A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Director: Samual Bayer
Writer: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer (Screenplay); Wes Craven (Original Characters)
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz
More and more we’re getting to the point where original ideas are few and far between. Especially in Hollywood. I’d wager to say that the amount of remakes/franchises/sequels/adaptations outnumber the original ideas by a large amount and will undoubtedly keep growing. And yet, when I heard about the remake of the original Nightmare on Elm Street film from 1985, I didn’t immediately write it off the way I did most other modern horror remakes. For one, the series had suffered from terrible sequels that focused more on a wise-cracking silly cartoon Freddy Krueger rather than the terrifying dream hunter from the first film. Surely the remake would be less campy and more scary right? In addition, the actor cast as Freddy was Jackie Earle Haley who is pretty awesome. So why did this movie end up sucking so, so much?
The plot is very simple. Teenagers start to have nightmares which seem all too real, and begin getting attacked by a strange man in their dreams which sometimes bleed into reality (literally!). As the characters learn more about their dreams and the person in them, they start getting murdered in their dreams which end up killing them in real life! We eventually learn that the man in their dreams was a gardener at all the kids preschool and allegedly molested/hurt them, so their parents tracked him down and burned him to death. For some reason he now can continue to live via the dreamworld and takes his revenge on the kids that snitched on him about his ‘cave.’
First of all, the script is just awful. In the first scene we’re treated to terrible on-the-nose dialog to establish the characters and their relationships. ‘I’m here to see Dean.’ ‘There he is.’ ‘What’s Kris doing here?’ ‘Kris broke up with Jesse.’ ‘I like these pancakes.’ ‘I have nightmares.’ And on and on. The movie had a hard time deciding who the protagonist was, as from the get-go I thought it was one dude, then he died. Then I thought it was the girl who saw him die, as we started to learn her backstory. Then – oops – she died. So then it was these two other characters who were only seemingly background characters for the first half of the film. I don’t know if it was done on purpose so you’d never know who’s safe, or they tried to do the classic Psycho bait-and-switch, but to me it just seemed like a bad plot structure. At no point did I care about any of the characters and it seemed like just an excuse to have dream followed by dream followed by dream and then have people killed in ‘cool’ ways.
Which brings me to the next point – the film was just a bunch of dreams over and over! In the original I remember never knowing whether the characters were in a dream or not, they kept you guessing all the time. This time around, I knew the SECOND they entered a dream and ‘accidentally fell asleep.’ All it takes is a rub of the eyes, closing them briefly, or a bit of a heavy head nod and boom – dream-time. Sure, they try to make it seem like it’s still reality until Freddy appears ‘surprisingly’ but it never fooled me because there was NEVER any real-world stuff until the last half of the movie. Now, I’m not one to get scared at movies anyway. But I found the movie so jarringly UNscary that it became laughable. There were plenty of ‘jump’ moments to give the illusion of horror but you could see em coming a mile away. It’s a character running, hiding, then the music stopping. They look around for a bit, everything seems fine, where could the killer be until HI I’M FREDDY KRUEGER AND I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. He even said ‘Boo’ at one point.
I think Jackie Earle Haley was fine in the role of Freddy. He was definitely more serious and more of a threat than the campy Freddy of later Elm Street films. But even he couldn’t save the shitty writing. In fact, I think most of the actors did well with what they were given. I mean, it IS a horror movie so you can’t expect high caliber acting throughout. But if it had been written well enough I feel it could have been more enjoyable and less exposition-heavy. The other great actor was Clancy Brown (of Shawshank and LOST fame) who was probably the only ‘real’ character who felt like he was actually acting and not reading lines with exclamation marks.
Oddly enough, my favorite part of the movie is something they never really talk about. In the one girl’s room (who is an artist! character development!) there is a drawing of a happy little penis man that seemed so odd and out of place I immediately started laughing at it. Then, for some reason, the SAME DRAWING shows up later in Uncle Freddy’s Naked Puzzle Dungeon! I wonder if this is explained in some deleted scene, where the girl was forced to draw Freddy’s penis when she was a kid. And he liked it so much he photocopied it and hung it in his lair, letting her keep the original. And being the emotionally distant artist she is, she hung it up in her room along with the rest of her lonely-teenager artwork. It fits! If anyone has a screencap of Mr. Penis-Man, please send it my way so I can post it here. It really is quite funny how it shows up in the background twice but no one ever talks about it.
Overall, a major disappointment. I actually did have high hopes for this film, as I was pretty sick of the shitty Saw films being the dominant horror franchise. Hopefully something fresh and original can come out soon to stop Saw 7 and 8 from being made. Until then I look forward to trying to watch the opening scene of those films and realizing why I hate them.