Monday, May 3, 2010


Director: Samuel Bayer

Starring: Rooney Mara, Jackie Earle Haley

I'm a horror fan. When I was little I used to sneak on my 12-inch TV (which boasted the fact it was a color television) and watch horror films long after my parents were asleep. Child's Play. Friday the 13th. Night of the Living Dead. And a little film called "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

For the next two weeks I had the reoccurring nightmare of Freddy Krueger chasing me down my road or taking me from my home. I began sleeping with my legs tucked up to my chest in fear he could grab my feet under the covers. I began jumping into bed with a running start so he couldn't grab my ankles from under the bed. As I grew up and the movie seemed more campy than scary I still believed that the premise of 'Elm Street was an absolutely perfect recipe for a horror film and yet the sequels never seemed to live up to the expectations.

Enter 2010. Over the last decade I've abandoned interest in slasher films and most of my horror watching seems to be supernaturally based. I've seen my favorite horror films remade into something so bad that Ed Wood would have walked out of the theater. I heard from a friend that "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was being remade and I expected it to be a failure. That feeling was amplified when Robert Englund was not expected to portray Freddy. Would a new 'Elm Street film work? Or would it be an atrocity like "Freddy vs Jason" was? Or a total joke like any other 'Elm Street sequel?

Sitting in the theater I began to feel excited but this excitement was almost always followed by the thought of how much I was going to hate this remake in two hours. Two hours passed and I felt... pretty good.

The remake of 'Elm Street has a lot of great things working for it. The backstory of Freddy is told a lot better than the original film. Although anything I would say about this backstory would spoil the film, I will say that Freddy's backstory is very similar to the original 1984 script before the producers felt that his backstory would be too controversial for the times and made changes to the shooting script. The diehard fans know what I'm referring to. This (finally) takes Freddy away from the black-humored villain that we had seen in the earlier films and into someone much more revolting.

I felt in the original, even with the changed backstory, Krueger's story was brushed over and we didn't get a good feel on why he does what he does. The remake ties up any loose ends that have remained untouched over the last twenty-six years and it's very effective. Not only does Bayer and company rid Freddy of the black-humor personality but have also made changes to the look of Freddy as well. I know a lot of diehard fans have hated the new make-up changes Freddy has but I feel they are more realistic and also distinguish Haley's Freddy from Englund's version.

A problem I had in the film, besides the often weak acting, was the overuse of the "jumpscares" in the film. The original 'Elm Street didn't have to rely on loud noises to scare the audience but instead used atmosphere and creepy images. I realize the place for jumpscares in modern horror films and I'm guilty of using one as well but when you have a such a rich atmosphere in the dream world to work with I don't think you need them. Nothing will take you more out of a film than a clearly super-imposed image of Freddy's face jumping out in a dark closet. I also feel the remake relied too much on cliches including my favorite when Nancy hides in the closet and watches through the cracks as Freddy looks for her. Really? This is his world that he knows everything about and he wouldn't know that Nancy is 3 feet away in the closet?

This version doesn't completely move away from the original 'Elm Street formula as fans of the original will notice that many scenes from the 1984 film have also been remade in this version. It still does use creepy imagery but I felt it should have been done more instead of Freddy jumping out of the shadows with a loud noise to let the audience know this should scare them. And I must admit that they new style of Freddy is definitely more dark and sinister (not to mention more dimensional) from the one in the past. I would make the metaphor of this being "The Dark Knight" to the Tim Burton "Batman" if this was actually as good as "The Dark Knight."

Still, it's pretty darn good. And that's something you don't see in many horror remakes anymore.

Jay's Rating: 8/10

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