Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – Reviewing bad movies…

Fredrick Charles Krueger AKA The Springwood Slasher has been terrorizing sleepy children across the big screen for over 26 years. Wes Cravens’ cutlery clad icon has been the villain throughout an extensive horror franchise, however, one film, in particular, remains a stand out disappointment.

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) took a classic introduction to a once in a generation cinematic legend and remade it into a hollow pastiche of its former self. It’s easy to question how something so established could possibly go wrong? So put on your best stripy murder jumper, as we take a closer look….

Recipe for success

At the helm of this 2010 reboot was none other than the master of the multi-generational gloom rock music video, Samuel Bayer. Famous for directing music videos such as Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Green Day’s American Idiot’ and My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade’. All which elevated everyone involved engaged their adolescent audiences, whilst embedding each project firmly into that generations zeitgeist.

You then give Bayer a modest budget of $35 million and a cast of young attractive actors and you have exactly what the original Nightmare on Elm Street had to make their classic… and more!

Let’s not underestimate the magnitude of this project. Yes, it’s a remake of a horror classic, but if you were going to do it, on paper this is how you should do it.

A director who has a proven track record of creating timeless visuals that inspire a generation, a small but decent budget, a fresh cast… oh and one of the most famous characters of all time. How could something that looks so right, go so wrong?

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

The Final Girl

What made Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy so special in the 1984 original, was not only did she conform to the horror trope of the the final girl’, but she was built to be a genuine rival to Krueger.

In defence of the remake, many of Nancy’s original scenes that made the film so special are recreated. From the glove and bath scene to the body dragged along the school floor. All the hits are played, but they just go through the motions.

The original Nancy has a psychotic breakdown in class and extensive medical test before she is forced to try and save her ragtag bunch of teen friends. Whilst, modern Nancy learns of her childhood trauma at the hands of Krueger, yet reminds the pray until the very final scenes of the film.

This rushed character arc and lacklustre delivery simply makes Nancy less engaging overall, and by the final scenes… you don’t really care if she survives.

Freddie Kroug-urgh

Much like the updated version of Nancy, the films main character has a lot taken away, only to be replaced by a vast chasm of nothingness. Reworked Freddy doesn’t pay homage to the campy style, doesn’t use new effects to heighten his gruesome nature and doesn’t even try to invert that by using realism.

The iconic original line from Jesse “oh god” matched with Freddie’s reveal of the knifed glove and the line “no, this is god.’ Is replaced by “oh god” and the response of “no… just me’. Safe to say this falls flat and deliberately abandons a great moment in favour of nothing; a running theme throughout this remake.

The tone is off throughout the 2010 horror, producer Brad Fuller revealed that they were abandoning some of the franchises’ campy nature for this reboot. “Freddy would not be “cracking jokes” as had become a staple of his character in later sequels—and focus more on trying to craft a horrifying movie.”.

The imagery of this film does comply with this mission statement in all fairness. The overuse of gritty, dark lighting that plagued so many films in the late 2000s runs throughout this remake, yet the silly double entendres and one-liners’ still creep in.

For every battle in a boiler room, there is a how’s this for a wet dream’ line to take the sting out of it. At least the original films kept to one tone. Either full-on slasher flick dialogue or darker realism. The attempt at both is just juxtaposing.

A Slasher Film to Sleep Too

One main issue with this remake is that there is a lack of anything memorable happening. In a film about a maniacal daemon trying to kill people when they fall asleep… it ironically becomes a snooze fest.

Apart from the recreation of the original films dream sequences, there isn’t much of note. The tension that is slowly built up throughout the scenes of the original film are done so perfectly, yet replaced by cheap jump scares in 2010.

A perfect example of this is the scene with Rufus the dog. In the 1984 film, there is an insinuation that Freddy is at Tina’s house as the barking stops and the dog goes missing. In 2010 Kris just finds her murdered canine on the grass… There is no mystique, no tension, just straight to the reveal. Of all things to keep in this film… that method of storytelling was crucial.

