burned man in a red and green sweater and dirty fedora, who slashes her to death with the razor sharp knives attached to the glove on his right hand. Kris’ friend Jesse (Thomas Dekker) is apprehended by the police as the prime suspect, but he dies mysteriously in his jail cell.
Something or someone is hunting the children of Elm Street, murdering them in their dreams; someone with a connection to their past. Nancy and Quentin race to uncover the mystery of the burned man tormenting them while they sleep, before it’s too late. They can only stave off sleep for so long before their bodies will shut down plunging them into a coma-like sleep from which they will never wake. As he gets closer, invading their waking hours via “micronaps,” they discover their shared, but forgotten, history. A man named Fred Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a gardener at a preschool they attended, was accused of molesting the children at the school. After he skipped town to avoid the law their parents tracked him down and burned him alive. Quentin and Nancy travel back to the preschool to find out the truth about Freddy, to ascertain his innocence or guilt and to stop him, if they can.
There are a lot of good ideas bounced around in the reimagining of Wes Craven’s horror classic, but the end product feels decidedly slapdash. It has the earmarks of a film that had a strong script, but was compromised through test-screening, focus groups and studio tinkering. Characters and their relationships aren’t well established (I’m still not sure if Jesse was romantically interested in Kris or Dean). Even worse, the one game-changing element that could have made this oft told story feel fresh, that Freddy was an innocent man wrongly accused, is pissed away. Wesley Strick has done some good work in the past and hiring him was a smart move on the part of the producers, but why hire him and approve the script he wrote only to cut it to shreds with re-writes and reshoots?
Jackie Earle Haley is a great actor and makes Freddy consistently scary – something he hasn’t been in a long time. I have a lot of affection for Robert Englund’s interpretation of the character; he cast the die after all. As far as I’m concerned, though, Haley is already a better Freddy than Englund ever was. Here is a portrayal that really cuts to the darkness at the centre of the character. Haley’s Freddy is truly the corruptor of innocence that Craven envisioned so many years ago and refreshingly free of the camp that was present in the original film, and overtook the later sequels making it all but impossible to take them seriously. This 2010 version of Freddy seethes with a rage that’s palpable.
Much has been made of Freddy’s new make-up, but I didn’t mind it. The character has already undergone radical redesign from parts one to two, slight revisions in three through six, radical redesign again in seven, and once more in Freddy vs. Jason. He definitely looks different here than in any of the other movies, but doesn’t stray far enough from the look of the original to warrant serious complaint. You can’t please everybody; I’m sure people complained when later incarnations of Frankenstein’s monster didn’t have metal bolts in his neck.
Watching the original not too long ago, I was struck by just how ambiguous the entire movie is (up until the terrible ending, at least). For most of the running time we’re not sure exactly what is dream and what is real. The 2010 Nightmare introduces micronaps into the mythology (micronaps have a basis in medical fact, for those interested). Narratively, they explain how Freddy could appear to Nancy when she’s supposedly awake, but it eliminates the ambiguity of Craven’s concept and literalizes the experience. I guess that’s to be expected in a new millennium update, but A Nightmare on Elm Street ‘10 lacks the elegance of the original in this regard so, while the dream imagery is more audacious, the writing is far more timid.
Not only is the writing timid, it’s downright sloppy at times. There are serious holes and inconsistencies in the plot that I kept waiting for a resolution to, but it never came. How come none of the kids remember being together at the preschool or what Freddy did to them? Did they all simultaneously repress the memory, and then all simultaneously have the memories start to re-emerge? Why does Quentin automatically assume Freddy was innocent? Why are the Polaroids in the basement of the school when everybody knows that’s where Freddy lived? Wouldn’t they have been carted away as evidence long ago? When they find the class picture at Nancy’s house, how did they know where to look for it? And on. And on.
I did like how they added a deeper motivation to Freddy’s actions. He kept tormenting Nancy without killing her so that she would stay awake so long that when she finally collapsed of exhaustion, he would have her for as long as he wanted her. That he’s logical and calculating makes him scarier, to me at least, than if he turned his victims into giant cockroaches, so I didn’t mind the lack of “creative” kills. The remake’s approach adds a darker and very welcome psychological element.
