Director – Samuel Bayer
Cast – Jackie Earl Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clandy Brown, Connie Britton, Lia. D. Mortensen
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Well we finally have “it” folks, after remakes of John Carpenter’s “Halloween”, and Sean S. Cunningham‘s “Friday the 13th”…we have now a remake for Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. The top three slasher genres of all time have now been remade to the modern standard. While the “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” remakes were mostly positive, this “A Nightmare on Elm Street” remake had me nervous as to whether or not it would continue the positive streak, or fail miserably. Why would I feel that way? Well, simply because both “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” star silent killers, killers that engage the audience through actions over words. With this film, we have a killer that won the hearts of millions of horror fans due to his dialogue-driven antics, which means we need a special kind of actor to seal a positive watch for us fans of this franchise(not that Tyler Mane(Halloween) and Derek Mears(Friday the 13th) were not sufficient for their remakes, they were great actually). Thankfully, veteran actor Jackie Earl Haley gave us a creative and even somewhat original take on the iconic horror character that is Freddy Krueger. Accompanied by a better-than-expected directing job from first time director Samuel Bayer, this flick was a cool watch that is sure to do enough for most people, but those expecting it to reach the plateaus the original did may be in for a bumpy ride.
This “re-imaging”(hah, as “they” call it) stars Kyle Gallner (“Red”, “The Haunting In Connecticut”, “Jennifer‘s Body“) as Quentin Smith, a shy adolescent with a crush on a shy waitress named Nancy Holbrook(Rooney Mara), whom he sees often but has never had the guts to “approach”. One night one of their friends dies under unusual circumstances, in an accident that seemed as if it was caused by someone else, someone…unseen. This phenomenon is not solitary, as more and more of their friends begin to fall prey to this unseen and very grisly menace, a menace who attacks and kills them in their dreams, a kill that literally kills the person in real life. Soon Quentin and Nancy realize that everyone who has died, as well as the both of them, are having/had the same dreams about a disfigured man with a glove fixated with sharp knives. Their parents are naïve to this phenomenon, but a feeling lingers amongst Quentin and Nancy that leads them to believe their parents are hiding something…and they are. When they were children a man named Freddy Krueger was accused of molesting the children at their playschool, and the parents took revenge against him. Freddy may be dead, but his vengeance lives on. He will stop at nothing to exact vengeance against the parents who killed him, and will do so by taking what they love most away from them…something he loves as well…their children.
As I mentioned earlier, I was iffy on whether or not this film would come off as a good watch. The trailers did nothing to comfort my thoughts on this, but thankfully this flick was a cool watch in the end. Right from the get-go this flick engaged me with its awesome opening credit sequence, which was supplemented by throwing us right into the carnage that Freddy is causing. Personally, I love it when films take off right away and then eventually slow down to normal speed. It gets the viewer anxious, and the sudden calm we get once things get back to normal is invigorating and makes experience all the more entertaining.
It really is hard for me to focus on my exact opinion with these remakes simply because I am such a big fan of the original films. Because of this, expect two different points of view: comparison between this flick and the original, and an overall look at this film as it stands on its own(basically, as if the original never occurred). This is the only way I can come off unbiased with this film, as should everyone who watches ANY film, remake or not. An open-mind is key to enjoying and appreciating anything that you watch.
OK, enough with the mumbo jumbo…lets do this.
Story-wise this flick was fun and it did its job. I was glad to see that many elements and scenes from the original film were thrown into this flick, with some of them “re-imaged”(hah) as a work of their own. Most of these were good, although I can say that I personally did not like one “re-imaged” scene(due to direction), which I will get to later. What really made me enjoy this film’s storyline was the fact that some elements in this film were not employed in the original. One of these elements is the background behind Freddy. In the original we got a moderate amount of background info on Freddy, not too much and not too little. Personally, I enjoyed that as it left us somewhat in the dark as to what Freddy really did, which is genius. Why genius? Because the revenge Freddy exacts is so strong and so horrendous that he simply must have done some REALLY bad things back in the day. Yes, GENIUS. This remake goes more in depth into what Freddy’s crimes were, and surprisingly in this film’s case I enjoyed that. It is also nice to get a different point of view on a character and this flick took care of that. I will say that Freddy’s background in this film has a few differences compared to the original, including one element that I did not like…it is not as shocking. SPOILER: In this film Freddy’s background is as a child molester, which is OK, but this is weak compared to his background in the original…in which he was a child KILLER. It is a taboo way of thinking, but this is horror, remember that.
