Today, kids, we’re going to be looking at a remake! Everybody loves remakes, don’t they, especially horror ones!
Seriously though, I do find different takes on the same story interesting, but only when a) that same story is one that lends itself to several interpretations and b) those different takes are actually decently told. I like different versions of A Christmas Carol because I feel the basic plotline of ‘man learns the error of his ways through supernatural means’ is very flexible and can be put in a number of contexts, while I think the original Alfie starring Michael Caine was good as it is and holds up today, and the version with Jude Law didn’t measure up to it (and I say this as someone who actually kind of liked the 2007 version of Sleuth).
That said, I do think A Nightmare on Elm Street is a movie that could have done with a remake. I love me some Freddy, but the original is pretty damn dated these days. It had an interesting idea behind it, but it also had a rather tedious pace to it, and any atmosphere it had was deflated by its bizarre, confusing ending. The second of the series was even more boring but the third was more interesting, and actually the best of the series. Then came the fourth and fifth, both of which were dire, and the sixth…hooh boy. The latter movies of the series had drained away any menace Freddy had in the first movie, and despite all the souls he claimed, all the kids he killed, he ended up being a joke, a ridiculous wise-cracking cartoon character.
So when a remake was planned, the producers stated that the idea was to make Freddy scary again, to lessen the jokey attitude that has burdened him. They had even cast Jackie Earle Haley, known for effectively playing the fucked-up Rorschach, as Freddy, a casting choice even the original actor Robert Englund approved of.
The remake seemed to have some promise to it then. They would make an old horror icon scary again, and since the appeal of the Nightmare on Elm Street series has always been its surreal and flashy dream sequences, there was something today’s movie-making technology could actually improve on. Though we still had reason to be sceptical – the infamous Michael Bay was the producer, and director Samuel Bayer had only directed music videos beforehand -there still seemed to be a chance they would deliver an entertaining new take on a famous character.
So did it live up to whatever promise it had? Meh…
Why do I say meh? Well, let’s take a closer look at this movie and find out…
The movie actually starts kind of effectively, really. An eerie, childlike song plays over the opening credits, which consist of flashes of children playing, toys bathed in a sickly red light and scratchy old photos. The way in which they’re cut is pretty much an indicator we’re watching a movie from a music video director, but it still manages to convey a sense of lost innocence and incoming dread. What’s strange, though, is how, whenever a credit appears, that same credit is in scratchy writing in the background. Yeah, a lot of horror movies have their credits in weird writing, but they also don’t have the same credits in Times New Roman appear at the same time. Make up your minds, it’s either one or the other.
The first scene is some dude, Dean (Kellan Lutz), in a diner, all by himself. The diner is tinted the same way the “ironic” toys were in the opening credits, one of the neon letters outside is buzzing out (neon letters only buzz out in movies when they’re outside a “bad place”) and not too long after the guy goes to look for the waitress, Freddy appears. So, that’s right, we’ve just had one “creepy” scene after another. There was no real build-up towards Freddy appearing; that aforementioned neon letter and the lighting told us something was wrong from the start. At least with the original, Freddy’s first appearance and the opening credits were the same scene. There’s no relief, no calm before the storm between the ‘scary’ opening credits and when Freddy drops in. The movie’s just spending its first moments going ‘Woooo! Woooo!’
Dean wakes up though, and is greeted by Nancy (Rooney Mara), who tells him if he keeps falling asleep, he’ll get kicked out. Good thing for Freddy that Elm Street is filled with people who decide to randomly fall asleep in random places at random times so he doesn’t spend the daylight hours bumming around and watching Frasier reruns.
Dean checks his hand, and bum bum bum it’s bleeding for real. A chick named Krissy (Katie Cassidy) then comes in to meet the old Dean-ster. Nancy also serves a bunch of guys and yep this is the big introduce the victims scene. Hi guys who will soon be cut to ribbons by Freddy except the one or two who’ll survive.
We see Dean and Kris talk to each other, and Dean is going on about how he’s been trying not to sleep to avoid Krueger, doing so in this robotic, Shatner-esque tone. ‘I…can sleep…I just don’t want to.’ ‘These dreams…they’re real.’ I know you’re tired, but you’re tired because you’re horrified, and you don’t sound horrified, you just sound bored. ‘SIGH. Some jerk is going round cutting up all the teenagers…again.’
