As Bad As You Thought?: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

The year was 1984 and thanks to a new generation of filmmakers, the beloved horror genre was experiencing a boom and in this year, Wes Craven would give us a horror flick that would become a genre classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. If you don’t know the plot of the movie (then seriously what are you doing on this site?) it is about a group of teens in Middle America who are being stalked in their dreams by the demonic serial killer, Freddy Krueger. The plot was brilliant, but the key to the success was the performance by Robert Englund as the burned and murderous Kreuger as well as the equally good performance by Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson the greatest heroine in horror movie history (apologies to Laurie Strode and Ellen Ripley. With Hollywood trends being what they are currently, the inevitable remake was bound to hit the cinema screens, to the anger of fans all over. Angering fans even more was the fact that behind the film was, Michael Bay, the ADHD ridden director who already had a slew of terrible remakes of horror classics on his resume. When the first bit of casting was announced the public braced for the worst, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the actor who be putting on the fedora would be, Jackie Earle Haley. Since his return to acting, Haley has turned in several tremendous performances as twisted and psychologically scarred characters so this role seemed like it would fit him like a razor sharp glove.  When the first trailer was released, even skeptics had to admit that it looked promising. Yet when the film was released and the reviews came in, it looked as if everyone’s worst fears were confirmed. Now I shall brave not falling asleep (out of boredom) to see if returning to America’s scariest street was worth it.

In an old diner on a rainy night a clearly troubled kid sits alone demanding more coffee. Seriously opening the movie in a creepy diner on a dark and stormy night, who wrote this screenplay, Snoopy? He gets suspicious about being the only person in the scary dream sequence, I mean restaurant. He wanders into the kitchen that has enough slaughtered pigs that I want to yell at him that he’s in the Leatherface house and he needs to get back to the right movie, when we see Freddy’s trademark glove  open up menacingly, I mean it would be menacing if we were not expecting it. Freddy stalks his intended victim and goes in for the kill when he wakes up to find the waitress pouring his coffee. Apparently the waitress is our hero, Nancy Thompson. As Freddy victim is joined by his girlfriend nacy goes to another table where Kyle Gallner and his buddies are sitting, and according to his comrades he has a crush on her. The two exchange in pointless banter and he leaves without a fuss.

Back at the victim table, he tells his girlfriend about his recurring nightmares and his overacting is so intense that he spills coffee on his girlfriend so she leaves to go wash up. He rubs his face slowly and deliberately and the lights around him change, gee I wonder if another dream sequence is coming? Inside the dream we get a nice bunch of jump cuts showing Freddy ready to slice up some teenage throat, so much for keeping the mysterious villain you know…mysterious, I mean he’s blatantly right there, not hiding in the shadows or anything. Naturally our first victim gets a funereal where a strange little girl stares ominously and the deceased’s gal pal, gee I wonder if this is a dream? And what do you know it is! A big part of what made the original so scary was the seamless transitions between the world of the waking and Freddy’s dreamworld; with this remake I’m tempted to start a drinking game based on how many times the characters are obviously asleep. At the funereal we find out the town’s patriarchal figure of sorts is played by, Clancy Brown, I don’t care how bad the movie is, Mr. Brown is always a welcome actor. The girlfriend from the diner tries to confide in a friend about what happens, but Nancy decides to butt in with her opinions causing them to walk away like she were a plague victim.

That night, as expected, Nancy tries not to fall asleep but inevitably does and is immediately terrorized by none other than a silly looking CGI Freddy coming out of the walls. I remember in the original, when they used this scare it was a bazillion times better; it was dark and the practical effects added a certain sense of realism that CGI can’t. Luckily she wakes up before getting sliced up…or unluckily I guess, because this means the movie has to continue. Elsewhere, the girl from the funereal, looks through an old photo album, between this and her conversation with the other future body bag stuffer at the funereal, I think the filmmakers are trying to tell us that the adults in this town are hiding something from the kids in a not so subtle way. The poor girl goes into her attic looking for answers with a flashlight, but I must say for being a musty old attic it already seems pretty well lit. She opens a random box and finds an old picture of herself as well as her old dress that has been sliced up, as if by razor glove, hey the right box on the first go I want her on my team when I play Deal or No Deal. Now I know that people try to blot out traumatic experiences that they have had as children but I think I would remember the day I was almost a potential victim of an infamous serial killer, but I’m not a movie character. And why would her parents save that stuff if they were trying to hide it? You would think they would have destroyed all the evidence or something. As if some otherworldly force knew that she was digging through the box, the lights cut out, but as mentioned before it’s still fairly well lit. And who would have guessed it, Mr. Krueger pounces out at her, and she wakes up.