A Fresh Take Toned Down

Jackie Earle Haley was set to play the new Freddy that, whilst not a full origin story, was getting a refreshed background. Instead of a maniacal child killer, Freddie was going to be a sadistic child molester. This was Cravens original intention for the character, however, he went with simply alluding to this in favour of mystery. The remake spells it out and uses it as a narrative device to explain how all the main characters are survivors of Freddie.

Throughout the 2010 remake, the teens of Springwood battle their dead abuser that’s set out to claim his victims in a dream world, that’s pretty much the same as their reality. Whilst a horror film that tackles the topics of sexual abuse could have been poignant, the studio of Platinum Dunes scaled this back in favour of wider appeal and in fashion’ tropes of the genre.

This again sums up the missed opportunity of this remake. They wanted to make Freddy a sexual predator, yet compromised with a half-baked version that offers very little. In reality, this removes all purpose of a remake if you’re not retelling the old story or really telling a fresh one.

Actor Thomas Dekker told Screen Geek, “Okay, we’re going to open up the mythology of Freddy Krueger, we’re going to make him darker and actually explore the idea of child sexual abuse and those are all the things that interested me. Of course, at the end of the day when you have to put it in 1,000 theatres or more, you have to shy away from those things and just make it a sell-able entity. So I think you can’t really start judging the leaves of a tree if the seed is f—ked.”

Whilst studio interference is often the scapegoat for bad movies, Platinum Dunes’ long for a payday may have held back a much darker and daring Elm Street remake.

Uncomfortable Undertones

Due to the new undercooked backstory, Freddy was given in 2010, a strange and unnecessary undercurrent is apparent. Since they quickly speed through the reveal that Freddy was a child abuser before we see him fleeing from an angry mob, it’s almost as if seeds of doubt are deliberately placed to make Freddy the victim; therefore justifying why he’s hunting these teens in their sleep.

A decade later and I’m still not sure what the purpose would be to try to add sympathy to one of the most recognisable serial killers in cinematic history. This section of the film casts doubt on why we should invest in the character and is another hearty shake of the already flimsy narrative of this film.

We could have gotten updated sequences of Freddy shapeshifting through weapons and objects to torment his victims, yet instead, we were offered a crying paedo running from a mob…

A New Nightmare

From dream warriors and sleep daemons, the Elm St films have a rich cannon to pull from. The groundwork was already laid which made the 2010 output feel like an unsatisfactory, pointless cash grab.

Whilst there were many wrong turns throughout this movie, I can suggest not one, but two alternative ways this could have been a better story.

The first, you make the film they intended to make. Yes, this may not have been under the official Elm St’ banner, but it could have been a dark origin story of Freddy and vigilante justice. It could have followed the young outcast, played on the early sequels by introducing his mother, the nun. Then introduced his fascination with the paranormal which could introduce his supernatural transformation following his death.

In return, a cast of teens that the audience are invested in is built by having a more sincere reveal of their past. Rather than spoon-feeding the narrative in a monologue, a character could discover they have a deceased older sibling that was one of Freddie’s first victims; therefore tying the two narratives together.

Alternatively, you go full Freddy’ and play of the supernatural element by having a shapeshifting daemon become larger than life thanks to modern technology in cinema. The reality of the teen’s world and Freddie’s psychedelic nightmare land remain separate until they are required to merge, and his prey are engulfed into Freddie’s own fairground. The mystery of the character remains, yet we have a fresh paranormal tale that firmly establishes a new era of Krueger.

A Fresh Freddie?

it’s only a matter of time before we all return to Elm St. Elijah Wood has mentioned that he would like to take a pop at a recreation and the original Freddy himself, Robert Englund suggested he could dust off the fedora one more time. “I could do one more, probably, if you shot me up with Vitamin C. I can’t do eight more, so we need a new actor that you guys believe in and trust and love that can go the distance.”

Overall, the 2010 film planned the right moves, yet failed to deliver by falling into the money-hungry traps of its 2000s remake-obsessed bedfellows. Whilst this will remain a disappointing reimagining, a classic franchise much like Freddie, is immortal.

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