October Horrorshow: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

There have been quite a number of zombie sightings on Missile Test this October. It is the October Horrorshow, when the site is dedicated to watching and reviewing horror films, but believe it or not, there are other iconic creatures that inhabit the catalogue of horror cinema. One of those icons is Freddy Krueger, the brainchild of horror auteur Wes Craven. Since his original Elm Street film appeared in 1984, and the last in the series in 2003, it was past time for Hollywood to milk this cow one more time. They chose to do so with a remake, or a reboot, as the popular industry term would have it.

Gone is Robert Englund, who, as Freddy Krueger, played the largest hand in bringing the character to life. In his place the producers of the new film cast Jackie Earle Haley, a long way from his days as a child actor in the Bad News Bears franchise. I wouldn’t say Haley was an inspired choice for the lead, but once he was attached to the project, it made perfect sense. This was a bad movie, a downright dirty dog, but that wasn’t Haley’s fault. He was good. His Freddy is a real nasty sonofabitch, devoid of the banal humor that was part of the original series. Some people liked it when Freddy Kruger would torture his victims with bad puns before slicing them into little bits. I did not. Before this remake was even announced, I remember thinking to myself that Freddy was a character who could benefit from a more serious treatment. As far as that went, I think the character of Freddy Krueger did indeed benefit. After all, the man is a murdered, crazed and scarred pedophile who has a continued morbid fascination with children. This fellow is supposed to be funny?

The plot once again focuses on a group of teenagers (all so uniformly bad in this film that they deserve no mention by name) whom Freddy is stalking and slaughtering in their dreams. If you die in your dreams, you die in real life. The teens have no clue why this is happening to them, and their mission becomes discovering who this freaky looking man is, and why he insists on terrorizing them in their sleep. Along the way, Freddy drops bodies, leaving only a couple members of the cast left to figure out a way to stop him. The movie revolves around a fantastical premise, that you can be haunted by real evil when you sleep, but despite this, it’s a simple idea. Sleep, and you get killed. Eventually, no matter how hard you try, you will need sleep, and you will get killed. The only tough part for the writers is to figure out how to break this vicious cycle. No worries there. They just ripped off and tweaked the method from the original film. That’s what remakes are for, after all. The heavy lifting was done decades beforehand, and this new flick is all about profit.

Character development is something that gets bandied about in film reviews. Some films are said to succeed despite there being little character development, while others are said to fail because there was a lack of character development. A Nightmare on Elm Street opened up a new avenue I hadn’t considered before. There is no character development in this film, but that’s not all. Five minutes in, a viewer has to make so many assumptions regarding the characters that I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t accidentally fast-forwarded through the first twenty minutes of the film. It’s odd, but the filmmakers seem to have felt that the franchise was so familiar to so many people that there was no need to set up the plot at all. Just throw in the characters, add cheesy dialogue and fake blood, and stir.

The plot relies on previous knowledge so much that Elm Street plays more like the second part of a television miniseries than a standalone film. This wasn’t a problem for me, having seen most of the previous Elm Street films, but I kept picturing myself as a newcomer to the films and could easily see how none of what I was watching could make any sense. Worst of all, despite there being a reason Freddy is on his killing spree, until more than halfway through, everything feels random, nothing more than a collage. Add to that a massive shift in direction when a main cast member gets bumped off, and A Nightmare on Elm Street just confirms a viewer’s suspicions that this film was meant as nothing more than a moneymaker for the studio that made it. It succeeded in that, which means there’s a good chance another film will be made. I would like to see that happen, if only because Jackie Earle Haley deserves a fair shake at portraying Freddy in a decent movie. Until that happens, I would much rather watch Alien: Resurrection than the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.