Thursday, May 6, 2010

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) - 2/5 stars

Release: 2010
Director: Samuel Bayer
Writer: Wesley Strick and Eric Hesserer (screenplay), Wes Craven (original characters)
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton, Lia D. Mortensen
Soundtrack: Steve Jablonsky, Charles Bernstein (themes)
Claim to fame: a remake of the beloved 1984 horror film by Wes Craven; the latest of Michael Bay's horror remakes (following "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th")
Rating: 2/5 stars


Most fans of the the original "Nightmare" were ready to write off this remake from the get-go: it's from a first time director, produced by Michael Bay, and Wes Craven wasn't even asked for his blessing, let alone given any creative involvement.

For my part, I tried to be cautiously optimistic. I love horror movies but haven't exactly been enjoying Platinum Dunes' string of remakes, particularly the "Friday the 13th" one, which was borderline unwatchable.


This is never a good sign

However, I feel like the concept of the "Nightmare" series is so strong - someone who can kill you in your dreams - that it easily lends itself to being remade or reconfigured over time. Why let the series remain dormant when there's so much potential there?


The remake ended up disappointing me, but I can't say there aren't things to like about it. I appreciated that the movie made an attempt, even if it was half-hearted, to use a movie monster as a metaphor for adolescents trying to recover from the trauma of being sexually abused as children.


But even that begs the question: should you really use such dark and serious subject matter in what is, essentially, a low-budget slasher flick designed to make a lot of money its opening weekend and then fade away forever?

Probably not. Because they bungled the ending - the crucial scene where the two remaining survivors realize that they were indeed the victims of molestation at the hands of Fred Krueger - the whole movie just felt exploitative.


I liked the fact that the guys in the cast were not your usual cadre of jocks, stoners, or "bros just trying to get laid," who you root for the killer to pick off. The male actors, particularly Kyle Gallner and Thomas Dekker, were portrayed as masculine yet vulnerable, and were allowed to cry and be scared for their lives.

The line that you've probably heard in the trailer ("Why are you screaming? I haven't even cut you yet") is actually said to Dekker. That may sound slight, but I find it extremely refreshing when a studio horror movie manages to subvert genre norms and portray the male characters as being more than just tough guys with constant hard-ons.



Kyle Gallner, in particular, was fun to watch. He has ridiculously pale skin and this constant poe-faced expression on his face, like he's watching his entire family butchered before his very eyes *forever*. Either that or he had some bad Mexican food.


"My whole life is a dark room..."



The Joy Division t-shirt he wears in a few scenes was a nice touch as well. In real life, Gallner is probably just another arrogant Hollywood prettyboy but in this movie he managed to convince me he was a sensitive and tortured soul. Good job.


"Is it okay if I cry by your locker?"

Thomas Dekker I'd seen before in the short-lived but not half-bad "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" on Fox. He gave a decent performance on the show but he was still probably the wussiest and most emo John Connor of all time (who ever thought we'd miss Edward Furlong?).

In "Nightmare," his part is fairly underwritten - is he an outcast like Gallner or a prep or what? Does he listen to Bright Eyes? - but I suppose he makes the most of it.


"Hey Kendra, did you like that mix CD I made you? I gotta know!"

The opening scene has him and Gallner sitting at a table at an all-night diner with another kid (who we never see again) - it's after midnight, they're dressed in all black, and they all look very brooding and intense…so my guess is that they were either in the midst of a marathon Dungeons & Dragons session (that's what the black t-shirt set does at the diners near my house) or they're closeted gay lovers. Unfortunately, the movie never explores that angle.


Dekker seems to be wearing eyeliner during the entire film, even during a funeral scene, but I've been told that it's just his long eyelashes.


See: eyeliner at a funeral! I am telling you.

Only the gothest of the goth do that.

The jury is still out on that one, but I had to laugh at the scene where he gets thrown in a prison cell with a rough-looking older dude.


Whatever you do, Thomas...


don't drop the soap!

Clearly my mind was wandering during this remake. On to what you actually want to hear about: this movie's interpretation of Freddy Krueger. Jackie Earl Haley was great as Freddy but the character was not written consistently. During the first half of the movie, he is creepy and menacing, and his dialogue is sinister. He was pretty much what I was hoping to see from Haley.


Then during the finale, he turns into the old-wise cracking Freddy from the sequels with some sexual oneliners that felt in poor taste ("How's that for a wet dream?!" etc.). It doesn't help that, unlike in the original, Freddy doesn't even have any SCENES. Whenever he shows up in the film, it's always for short instances or jump scares. He doesn't get to inhabit the movie the way Robert Englund did.


I get that they were trying to make Freddie look more like an actual

burn victim, but all it does is make him seem strangely cat-like

I didn't feel like the flashbacks of Freddy's origin were consistent with his personality in the rest of the film. In these idyllic visions of the past, he's a nice guy who gets along well with children. We are later told that he, in fact, led the kids to a cave under the school where he abused them.


When Freddy shows up in the Elm Street teens' dreams, he's a deranged pervert that can't wait to

kill everybody and have his way with Nancy. I can see where this incarnation of Freddy would be angry enough to want to murder the kids, since their folks burned him alive, but I don't think he would have any sexual interest in a post-puberty Nancy if he was actually a child molester.