Then Dean falls asleep and Freddy instantly kills him. Wah wah wah. And then we get the title and a snippet of the good old theme music. Really? You could have had the title pop up during the credits or something, but nine minutes in?
After said title, here we at Dean’s funeral, where Kris sees a little girl getting attacked by Freddy. Wow, that was quick, Freddy appearing again a second after we saw him kill Jesse. Um, haven’t you ever heard of something called tension, or something called build-up? Kris then wakes up…wow, that’s a little rude, falling asleep at your boyfriend’s fucking funeral.
But it’s Nancy that’s supposed to be our heroine, so here’s Nancy. She’s speaking with this old guy named Alan Smith, who is setting up a crisis centre, but since Smith is played by Clancy Brown, listening to him makes me wonder if he wants Nancy’s help in destroying Superman. Smith is also the father of one Quentin (Kyle Gallner), one of the guys we saw earlier at the diner, who is speaking with Kris about Dean’s death. Kris notes that Dean kept saying ‘You’re not real’ before he killed himself, and wonders what he meant. Obviously he was talking to you; you’re not real to him, and he killed himself so he wouldn’t have to put up with any of your shit.
Later, Nancy is at home listening to music, and what do you know, Freddy appears again for the fourth time in fifteen minutes, redoing that ‘imprinting on the wall’ thing from the original movie. Now, I said before that a Nightmare remake was justified by the fact that movie-making technology has improved to the point where we can make better looking nightmares. However, the wall imprinting in the 2010 version looks utterly fake in comparison to the corresponding scene in the 1984 original. Not even a sixth in and I can see that this movie is a pointless one.
Meanwhile, Kris is looking through an old photo book and sees that there’s some photos missing from when she was younger. An entire blank page, presumably between full pages, that’s not suspicious. You see, at the funeral, she saw a photo of herself and Dean together when they were five, and doesn’t remember that. When she asks her mum about it, her mum keeps…quiet. So yeah, in the original movie, the adults were trying to cover up Freddy’s existence, and this remake is trying to expand on that somewhat. Needless to say, that element is done less well than it was in The Simpsons’ ‘Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace’ story. Kris goes up to the attic and finds an old dress she had as a kid scratched up by Freddy’s claws. Um…shouldn’t you have like…burned it if you want your kids to forget Freddy?
Oh wait, Freddy appears again, and she wakes up in her own bed. So I guess that slashed dress was a dream too. My mistake.
Then we see Kris fall asleep in class so Freddy can appear YET AGAIN. Seriously, space out these things, especially when Freddy is as uninteresting as he is here. Jackie Earle Haley’s a great actor, but here he’s just redoing his Rorschach voice, only more monotonous, making lines like ‘You really shouldn’t fall asleep in class’ more funny than sinister. And his makeup…Robert Englund looked like a burn victim, but Haley looks like some sort of alien. Him turning the school into Silent Hill doesn’t make him any more intimidating.
Kris wakes up before Freddy can kill her– phew, I guess. Then later she goes back home…and are we really going to pretend that she’s the protagonist? She’s blonde, she has had two boyfriends, and this is a horror movie, do the math. She’s pretty much Pete Thompson in Hot Shots. Speaking of her boyfriend, her ex Jesse (Thomas Dekker) arrives to keep her company.
They go to bed together, only for Kris to fall asleep and have another fucking Silent Hill ripoff dream. But this one’s different from the last one! The last one was in an evil high school, and this dream is in an evil pre-school! Such variety! Here, Freddy is playing hide-and-seek, which just gives me a mental image of Walter Kovacs having fun in a playgroup, before Kris wakes up again. Geez, just kill her already.
Oh wait it was all a fakeout and Kris’ still asleep and Freddy finally kills her. Why bother with the fake wake-up thing, Freddy? What, was it more satisfying to kill her when she thought she was awake? When IT terrified and psychologically tormented kids, it was to make them taste better, what’s your excuse? Anyway, Jesse runs out, covered in blood, setting off an alarm. I wonder what’s going to happen to him?
Now that we can drop the pretences about Kris, it’s time for another scene with Nancy, our real hero. She’s brunette, after all. Jesse bursts in, talking about how Freddy kills in dreams yada yada, before he goes out and predictably gets arrested. His arrest is a humorously over-the-top scene with him yelling ‘I LOVED HER MAN’ and ‘NANCY YOU KNOW WHO DID IT’, but it’s meant to be quiet and serious and all that.