The remake makes Freddy a child molester rather than a child murder, but molestation was implicit in the original series from very early on. It’s a little crude how they pulled the most unpleasant element of the mythos into the spotlight. The original had all the same sexual undertones but managed to introduce them in a far classier way. At least it provides Haley with an excuse to really pour on the lecherous menace, which he gladly does. Freddy was always going to be the toughest of the big three (or four, depending on who you count) slashers to reboot as he’s the only one with a personality. It was absolutely imperative that, no matter whomever they cast as Freddy, the actor knocked it out of the park. The park he’s playing in may be fairly small and in a shambles, but that doesn’t make Haley’s homerun interpretation of Freddy any less impressive.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a very stylized film. Detail on the Blu-ray is fantastic – when Quentin is pulled under the water you can count the bubbles, or when Freddy cowers in his shed, you can discern the texture of the weave of his denim jacket. The movie has a cold, de-saturated look to it during the waking scenes while bold colours characterize the nightmares (especially in the boiler room). Grime, rust and steam in the boiler room scenes look great. There is no color bleeding and black levels are strong. Surprisingly for such a new film I did notice the occasional print blemish. These flaws are definitely of the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” variety, but I did notice them during normal speed playback. Still, this is a fine transfer with very little to complain about.
The 5.1 DTS-HD track for A Nightmare on Elm Street utilizes are very aggressive sound mix that will give your surround system a work out. Low end is extremely forceful. Even with my sub turned all the way down, windows were still rattling in their frames. Surround effects are also very well handled. They never overpower the dialogue but always audibly fill out the rear channels. The ambient sounds are really natural during the waking scenes, but kick into high gear during the action scenes. Steven Jablonsky’s (unfortunately) bland score is well represented, taking centre stage when necessary and fading into the background during dialogue. The scraping of Freddy’s claws against metal travel all the way through the sound field before finding a home at the base of the spine. A very well done audio track.
There’s more supplemental material than the packaging would indicate, but there are also some very glaring omissions that are sure to irk die-hard fans.
Freddy Krueger Reborn (13:54) is an otherwise bland and fluffy electronic press kit feature that has some infuriating comments from some of the people behind the camera. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer states that the original series had very little in the way of mythology and then arrogantly claims that his script brought the needed back story to the series. He must not have watched any of the original films: the Elm Street series has, bar none, the richest mythology of any horror series to come out of the 70’s and 80’s. Explaining minutiae like why Freddy wears a hat, or where the jump rope song comes from is not a significant contribution to the series. Sorry. Co-producer John Rickard shows similar ignorance – Freddy’s motives in targeting certain children were never made clear? Did you even see the original Nightmare? At least Director Samuel Bayer and producers Brad Form and Andrew Fuller have a far more grounded perspective on, and reverence for, the original series. Other than that the feature doesn’t have much that will be revelatory to horror fans. It does, however, contain behind the scenes footage of the filming of segments not in the finished film. Diehard fans may want to check this feature out for those scenes, but they may have a tough time stomaching all the trash talk served up to the original film.
The single biggest feature is Warner’s In-Movie Experience, called “Maniacal Movie Mode” here. Blu-ray aficionados will be familiar with its interface: select the feature from the popup menu and, while the feature plays, interviews or behind the scenes clips periodically appear in a picture-in-picture window in the lower right hand side of the screen. The clips touch on all aspects of production, but delve deep into none of them. There’s a lot of material here but it all makes for a very shallow experience. Happily, the Maniacal Movie Mode clips have optional subtitles for viewers who are hearing impaired or for those who are watching at night and wish to keep the volume to a minimum.
From the popup menu you can access “Focus Points” video features separate from Maniacal Movie Mode. Make Up Makes the Character (3:34) is a discussion of the concept behind Freddy’s redesigned make up. Micronaps (2:38) has the cast and crew discussing the addition of micronaps to the Elm Street mythology. The Hat (3:31), The Sweater (2:20) and the Glove (2:24) are discussion of the iconography of Freddy, their importance to the Elm Street series and the challenges of redesigning them for the new film, while still being faithful to the spirit of the original. It’s nice to see the new glove up close and well-lit; you can’t tell in the film just how different it is from the classic glove we all know. The final Focus Point, The Victims (3:51), is the young principal cast talking briefly about their characters, their characters’ backgrounds and offering insight into their actions and motivations.