Direction-wise I feel that newbie Samuel Bayer(who before this had only directed music videos) did an OK job with this flick. I did not like his use of CGI during some scenes, especially the scene involving Freddy “coming out of the wall”(what I mentioned earlier about differences between the original scenes). This was lame, cheap, and did not nearly freak me out as Wes Craven’s expert execution of this scene in his original. He used live action effects, as any true horror director should. Why? It works, it ALWAYS works, at least more than CGI does. Unless you have gigantic dinosaurs or creatures running around, CGI is unnecessary. We were exposed to more CGI in some scenes, which included gore scenes, and that is never forgivable. CGI blood is worthless, end of story. Mr. Bayer did do a fine job with this film’s pacing, and I must applaud him for that. There was a bit of heat against him and producers when we were told that quite a few scenes were left out from the film, including the awesome looking “tunnel” scene from the trailer. He mentioned that it was left out to “tighten” up the film, which I can understand. However, if anything is executed properly, it will pace well, there will be no need to “tighten”. It was not the content of the scene that was the problem, it was the execution of the scene. Be prepared for some lame jump scares as well, surely the most recognizable element of any of Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes flicks. Atmospherically I liked what Mr. Bayer did with this flick. He used very dark and grainy cinematography which never really let you get over the eerie feel this flick has, especially in low-light scenes.
One positive testament to both writing and direction…is this film’s climax, which I found awesome and horrific. Thanks guys.
Now onto the real star of the film, the only element that truly matters…Freddy. Jackie Earl Haley did a great job with this iconic character, and gave us his OWN performance as Freddy, not a “re-imaging”(hah) of Robert Englund’s original performances as Freddy Krueger in all “Nightmare on Elm Street” films prior to this, including “Freddy vs. Jason” as well as the TV-series “Freddy’s Nightmares”. Basically, Robert Englund IS Freddy Krueger. I was a bit shaky on how Mr. Haley would do as Freddy. I love Jackie, but I did not think anyone could even remotely pull of Englund’s performance as Freddy, but Jackie did a swell job. He is not replacing Englund as Freddy, nor will he ever, but he did what he could with this role and I respect him for that. He was not the Freddy we came to love and adore that Englund gave us, but a more brash and angry Freddy. Englund’s Freddy was horrific indeed, but mainly in a sense that he toyed with his victims, and enjoyed it dearly. Haley’s Freddy toyed with his victims, but he never went long without showing us rage over what happened to him, and I loved that. I respect both actors highly for what they have done with this iconic horror character.
So how does this flick compare as a remake? Well, as expected, it pales in comparison to the original. It is, however, an OK watch if you simply watch it for what it is. If this film were truly a film of its own, if the original had never EVER happened, I’d say this flick is downright awesome and that Freddy is horror’s next icon. That is not the case though, so this flick loses any originality points and leaves with the rating it received. I really wish Hollywood would instead give us an original film that is downright awesome and includes a character so incredible that I would deem it “horror’s next icon”, but it seems Hollyweird is out of ideas at this point and must resort to the easiest and quickest money-grabbing tactic possible…remake a horror classic. I am not overly dogging this film, because I did find some joy in it, but after finally(sad it even hapened) remaking all the big trio of horror slasher genres, “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, and now “A Nightmare on Elm Street”…can the remakes stop?
Overall, this is an OK watch and I believe should be enough to somewhat satisfy fans of the original given this flick not only throws in new elements to the story, but gives us a sweet alternative look at Freddy Krueger, one of horror’s greatest and most recognized characters.