Archive for Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Posted in Horror, Sequel with tags , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(*1/2 out of ****)


(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 5/3/2009)

One, two, a new remake’s coming for you … three, four, this one is quite the bore … five, six, you won’t find any new tricks … seven, eight, you could call it second-rate … nine, ten, never trust anything Michael Bay touches again.

Springwood. A nice town where children are punished for the sins of their parents. Years after the town’s adults tracked down and murdered Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a preschool custodian believed to be a child molester, teenagers begin having dreams about a clawed man in a green and red sweater donning a fedora. As these teens begin violently dying in their sleep one by one, it soon becomes clear that these are no ordinary nightmares. Hmm, do you think there’s a connection between these characters and why they are all having the same nightmares?

A remake of Wes Craven’s 1984 film of the same name, Elm Street falls short of the original in just about every aspect, though most noticeably in character development. None of the lead
protagonists are even remotely relatable, let alone likeable. Nancy (Rooney Mara) is not the typical virginal heroine of the slasher genre – instead she is an annoyingly angsty painter who fails to smile once throughout the course of the film. Her pseudo boyfriend, Quentin (Kyle Gallner), is a pill-popping head case who looks like he is attempting to fill the vacant spot in Fall Out Boy. Although it would be a stretch to say the audience truly wants to see these characters suffer, it would also not be unreasonable to suggest that they might begin grinning a little bit when Edward Scissorhands’ cousin is seen lurking behind the brats.

One would think that the film would have at least been able to approach the original in terms of special effects, given the 26-year gap in technology. Unfortunately, an overreliance on computer generated effects removes any appearance of realism from the movie, instead looking cheap rather than advanced. Attempts to recreate scenes from the original, such as the sequence where a teen watches his girlfriend meet her demise while levitating above her bed, do not look nearly as impressive as one would hope. It is frustrating that a low-budget film that is over two decades old looks more realistic than what is being churned out today. Clearly, computer effects will never look as good as actual stunt work. Once again, it would appear that money cannot buy everything.

Elm Street’s biggest problem is that it spells out every little detail for the audience. At one point in the film, one of the characters, in a revelation of ingenious proportions, exclaims, “You die in your sleep, you die in real life!” Since this is the film’s central plot gimmick, it should be assumed that audiences would be able to understand this premise from, oh, maybe the first five minutes. Instead, scriptwriters insult viewer intelligence by worrying that the audience will be too dense to pick up on the not-too-subtle context clues sprinkled throughout the film.

Furthermore, in the original film, the exact nature of Freddy’s crimes against young children was left up to audience interpretation. Conversely, this remake insists upon an unpleasant pedophilia subplot that hurts the film’s chances of simply being an entertaining thrill ride. Why sink the film, already dark enough with its abundantly violent content, into a realm of exceedingly uncomfortable subject matter?

Nevertheless, Elm Street does have some minor bright spots. The film’s strongest aspect is Haley, who manages to reinterpret the Freddy Krueger persona to match his creepy brand of character acting, much akin to what he did with the Rorschach character in Watchmen. Although many longtime fans will never accept another actor in the role besides Robert Englund, the man who played Freddy for the franchise’s previous eight movies, it is hard to deny that Haley has fashioned a terrifying revision of the character. Gruesomely deformed and gleeful over any opportunity to inflict pain, Freddy Krueger is once again a villain horrific enough to make anyone want to give up sleep.

At best, Elm Street reestablishes the creepy vibe that had been missing from the franchise for years. Gone are Freddy’s cringe-worthy one-liners and the cartoonish dream sequences that had been associated with this series since the late 1980s. However, this update does not really offer anything new beyond the typical conventions associated with such films. If you truly have a hankering to spend quality time with Krueger, you are better off just renting the original – at least you will get to witness a performance by a young Johnny Depp, years before it was evident that he would become a Hollywood legend.