The Additional Footage section consists of three clips, all of which would have actually made the film better had they not been excised.
Hospital Opening (1:11) is a brief scene of an unknown, horribly burned man, expiring in a hospital. It would have made a great pre credit teaser to kick off the film. It would have told the audience: “Okay, now it begins.”
Nightmare Street (0:58) is a brief scene extension that adds a micronap for Nancy and some wild, surreal imagery. It doesn’t contribute much overall, but at barely a minute there doesn’t seem to be much reason to cut it, either.
Best of all is the Alternate Ending (6:12). This ending is far stronger than the one in the film. It gives Haley a chance to act sans make up and adds a lot more creepiness to Nancy’s last nightmare, as well as more emotion to her final confrontation with Freddy. It’s less gory but far more effective emotionally than the ending in the finished film which suggests that the final decisions on what to cut were made by focus groups and not the creative team.
There’s a respectable amount of bonus material, but there are still of a lot of things conspicuous in their absence. There’s no director’s commentary with Samuel Bayer, and story writer Wesley Strick is absent from the proceedings. There is a lot of behind the scenes footage of scenes deleted but not included in the Additional footage section (including a head scratching sequence with Freddy wearing a monk’s robe). It would have been nice to be able to access all the pop up video and not just the Focus Points footage via the popup menu or a separate index menu. It’s an odd package that is at once fairly robust, but still decidedly lacking.
For all its problems, the 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street is not an embarrassment or disgrace to the legacy of Craven’s original the way some of the sequels were (Freddy’s Dead, I’m looking at you). Really, the filmmakers only had to do three things with this remake: introduce Freddy to a new audience, explain his back-story and make enough money to warrant a continuation of the series. They’ve accomplished all three. Maybe not as smashingly as I might’ve hoped – there are areas where they definitely could have aimed higher – but they accomplished them nonetheless. Best of all, they have established an excellent foundation on which to build in Jackie Earle Haley’s interpretation of one of cinema’s most iconic villains. This new Nightmare probably won’t spawn a franchise as lucrative as the original did, but I have no doubt Freddy will be invading our dreams, and multiplexes, again very soon. Let’s just hope that next time around the writing in instalment two is as sharp as the razors on Freddy’s fingers.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Good review! :-) How would I go about taking screen captures from the Blu-Ray on a computer that are very detailed and very large?
I rather watch Freddy's Dead 10 times in a row than ever waste my time with this one again. Well written review though as usual.
Shit, I would rather watch most episodes of Freddy's Nightmares than sit through the remake again. I guess I sort of agree that the movie wasn't a complete and utter disgrace (due to the high production values), but it was pretty close. The series deserves better.
Freddy's Dead sucked BIG TIME! Come on people be truthful!
Say what you want about FD, but it was about a hundred times more fun and entertaining than this remake. I'll seriously take Freddy rocking the Power Glove over Haley's dull, "dark" portrayal that only shows signs of life the few times he does exactly what you expect Freddy to do: crack a joke at the expense of his victims. Those moments are few and far between in the remake though.
Anyways, it probably sounds like I'm pretty high on this remake. When I saw it, I thought it was merely okay, except for JEH's portrayal of Freddy, which was excellent.
(BTW, the review repeats the paragraph that proclaims him "Best Freddy ever!!!1")
I didn't mind this remake. It wasn't great, wasn't terrible, it was just kind of there. I do agree though that it was better then some of the sequels, especially Freddy's Dead! I would rather they continue with the Friday the 13th remake personally though, as that in my opinion was one of the better remakes out there.
Ya ya everyone's entitled to their own opinion bla bla bla (insert hippie bullshit here), but the fact that your opinion is that JEH is a better Freddy than Robert Englund ever was is just sad. SAD.
I don't know if it's right to say whether or not one Freddy is better than the other, since one goes for the back row and the other internalizes his performance. Both are great, so whatever side anyone is on, I have no problem identifying.
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