Like a reoccurring dream, A Nightmare on Elm Street was always going to come back to haunt our screens. With 8 films featuring Freddy from Wes Craven’s original to 2003’s monster mash-up Freddy vs. Jason, this 2010 remake of the 1984 sleep stalking slasher sets about to prove Kruger has 9 lives, and bring the nightmare to a whole new generation.
After producing reboots of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th the money making machine that is Michael Bay was determined to dig up another franchise, dress it up in fashionable clothes and pop culture references and resell it to the mindless masses. A Nightmare on Elm Street was the obvious choice.
For those unaware of the story, it involves a group of kids all living on the titular Elm Street and all plagued by the same nightmares involving the same man. With his horrifically disfigured face, half hidden by a tattered hat, burnt, striped sweater and a glove with knives for fingers, he terrorizes the teenagers dreams where his rules are law.
When one of the gang dies a violent death, the others soon realise that what happens when they sleep may actually be happening for real. A secret from the past binds the friends together to the dream-stalking-psychopath. But with no answers from their parents and no help from anyone else, they must fight to find the truth while fighting to stay awake before Freddy Kruger makes their nightmares a reality.
Craven’s first foray into Freddy’s realm is a masterpiece of tension and invention. With spectacular killings, a great story and the origin of an iconic movie monster. Spawning a TV series (Freddy’s Nightmares) along with countless novels, comics and tie-ins, although the subsequent films were hit and miss (see Jonesy’s article for more info – A Nightmare On Elm Street – Looking back to look forward… ) Craven’s creation captured the audience and firmly cemented Freddy into horror history as an iconic character.
‘Enough of the history lesson’ I hear you cry, what about the reboot? Well that’s the problem this movie, it’s not the reboot it wants to be. Sadly it’s not a re-imagining or even a remix, it’s more of a cover version.
Perhaps it’s an homage, perhaps its laziness, perhaps Craven just did it best, but for anyone who has seen the original film, any fear or frights will be replaced with distracting déjà vu. Scene after scene, the same scares and shots appear straight from the original movie.
The glove in the bath, the body bag in the school corridor, Freddy coming through the wall all classic moments, all chillingly brilliant in the original and all replicated here with little variation.
That’s not to say that this is a bad film, or that director Samuel Bayer doesn’t do a good job. Fronting his first feature after a wealth of music videos for a bunch of bands from Nirvana to Sheryl Crow, Bayer is more than capable getting the best he can from the solid and likable cast. Especially Rooney Mara who plays Nancy and Katie Cassidy from the brilliant Harper’s Island.
The plot remains the same but tries to turn up the terror by overstating the darker elements from the original, involving the teenagers past. Some added science lessons on sleep deprivation and an interesting internet victim, video blogging his torture work well. Bayer specialises in the stylized dream sequences, he also heightens tension at times cutting seamlessly between the real world and dream world sharper than Kruger’s bladed fingers.
Watchman’s Jackie Earle Haley tries his best to fill the fedora of Freddy, a character made so famous by Robert Englund. With his gravel voice and CGI burns, this Freddy like the film as a whole, attempts to be darker and nastier than the original, but in doing so loses some of the twisted charm Englund excelled in. Still spitting out sick jokes this Freddy seems less fun than before, as the films tries desperately not to let the killer slip into the parody it became in the subsequent so-so sequels.
All in all this 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a reasonably good horror, and unlike other recent remakes it doesn’t disrespect its source material. That said, it perhaps sticks a little too close to its predecessor, not taking any risks or reinventing any characters which is a shame.
Fans of the original will feel like that they have seen it all before, and the uninitiated should make sure to see Craven’s version first.
It may not be a dream come true but this new nightmare surely shows that Freddy can still scare us in our sleep.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is our in cinemas accross the UK from7th May.