At school the next day, Kyle Gallner and Nancy continue their chemistryless flirting. Apparently, Rooney Mara who plays Nancy has been nominated for an Oscar this year for her movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,  I have not seen this flick (and I have a hard time seeing her performance being better than the one that Noomi Rapace gave in the original) but given her acting here, I really don’t see Oscar potential or even People’s Choice potential. She has recently gone on record denouncing this movie saying that she did not even really try, then I must ask why did she take the role; I get the whole starving actress taking work where they can find it, but I would think if someone gave you the chance to  play one of the greatest characters in horror history you would at least try, if for no other reason than the fear that they would replace you with the thousands of other young actresses you want the role. Anyways back to class, the teacher is droning on about Sparta and such and i think it’s time for another Freddy appearance. Apparently the director agrees with me and the blonde victim finds herself in a burned up version of the school with Freddy having the hankering do to a stabbering. He tries to menace the teenager but it just comes off as silly and over the top as he uses cliched slasher lines. Sadly she wakes up before getting hacked up. I guess nobody told Haley that Robert Englund had the personality and charisma to get away with being over the top as Freddy and that he should play to his strengths and be a more subdued and creepy villain.

On her way home we get a nice shot of her passing the street sign that reads, Elm St.; so twenty minutes into the film and it is finally revealed. I guess someone backstage went, “crap! we almost forgot to tell the audience where we were!”. Her mother has to go on a trip and is leaving her all alone to the devices of Freddy. To give her some company the best friend of her dead boyfriend comes over to give her a shoulder to cry on and she tells him about seeing Freddy in her dreams to find out that he’s been having these nightmares as well. He agrees to stay the night with her….for protection (*chuckle*) and during the “night” she gets woken up by her dog and goes out into the dream…er yard to find him. Naturally Krueger wants to get his slice on andtells her he just wanted to pet her dead dog. That was a pretty funny one liner I have to admit. He chases her around a while and she “wakes up” and tries to convice us that she is awake only to be thrwon around the room in a very over the top fashion and sliced up. Knowing that he will get blamed for it, her guy friend runs off into the night and seeks refuge at Nancy’s. He freaks out and starts yelling and the two share some expository dialogue, how convenient, before he runs off to get arrested, that was quick considering average police response time is about half an hour and they had no idea he would be at Nancy’s house. Kids let this be a lesson to you; when an attractive and emotionally troubled girl wants you to spend the night with her, don’t do it.

The next day we rejoin Kyle Gallner’s character at the book store who closes his eyes for a second and he’s off to never never land. Freddy in a well lit and warm and comforting book store, still not as strange as the men’s shower from, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. As is the trend, Nancy wakes him up before anything happens. This scene is utterly pointless because we go right back to our friend in prison who gets “waken up” to a guard saying someone posted his bail. If you’re in prison accused of brutally slicing up a girl and a guard lets you out on bail, you should always be immediately suspicious. He leaves the cell and ends up in the trademark NOES, boiler room. In the original they filmed these kinds of scenes in an actual boiler room and it showed, it was dark and dirty an dingy; the perfect hunting ground for Freddy.  This boiler room is way to clean and bright, it is obviously a set which takes away from the potential scare.  Freddy confronts the kid telling him he wants the kid to turn back time, the poor teen is confused but it doesn’t last long as you could expect.

Back at the bookstore Nancy and emo Kyle Gallner study sleep and dreams and stuff looking for answers. I guess, Gallner has a thing for weird cardboard acting chicks. After accomplishing a whole lot of nothing with that scene, Nancy goes back home and confronts her mother about the connection that is blatantly there between her and the other kids on their street aside from the fact that they live on the same street where a serial killer stalked his victims. I understand the parents trying to hide the fact from their kids, but we live in an age where Google could have solved this mystery in a couple of minutes. Nancy tries to relax (stupid move) in the bath while her mother calls someone, telling them that Nancy is starting to remember. Nancy gets out of the tub suspiciously fast and goes into a snow covered landscape, where a day care center stands. Naturally Krueger is waiting around for her and tells her she was his “number one”. She is pulled back into reality by Gallner calling her, telling her he is coming over.

They wonder how Freddy is connected to them and this day care, you know aside from the fact that they went to this day care center as kids and Freddy was an employee who who terrorized them; there movie characters I just solved your mystery for you and it’s not nearly as hard as you thought. The duo digs for clues and find ther

their class picture from the day care in a stupid hiding spot. Again, if the parents are trying to hide the past from the kids, why not destroy the evidence? Why did they hang on to it? A souvenir to remember the time they all burned a man alive? If that’s the case a T-shirt or mug would have done just fine. Nancy’s mom is none to happy about the amateur sleuthing going on under her roof and tells her about the fateful events.

