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Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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“You have to stay awake! Do not fall asleep!”

We hear those words said from one character to another throughout the brand shiny new remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I wonder, though, if they aren’t really intended for the audience. I can only speak for myself, but I had to stifle an unusually high number of yawns.

As I’m sure you already know – unless you’ve been avoiding horror movies since the ‘80s – the Elm Street mythology pits teenagers – 25-year-old supermodels in this case – against Freddy Krueger. He’s the man of your nightmares and will kill you if you fall asleep and slip into his world.

So, with these movies we spend a lot of time watching teens drink Red Bull and pop all sorts of stimulants – legal and otherwise. They then wander about like finals week flunkies on their third straight all-nighter, all blurry-eyed, wobbly, and irritable. And they’re never quite sure if they’re awake or dreaming.

Because of this, the teens fail to realize that the weird goings-on all around them are “dream weird” rather than “this world is really funny ‘ha ha’ weird” until it’s too late and Freddy has filleted them with his trademark six inch finger-knives.

The problem with this series reboot is that it assumes not only that my prior three paragraphs are common knowledge, but also that they express all that a viewer wishes to see in an Elm Street movie.

Thus, we get a teenager – man, I can’t even call him a “teenager” with a straight face – sitting alone in an empty, dimly lit diner and struggling to stay awake while odd things happen all around him. Then, suddenly and with a flash of shiny steel and a jolt of very loud music on the soundtrack, Freddy is upon him. There is blood everywhere. End of scene.

Then, the same repeats again and again. And I do mean the same, only varied by a different “teenager” and by a different dimly lit setting. Basements are especially good for this sort of thing and these “teens” obviously forgot to read the memo stating that hiding in closets and peering out between slats is never a safe haven in a horror movie.

It’s all wearily repetitive, even abstract.  We don’t get to know characters. We just see them set up for the kill. And it’s not scary at all. We know that if a girl looks into a mirror, turns away, and looks back again that Freddy’s burn-scarred face will be there staring back at her. And no crashing sounds can be loud enough to turn what we expect to see into something frightening.

I had high hopes that casting Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger would be a stroke of genius. But not even that really works. Oh, he looks suitably creepy and he’s perfect in flashbacks showing us Krueger’s pedophilic past. But he’s too perfect, even lazy perfect.

His Oscar-nominated performance in Little Children was such an unforgettable portrait of a pedophile that he now seems forever stuck. One takes one look at him and instantly thinks, “Creepersville.” He’s become the go-to guy when a movie needs an instant psycho, a sort of creepy guy shorthand. Just add water.

The same thing happened with his casting in Watchmen. He needs to mix it up a bit, maybe play a throwback to his work in The Bad News Bears (1976). He’s definitely too good for Elm Street.

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About Todd Ford

  • http://silverscreenblogger.blogspot.com Hayley Woodgate

    Damn was really looking forward to this movie but looks as though it won’t be something worth remembering. Thanks for the review. Think I’ll still see it but just not get my hopes up :-)

  • Outlaw

    I usually try to stare clear of horror remakes – Ive seen way to many go badly wrong over the years and being a women I find many of the female based horrors quite disturbing…

  • Penny

    Freddy’s Back! Now there can never be one as good as the first, later they made him comical. Hopefully this gets him back to the beginning, SCARY!

  • Lee Dixon

    I remember the original being released and how scary it was – although I was way too young to be watching it! This idea was great fro the 80’s but guys with knives on the end of their fingers doesn’t seem so scary now. Hmm. Films like ‘Scream’ have since added the extra psychological factor into the mix. I guess I will watch it anyway (on DVD) as I’m a ‘child of the Elm street times’! lol

  • Tara Lewis

    Hey, it might be a remake but its not all fiction, did you know Wes Crane came up with the idea for A Nightmare on Elm Street while sitting at a restaurant way back in 1978, his inspiration? well he had recently read three separate articles about people who had nightmares and then later died in their sleep!!! just a bit of trivia to think of while you are watching it and then trying to sleep :-)

  • Adam

    After Freddy V Jason… it can only get better!

  • JArthurDavis

    Hi,

    Thanks for the review! I was hoping to read some reviews first before heading out to the cinemas.

  • Josh

    I’m dying to watch this and check what’s new to. When I thought the last movie of Freddie Kruger was with Jason of Friday the 13th, I am expecting that this is way much better.

  • Alex Zahnaufheller

    Hmmm sounds like a movie I should pass on. But aren’t all horror movies just like this all cliche and no creativity. I mean there are tons of horror movies with way to many parts this is another one here.

    Thanks for the review I guess it was way more interesting to read this than to watch the movie

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/todd-ford/ Todd Ford

    Alex,

    You are correct in that problems I found with this movie also exist for many other horror movies. But I don’t think that all horror remakes are a waste. And certainly not all horror movies are void of originality.

    We’ve had a number of good horror remakes lately. I found Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” to be very enjoyable, maybe not as smart as Romero’s, but more entertaining. The remake of Romero’s “The Crazies” is actually an improvement on the original. And I’ve heard that the remake of “The Last House on the Left” is surprisingly artful. Been meaning to check that out.

    David Cronenberg has also talked about remaking his own version of “The Fly” and I trust him to have something new to say about the subject after all these years.

    I could easily make quite a list of horror films that are very thoughtful and original. Just a few faves are:

    Let the Right One In
    Dark Water
    Romero’s Day of the Dead
    The Descent
    Paranormal Activity

  • Ken Walden

    Is it just me or does the first make and first in the series always rock and the final chapters part 14 and remakes not scare you?