Again, to most people these are "nitpicks" but my notion is always, if you're going to tackle a serious subject like a pedophiliac killer - even in a horror movie - then be true to it. Or, at the very least, put some thought into it/do your research. A movie can be depressing at times and still entertain.

The "Nightmare" brand name is going to get butts in theater seats no matter what, so why not be ambitious with the material instead of settling for a lazy string of jump-scares to fill your 90 minute running time? On that note, if I ever make a horror movie you can better believe there won't be any jump scares.


As latter-sequel Freddie would say, "Don't dream and drive!"

Really, all the flashbacks did were make me think back to "Little Children" and how that was a much better movie. Poor Jackie Earl Haley…I really hope he doesn't have to play a child molester again for the rest of his career. He seems like a super nice guy in real life and in "Nightmare" he's definitely better than the material he's given.


Rooney Mara is TERRIBLE as Nancy. According to IMDB, she was born in New York but her voice sounds like she's speaking in a Canadian accent, with marbles in her mouth. It's like she's auditioning for a mumblecore movie.

She has nothing on Heather Langenkamp's plucky protagonist from the first film. The filmmakers try to play this Nancy as an angsty oddball who paints in her room during all hours of the night and doesn't fit in at school, but Mara doesn't feel authentic in the role.


Pictured: Rooney Mara is forced to endure her own performance

It goes without saying that the special effects don't hold up nearly as well as the original. Most of the effects are CGI and look cheap. Apparently the computer technology for a "creepy face morphing through a wall" hasn't evolved at all since Peter Jackson's "The Frighteners" back in 1998, and I swear that the holographic illusion poster that was in theaters for that flick was more impressive than what I saw in this "Nightmare."


The screenwriters seemed to snatch the most iconic moments from the original "Nightmare" at random. The scene where Freddy's hand emerges from the water as Nancy takes a bath is there, arbitrarily, for a split second. Basically just so they could put it in the trailer.


I caught a weekday showing of the film last night so I only spent $5. I don't regret the purchase but I did walk out of the movie feeling like it was not all I had hoped it would have been. There was potential in the script. But the kids in the movie are given terrible dialogue and don't seem to have actual relationships.

Their conversations are glib exchanges that do nothing to flesh out the characters as people, or convey how they feel about each other or what's happening to them. At one point, Kyle Gallner and the actress playing Nancy are reduced to a "What's your favorite color?" conversation. These kids literally have NOTHING to talk about. It's a shame.


A scene from the trailer...that's not in the final movie

Look, I'm not asking for "Mysterious Skin" with Freddy Krueger inserted in, I just want a little bit of character development and a serious contemplation of the after-affects of child abuse. I know it's "just" a horror movie, but the concept of "Nightmare" begs for it - and considering that this depth is what I would try to put in the script myself if I were writing it, I don't think it's asking for too much.

Instead of making a sad film, they cast sad-looking actors and called it a day. Director Samuel Bayer's previous credits include Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music videos, which I suppose makes sense as here he shows he understands the look of teen angst but nothing about what's actually behind it. Another rewrite with some polish could have made this a darker, more genuine movie instead of just a late-April stinker.


You could seriously make another movie from all the clips in the trailer
that aren't in the actual movie...


  1. FYI, your title says "2/2 stars".

    Anyway, that isn't the reason I am commenting. I should just tweet this because it isn't going to add that much to the conversation, but, whatever.

    I don't know why this is, but it's the way I am: I love the original movies (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.), but whenever I see that a remake is being done, I get excited, and I find myself NEEDING to jump to the theatre to check it out. I really don't know why, I guess, but I do.

    Maybe it's because I enjoy the original so much that I just want to see anything else related to it? I don't know, maybe.

    To be honest, I haven't been disappointed until this one. I thoroughly enjoyed Rob Zombie's "re-imagining" of Halloween (the first one; I thoroughly disliked the second movie); the Friday the 13th "re-imagining" as well; and I liked the Last House on the Left remake (aside from that stomach-churning rape scene). I think this is the reason I disliked the latest Nightmare movie so much - it was too different from the original to be a remake, but not original enough to be a re-imagining. It lies somewhere in between the two, and, because of this, loses all the thunder it could have garnered from me.

    With that said, will I come to see the second one? You know it, because I am a sucker like that. They OK'ed the sequel after this weekend once this movie did so well, and it is going to be in 3D, so I will check it out to see if they can do any better.

    I will say that I enjoyed Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy, but I got distracted because his voice sounds SO much like his voice in Watchmen (now, if that is his REAL, then power to him, and I just need to get used to it). I will be interested to see how he does in the sequel.

    Alright, that is all. Nice review! I just wanted to add in my thoughts on the film as well, which, basically, are right on par with yours.

    Oh, and I agree that Nancy was shit compared to the original!

  2. HUGE fan of the original. Nice review. Very much agree with what you said.
    However, the remake's redeeming part WAS the fact that Freddy was a child molester. He's supposed to be evil incarnate and if he had been innocent, they would have utterly castrated the villain...
    Just my 2 cents