Later, Quentin tries to use his computer to look up ways on how to stay awake, and by God, I need some of those ways right now. Unfortunately, however, he falls asleep, and his computer enters sleep mode too. Ha ha. Quentin’s nightmare is nothing more but a jump scare inserted in an attempt to keep the audiences’ attention, but that is immediately followed up by yet another nightmare, this one for Jesse. Freddy chases Jesse around a bit before impaling him through his claw, leading to the most awkward delivery he gives in the movie: ‘When the heart stops beating, the brain keeps functioning for about seven minutes. We got six minutes to play.’ It’s bad enough he says this as if it’s his first time reading the script, but he follows it up with a noise that sounds like Beavis and Butthead laughing.
Nancy and Quentin do some research or whatever before Nancy returns home to talk with her mum about the coverup and then does that famous bathtub scene from the original so the film can say it has it.
Then Nancy dreams about her bedroom covered in snow, which then turns into a creepy pre-school in a black void covered in snow. Yes, more freaking Silent Hill. But it makes sense, ‘cause we all know Freddy likes video games:
Freddy catches up with Nancy, and starts licking her and calling her his ‘Little Nancy’. Why? Well, remember when I said the producers wanted to make Freddy scary again? The original plan for the first Nightmare on Elm Street was for Freddy to be a pedophile, but Wes Craven changed it so he was just a child killer. In this one, though, they brought that little blueprint back, but they did it in a way that’s awkward and uncomfortable, and not in the way they likely intended.
Nancy wakes up and calls Quentin, and he decides to come over. As he gets prepared, we see how he’s been trying to keep awake: not only with pills but also with cans of Red Bull. Red Bull? That’ll do you no good if you want to stay awake. Might as well drink cocoa. He gets on over to Nancy’s and she reveals that the pre-school in her dreams was called “Badham” (the opening credits focussed a bit on the ‘bad’ in the name; I wonder if that school can be found in Basin City?) and she and Quentin look through some evidence that you think would have been destroyed to try to find out the connection between the school and them and Freddy.
You know, I think I’ve figured out why Freddy and his nightmares are so frequent – the human characters are boring as shit. No, looking at feces would be more interesting than watching this movie.
So Nancy’s mum comes clean: yes, Nancy and Quentin and Jesse and Kris all attended the same pre-school, and Freddy was the gardener there. And yes, his human form is seen wearing a fedora and using a rake. And yes, yes, he takes kids to his ‘secret cave’ to rape them. Really? This is a boring schlocky horror flick, not Lolita, this pedophilia crap feels really awkward and out of place.
While Nancy tries to look up the other kids in the pre-school, Quentin is at swim practice and is told to ‘wake up’ by his coach. Irony IRONY IRRROOONNNYYY. Then Quentin appears in some creepy abandoned industrial district because I guess he fell asleep while swimming or something. ‘Man, this loud whistle and adrenalin is making me woozy.’
In the original movie, Freddy’s backstory was told solely through dialogue, but since this is supposed to be ‘bigger and better’ we get a whole sequence of the parents of Elm Street chasing Krueger into a warehouse and then him burning to death. It’s actually one of the better sequences in the film, actually feeling dramatic and tense. It’s not without its problems though; a similar flashback in Freddy vs Jason noted that Freddy was set free before he was burned to death while no such thing is present here, and the former makes much more sense. You know a movie’s bad when fucking Freddy vs Jason did something better than it. Then again, when Freddy’s running out of that warehouse burning, he actually looks like a burn victim for once, so there’s that.
Quentin wakes up and after Nancy confirms that, yes Freddy is killing people in their dreams, Quentin confronts his dad about burning Freddy, even speculating that Freddy may have been innocent of the crimes he was accused for. If he was, why did he lick Nancy seductively like that? And even if he was innocent, it’s not like that’s gonna redeem him, and Freddy shouldn’t be redeemed anyway; he’s a fucked-up killer and he loves it. Oh, and spoiler alert, he’s not innocent, making Quentin’s theory entirely pointless to the film.
