A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
A brainwavez.org Film Review

South Africa By: Robert Lemmer on 9 November 2010
Category: Screen > Film > Reviews
Tags: #horror
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Freddy's back, creepier than ever - but not in a good way. An updated story with a tweaked origin for the 21st century makes this horror remake more serious than most of its predecessors and it ventures into territory most audiences wouldn't want to think about while enjoying a slasher film.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)Hollywood does not like to let go of an idea, especially if it has done well in the past, so much so that it makes you wonder when the industry ever had original ideas to begin with. Sequels and remakes are the uninspiring bread and butter of the industry. A Nightmare On Elm Street is a good example of how Hollywood will take something audiences have enjoyed in the past and make them think they are seeing something new, when they are just seeing something done badly: a ploy to get them in those seats. Greed made this movie, and greed made it bad.

The standard formula of the A Nightmare On Elm Street movies, which first debuted in 1984 and comprised eight films (the last being released in 2003), consists of the story of a group of young teenagers who begin to have nightmares of a severely burned man named Freddy Krueger who is dressed in a distinctive green-and-red-striped jersey and fedora and who wears a clawed glove on his right hand. A Nightmare On Elm Street, a remake of the original film in the series, is therefore no different. The teenagers start to die as Freddy infiltrates their dreams and kills them while they're asleep and those left alive must find out who he is and how to stop him before they too meet an untimely demise. The tension is built as the teenagers become worn down in their attempts to stay awake – their only way to stay alive – as they try to survive long enough to save themselves.

Jackie Earle Haley is perfect as Freddy Krueger, both before and after he's burnt. There is something just inherently creepy and unsavoury about Haley, which made him such a good Rorschach in Watchmen and now a good replacement for Robert Englund in A Nightmare On Elm Street. Englund originated the role and I think most people watching this film will either have seen one or more of the original films, or will at least have some awareness of who Freddy Krueger is and what he looks like. Fans of the franchise are fans of Englund as Krueger. Someone new in the role will struggle to impress them. To make new movies with the character requires a new actor to put on the glove and makeup as a 60-something-year-old Englund cannot still do all he could when he first began to haunt teens' dreams.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

New Freddy looks very much the same as old Freddy, from afar. Get closer, or when the light in the scene reveals more of Freddy's face, which happens too often, and you are shown the visage of a burn victim: more accurate to real life and yet not as scary as Englund's less realistic, but more menacing, makeup from the original film.

Freddy and the A Nightmare On Elm Street films became progressively more camp and funny than scary after the first film and it's refreshing to have a less talkative Freddy in the remake. He still gets his one liners, but they are more likely to make you wince than chuckle. This is down to the tweak that the makers of this film made to Freddy's origin.

Whereas Freddy was a child murderer in the original films, in this remake he is a child molester, a paedophile. Therefore, him terrorising a female victim and referring to her smell being different from when she was a child made me very uncomfortable, and not in a slasher-film way. Slasher films are watched not so much because we like to see some young people overcome death and somehow outsmart the monster but because we like to be scared and want to see how the monster kills its victims. The constant in a slasher-film franchise is the monster. Heroes and heroines come and go but the monster is always there. Audiences are often rooting more for the monster than its victims. I could not enjoy this film because I could not enjoy Freddy. That left me with the victims.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

The two main protagonists of the film, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner), are nothing special and do not stand out amongst Freddy's other victims. Nancy is an outsider and a bit of a loner who feels she doesn't fit in. Mara plays Nancy in an emotionless and uninteresting way. It felt as though she was never fully committed to playing the character. A straight up victim in the interesting film Jennifer's Body, which I felt was very contemporary with its exploration of high school from the female perspective, and had a good balance of comedy, horror, and sex, Gallner graduates to the role of protagonist in A Nightmare On Elm Street. This is unfortunately not much of a step up for the young actor. He has a moping expression on his face throughout the film, as though he might burst out crying at any moment. And he can't seem to close his mouth, ever.

The majority of the scenes in the film, the ones meant to be scary, are lifted directly from the original film, often with little or no alteration. Some of them even come off worse in the remake than in the original because of the use of CGI. Compared to the original film, and Johnny Depp's infamous death scene, the remake has nothing new to offer in gory kills. There is little variety, and Freddy tends to continue to use his claws. The film mostly goes for sudden jump-out-of-your-seat cheap scares rather than a general mood of horror.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Music in a horror film can elevate a moment from just unsettling to grab-your-partner's arm scary with the sudden scraping of violins, the crash of timpani, or melodies simply playing softly and discordantly beneath a scene. In A Nightmare On Elm Street the music serves the shallow scares adequately, moving from menacing to peaceful as the scene requires.

There are some interesting little effects in the film and the transitions from real life to dream world were sometimes impressive, making the crossover obvious. Other times the crossover was more subtle, something the original played with a lot better though. Not knowing helps build suspense more effectively as you, and the characters, are not immediately aware that the characters are in danger, and the inevitable appearance of Freddy is scarier. Sticking to the original film too closely removes suspense from the remake for anyone who's seen the original, and the suspense that remains in the film is often so obviously set up that you are constantly on the lookout for the scare. This remake does not go against any horror-film conventions, rather it plays right into them.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Unlike Rob Zombie's Halloween and Halloween II (Zombie successfully condenses a franchise's convoluted story into two films with a slightly more humanistic approach to Michael Meyers and great retro-70s style cinematography) and the Michael Bay-produced Friday The 13th (a film that keeps the audience guessing and brilliantly reproduces modern American youth stereotypes), which update their monsters effectively for a modern audience A Nightmare On Elm Street simultaneously sticks too close to its source material, making it very unoriginal and causing the suspense to be diluted if you are familiar with the first film, and diverges too far with its updated story, leaving you feeling dirty when the film is finished. It is technically a competent film, with creative transitions and effects, but its story made me wish I had paid to see the film so I could ask for my money back.

The movie screening for review purposes was courtesy of Nu Metro.

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Rating: 3/10
In One Word: Retread

Key Facts: A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
Year: 2010
Running Time: 95 minutes (approx)
Genre: Action, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Feature; Widescreen 1:2.35; Colour
Language: English
Country: USA
Official Site: http://www.nightmareonelmstreet.com/
Director: Samuel Bayer
Jackie Earle Haley ... Freddy Krueger
Rooney Mara ... Nancy Holbrook
Kyle Gallner ... Quentin Smith
Katie Cassidy ... Kris Fowles
Thomas Dekker ... Jesse Braun
Kellan Lutz ... Dean Russell
Clancy Brown ... Alan Smith
Connie Britton ... Gwen Holbrook
Michael Bay ... producer
Richard Brener ... executive producer
Mike Drake ... executive producer
Andrew Form... producer
Bradley Fuller... producer
Russell Streiner ... producer
Wesley Strick ... writer
Eric Heisserer ... writer
Original Music: Steve Jablonsky
Cinematography: Jeff Cutter
Film Editing: Glen Scantlebury
Casting: Lisa Fields
Production Design: Patrick Lumb
Art Direction: Craig Jackson
Set Decoration: Karen Frick
Costume Design: Marian Ceo

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