Fred Krueger was apparently the groundskeeper at the school, who lived in the school basement and loved the kids, this apparently did not strike anyone as weird and potentially dangerous, but let’s continue. He acts all pedophilish around the kids, no surprise, and when they turn up with slash marks, Freddy apparently went on the run (But I’m doubtful about that last bit). I must say, in these flashback scenes Haley is turns in the kind of performance he should have been all along, as the supposedly caring groundskeeper he is far creepier than any burned up slasher.

Nancy continues Nancy Drewing and discovers the others she went to day care with are now all dead, while her guy friend participates in swim class. Unfortunately for him he falls asleep while swimming, and sees a bunch of cars chasing down Mr. Krueger from the school, I have a feeling things are not gonna end well for him. The parents of Elm Street chase him down to an old building  as he proclaims his innocence. As expected the parentals decide the best course of action is to burn the place down and force him out; but he would rather stay inside and you can guess what happens next. That dream sequence was very convenient to the plot of the movie, thanks filmmakers.

He tells Nancy what he saw and they confront Clancy Brown about the events. I don’t care how right I am about something, if Clancy Brown is on the opposing side I will definitely be intimidated into backing down. They decide the best course of action is to go back to the old preschool and find clues to stop Freddy. Along the way as can be expected by now, Freddy attacks Nancy and sends her to the hospital. But she escapes easily, thus making that trip to the hospital quite pointless to the story. On the trip to the old preschool we get more terror in the form of the two characters inane banter in a forced attempt to shove in a romantic angle. Nancy reveals she never went out with him, because as she saw it she is an obvious social misfit; except that is never conveyed in the movie, in fact she seems to have lots of friends who like her; secondly being a social misfit myself, when a member of the opposite sex pays you any attention whatsoever you tend to leap at them to the point of freaking them out.

Inside the creepy burned down nursery school they find Freddy’s old room and discover a hidden passage which leads to a room that looks like it’s interior decorator was Hanibal Lecter. Nancy remembers being there as a kid and being preyed upon by Freddy. They hatch a plan to defeat Freddy by pulling him into the real world, so Nancy falls asleep with the purpose of grabbing him by his ugly green and red sweater and dragging him out. In the nightmare world, Freddy comes after Nancy, trying to wear her down mentally before slicing her a new one. Surprise surprise she brings him to real world and finishes him off. At the end of the film, Nancy tries to have an emotional conversation with her mother, only to have Freddy pop out of the mirror and slice her up. Crap, that can only mean another one of these dumb movies.

So was it as bad as I thought? Hell yeah it was. The biggest problem with this movie is hands down, besides the complete unoriginality, was Rooney Mara as Nancy. As stated before, for my money Nancy is the greatest heroine in horror history, simply because she was a normal teenage girl that audience could see themselves in; she was not a space explorer like Ripley, nor was she a running screaming mess like so many others; and yet she put on her game face and faces down the burned sociopath. In this movie, Mara gives a terribly half hearted performance as your standard scream queen, I wish they had not made the protagonist in this movie Nancy and created a new character instead, because every time I see this stupid mopey take on the character I just imagine a poor Heather Langenkamp watching this movie and shaking her head in disgust. The other biggest problem is their take on the main man, Freddy. By now Freddy Krueger is a pop culture icon, even people who have never seen a single movie with him in it know his story, yet this movie does not add any twists to the origin or the character and still tries to make the mystery that everybody and there momma know the answer to, the main plot of the movie. Then there is the look of Freddy which is just plain silly looking, there is the trademark clothing; hat, sweater, and glove, but the combination of make-up and CGI for his appearance looks dumb and unconvincing. Apparently the make up artists originally wanted to base his appearance off of actual burn victims but deemed it too shocking and disturbing; because we can’t have a horror movie villain who actually gives people nightmares with his appearance now can we? Haley’s performance is incredibly lazy for an actor of his ability, Krueger is effective but I wish the director would have let Jackie Earle Haley cut loose and really do justice to the role. As for the story there is not much to say, it’s pretty much the same as the original, thus defeating the purpose of watching this remake, because why do that when you can watch the superior Wes Craven version. I tend to believe that remakes work best when they do something completely different from the original, but apparently Michael Bay and his crew do not share this thought, because doing something new and different to shock and surprise people would be much more effort than they were willing to give for this flick.