So Quentin is convinced that Freddy is innocent, and he and Nancy decide to go over to the pre-school of doom. Oh yeah, and Nancy also sees Kris in a bodybag laugh at her. Okay, Krueger, you’re just showing off now.
That night, they drive to the pre-school, but first, Quentin’s gotta get him some more Adderall. He tries to get some Adderall, Nancy tries to stay awake, quick Freddy, Nancy tries to stay awake, Quentin tries to get some Adderall, Nancy tries to stay awakezzzz Freddy zzzz.
Yes, Nancy falls asleep again and gets scratched by Freddy, and thus she is taken to the hospital, where we get another fucking jump scare where a doctor’s hand turns into Freddy’s glove. You know, Freddy, if your power only works when kids are asleep, why you gotta jolt them awake with these jump scares? Can’t you try keeping them sleepy while killing them? Hell, you can have them watch this movie before slicing them iup.
Quentin and Nancy soon get back on the road, where they have a chat in an attempt to “build” their “characters” THENFREDDYAPPEARSINTHEROADJUMP. I can’t believe how unimaginative this version of Freddy is. All these dream powers and all he could do is jump out at the kids. If he wants to kill them, why couldn’t he just turn into some sort of car-eating monster and eat them from behind, or impale them instantly through their hearts like he did Jesse? Maybe he just wanted them to crash their car so they’d have to go to the preschool on foot just to be a dick.
Anyway, they reach the preschool and walk through it and THERE’S ANOTHER FUCKING FREDDY JUMPSCARE. Wow, how small do they think the audiences’ attention span is? Them going through the halls should be a quieter, eerier moment, and that sudden flash of Freddy just screwed up the atmosphere they were trying to go for.
Nancy and Quentin then find Freddy’s secret room and discover what we’ve known for the entire runtime – that Freddy was a kiddy fiddler. So what was the point of that whole thing with Quentin thinking he was innocent? Just more pointless attempts at ‘drama’, I guess.
So Nancy decides to fight Krueger and bring him into reality, and all I have to say is ‘about time’. Really, this film is only ninety minutes but feels twenty times longer. Though didn’t in Inception they say that time is slower in dreams than in reality? So, when you make a movie about dreams, you make it feel longer than it actually is! Brilliant!
Nancy falls asleep and Quentin falls asleep with her – doi! – and then Freddy has a go with Nancy. Freddy is no less dull than he was before – when Nancy cries ‘IT’S NOT REAL’, Freddy says ‘It’s real’ as if his next word will be ‘dude’. He then teleports Nancy to her house for no reason other than to give her a cupboard to hide in, and chases her until he makes her sink into some blood. Finally, you make use of your reality-warping. He then says ‘How’s this for a wet dream?’ a quote from the fourth Nightmare movie. See, they’re acknowledging the inspiration! That redeems this movie, right?
Freddy then puts Nancy into the dress she wore when she was a little kid, and goes on and on about how that dress was his favourite and how he’s fuelled by Nancy’s memories and how scary he is. Really, him repeating ‘I’m scary’ over and over would have the same effect his speech does. Also, I guess Freddy reveals why he made all those stupid jump scares – he wanted to keep Nancy awake ‘so that when [she] did fall asleep, [she] would never wake up again.’ That makes sense, I suppose.
Quentin wakes up and then wakes up Nancy, bringing Freddy along with her. Nancy kills Freddy and then burns down the pre-school, because burning buildings down looks cool.
Now, if you’ve seen the original Nightmare on Elm Street, you’d know that it has a crappy, confusing ending. So how does the remake try to improve upon that? With a crappy, slightly less confusing ending. Nancy has a chat with her mum then Freddy appears and kills her mum. Sequel hook, roll credits.
Well, I guess the best thing I can say about this movie is that it was so boring that you’re likely to forget it seconds after watching it. And believe me, forget it you’ll want to. Jackie Earle Haley was nowhere near as fun to watch as Robert Englund…what am I saying, fucking Freddy Scooper and Eddy Cougar were more terrifying and entertaining than he was. He seems utterly bored with the role, and the same could be said for the other actors, too.
Nancy and Quentin, as our heroes, both failed to engage. You were unlikely to care whether or not they’d survive – in fact, I’d have hoped that Freddy would kill them if Freddy weren’t so annoying.
As I said before, I love new takes on old stories, but here I’m just going to be an old fogey and moan about how things were better in the old days.