If you are a film fan who was born in the seventies, the last couple of years have been rough. Hollywood has basically been reinventing your childhood with systematic remakes of everything they can think of. Well, they finally got to Freddy.
Now I’m not saying that the original “A Nightmare On Elm Street” was cinematic genius, but they definitely had something there. Those movies were scary for their day. Practical effects made all that viscera look so, well, real. A young Johnny Depp getting sucked into his own water bed and being reduced to a blood geyser… that image will stick with you forever. Robert Englund, with his sly grin and vaudeville-esque puns, made Freddy not only scary but also fun. Repetitive as they may have become, those movies were fun. They were so bad that they were good.
Unfortunately, in 2010, some people would rather rehash an old idea than try to come up with a new way to get kids into movie theatres. So we have the “re-imagining” of “A Nightmare On Elm Street”. “Re-imagining” is a made-up word that means, “Sanctioned rip-off”. It also seems to mean stripping every fiber of creativity from an idea. And that’s exactly what they’ve done here. There are a lot of problems with “Nightmare” 2010, not the least of which is that it’s entirely unremarkable. There are plot holes, poor line delivery, poor lines, and lots of lazy C.G. Frankly, I’m having a hard time remembering any of it because it’s all so bad that it’s actually bad.
If you’re just joining us, “A Nightmare On Elm Street” tells the tale of a supernatural perv named Freddy Krueger who can kill people in their dreams. When he starts stalking a group of teenagers who all live on the titular Elm Street, they must learn the truth about Freddy and his connection to their past in order to finally get a good night’s sleep. Jackie Earl Haley (“Little Children,” “Watchmen”) is gravelly-voiced and weird looking enough to play Freddy in an alternate universe. But in this universe, he’s a mediocre hybrid of Rorschach and Englund’s Freddy. Though it’s not his fault, really. Englund is a tough act to follow, and they don’t give Haley any classic Freddy one-liners until very late in the film. It’s a very noticeable shift in tone, as if they started out trying to make a serious movie and then changed their minds. Before that, he’s just Growly Razorhands. He looks like Freddy but only from a distance. It almost feels like a fan film, or, at best, a Sy-Fy Original Movie. Haley, talented as he is, just can’t nail the role. No one can, because it already belongs to Englund. And therein lies the biggest problem of all. When watching this film, you can never stop thinking about the original movies. When Rob Zombie re-made “Halloween”, he at least managed to make you forget about his source material for a minute. But “Nightmare” director Samuel Bayer hasn’t struck out on his own at all. He’s just made a bad copy.
There are no Johnny Depps in this cast either. There aren’t even any Heather Langenkamps. There are just a bunch of young actors who can scream, bleed, run and die. Not that Gallner, Mara, Cassidy and Dekker have anything to work with. The script is a huge mess. It’s hard to sell lines like “[My therapist] thinks that all my problems come from my past” and “I didn’t kill her. I loved her, man!” The characters have no character to speak of. They let their Joy Division t-shirts, bohemian berets and guyliner do the talking. One boy wears a crucifix because “You’ve gotta believe in something, right?” He’ll never be an effective missionary with that attitude.
This is a town populated by reactionary parents who are terrible, terrible liars. As soon as their children start asking questions, they literally shift their eyes and try to change the subject. One girl asks why she doesn’t remember having gone to preschool with the other kids who are being stalked by Freddy. “Who can remember being five years old?” her mother counters. Uh… everybody? That’s when you usually start to remember stuff. Stuff like having gone to a super creepy preschool on the other side of town and playing hide-and-go-seek in a kiddie porn dungeon with a weird gardener named Freddy. Fortunately, they don’t have to remember. This preschool is still standing 13-years later, abandoned but completely untouched, enabling the kids to conveniently re-discover their past. Pretty much nothing in this movie makes sense. And because there aren’t any compelling characters to distract you from the plot holes, they’re all you can think about as you wait for the running time to tick down.
Of course, they left the film open-ended, so we will have lots more time to ponder these thematic enigmas in the next 10 movies. Freddy can never really die, even if Hollywood beats him like a dead horse.
Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).