In Defense of the Nightmare on Elm Street Remake

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Remakes, like taxes, are inevitable if you’re a horror fan.  Nothing is sacred anymore.  Every one of your faves has either been remade, rebooted, or reimagined.  From the holy grail of horror like PSYCHO, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and HALLOWEEN to B-grade horror films like PROM NIGHT, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and AMITYVILLE HORROR, just about every noteworthy horror film of the past had a reinvention of sorts. (Maybe with the exception of THE EXORCIST but that came back as an outstanding TV series. Damn you, Fox!).  So, of course, it was only a matter of time when my personal favorite, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET would get the remake treatment.  Swapping Wes Cravens societal commentary on the modern broken family for shiny objects and loud noises, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 disappointed fans and critics alike and scared Freddy away from the silver screen for nearly a decade.  But was this Samuel Bayer-directed remake the worst thing to hit the celluloid since SHOWGIRLS: EXPOSED (please find the trailer.  You’ll thank me.) or have fans (mostly me) softened on this movie over the years?  Here are 10 5 reasons why the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake isn’t the trash I thought it once was.

5. A scary Freddy Kruger

Robert Englund has effectively retired from the role of Freddy Krueger.  Even though he made an appearance on a recent episode of THE GOLDBERGS and said he may “have one more in him” the man will be 72 in a few weeks.  Let him chillax and swim in the money he made from Krueger.  This isn’t meant to come across as ageist, but realistic.  For the series to continue the producers would need to find an actor willing to play Freddy for the foreseeable future, which is why a new actor was required.  Jackie Earle Haley had the thankless job of taking over the fedora-wearing murderer.  Haley’s version brought Freddy back to his dark roots which we truly haven’t seen since A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE.  While this Kreuger cracks a few jokes, they come across as more threatening and menacing than comedic.  This Krueger was pissed; not auditioning for SNL.  Haley did the best he could with the material he was given and knowing his performance would be compared to the legendary Robert Englund was no easy task.  His shorter stature than Englund didn’t make him any less scary.  It reminded me of the beginning of the original film, where a shorter Freddy was chasing Tina down the alley. This version of Freddy Krueger was the bright spot of this soulless remake.

4. Solid Acting

While I love the original film, I can agree with the popular sentiment that the acting was uneven at best.  Some of the more wooden actors gave better performances in other films, so I’m gonna chalk their acting up to a “bad day” during filming.  The actors in the remake were more seasoned and were able to show fear, vulnerability, and in some cases, strength throughout.  While Rooney Mara clearly didn’t want to be on set, and it showed in her performance, the twenty-somethings cast as teenagers seemed to enjoy being in a NOES film and like Headly, rose above the material they were given.

3. Micro-naps

Aside from changing Freddy’s backstory from a child murderer to a child molester, the remake did very little to distinguish itself from the 1984 original.  The only other original element in this film is the introduction of micro-naps, which is the annoying ability to quickly sleep and dream without knowing.  This provided another avenue for Freddy to claim his victims and it did up the ante of terror in this installment.

2. The Kills

By the third installment, the kills became more outlandish and over the top.  Each kill had more to do with the victim’s personality or individual fear rather than Freddy trapping them in the dream world and killing them.  This change was actually a good thing until you get to FREDDY’S DEAD where Freddy’s using the Nintendo Power Glove to off a victim.  The remake went back to basics and each victim’s death was at the hands of Freddy directly- not death by cockroach motel.

1.  This film is Not FREDDY’S DEAD

Hear me out- even at it’s worst, the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series was better than most.  It was more imaginative, had fleshed out characters, and overall better acting.  However, that credibility stretched pretty thin with the sixth outing, FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE.  While not a bad movie, FD is the worst of the original series.  At this point, Freddy Krueger was no longer scary and became a joke of his original self.  The dark, gothic atmosphere introduced in NIGHTMARE 5 was traded in for the gloomy, sardonic, TWIN PEAKS-tone.  The remake attempted to course-correct the various tones of the original series and return it to it’s dark, horror-driven roots.  While all the humor was left out of the movie this can be excused if seen as an attempt to exemplify the darkness and cruelty of Freddy.

As much as I tried to put lipstick on a pig, I still really dislike the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET REMAKE.  However, I can’t be mad at any new film featuring Freddy stalking the teens in Springwood.  My only hope is that with a new film supposedly on the horizon, the powers that be learn from the mistakes of this retelling and truly take the story in a new direction.  I also hope the audience welcomes whoever takes over the role of Freddy Krueger because, unfortunately, Robert Englund can’t play him forever.

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