Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
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Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

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All film genres occasional create the popular and lucrative franchise but it seems that horror films are far more likely to spawn the greatest number of sequels. Horror series such as ‘Friday the 13th’ and Halloween’ and made their resident bogymen it to pop culture icons. Now these same horror cult classics are being treated to another cinematic trend; the re-imagining or as it is often referred to, the reboot. In this case several elements of the original story are taken and subjected to a re-write with the intention of modernizing the tale. That usually translates to intensify every possible aspect of the original flick by overwhelming violence, blood, gore and gratuitous nudity. In most cases these elements where present in the original movies but nowhere close to the degree found in the newer film. Then you cast the film with the latest generation of Hollywood hopefuls setting the stage for as brand new release of a twenty year old story. The latest horror franchise to head down this path is admittedly one of the most famous horror series in recent history; ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’. The extremely talented Robert England made Freddy Krueger into one of the most chilling and popular supernatural serial killers ever depicted in a horror movie. With his trademark extra crispy complexion and razor sharp blades extending from his fingers Freddy haunted the nightmares of doomed teens for nine films, a television series and several comics and books. The poster for the new film just had to give a glimpse of the infamous fedora hat and stripped sweater to connect the film to its origins; Krueger is that iconic. Of course recognition on such an incredibly high level can, no pun intended, cut both ways. On one side there is a built in fan base and a lot of interest even before the film is released. Existing fans will be supplemented by the current generation of horror fans drawn by the promise of a fresh, more extreme rendition of the story. On the down side these are awfully big shoes to fill. The reason so many movies were made is people have enjoyed most aspects of the original and will complain loudly about any significant alterations. The producers will be condemned for ripping off a classic if they try to remain true to the original and denounced as heretics if the attempt to change too many well known plot points. Unfortunately this attempt at reconstructing the past makes the effort but is unable to attain the synthesis of dark comedy and pure horror that became the trademark of the original film.

The screenplay was done by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer with a WGA mandated, copyright required nod to Wes Craven for character creation. Most people already know the basic story the Freddy, played here by Jackie Earle Haley, is a psychopathic child molester who is cornered by the parents of his victims and burned alive. In this version there is more attention paid to the personality disorder manifested by Krueger. This is the first glimpse of problems with incarnation. Delving into the psyche of the monster is not only unnecessary but it demystifies Krueger lowering him from the thing that goes bump in the night to a sick and twisted, albeit supernaturally empowered creature. In a flick like this the audience doesn’t really care all that much about why the villain is so dark and warped, all that matters is he is the incarnation of pure evil. Craven was able to personify every bad dream you ever had with his Freddy and in turn Englund built up a personae that was a killing machine who would crack some terrible puns as he eviscerated one hapless teen after another. Haley is creating his career on playing psychopaths with roles including Rorschach in ‘The Watchmen’ and Guerrero in the television series ‘The Human Target’. He is good in the role, one of the best aspects of this flick actually, but his reportedly improvisational dialogue cannot match the carefully designed quips provided by a true master of horror, Wes Craven. It did take awhile for the Craven franchise to attain this now famous rhythm but based on this restarted initial installment this re-envisioned flick has a very long way to go.

There are a couple of elements here that do work in this movie. The technology for the special effects has increased to a remarkable degree. They were able to scan Haley’s face digitally and overlay an extremely realistic face of a serve burn victim. While this heightens the realism this is not exactly the venue for such an approach. Freddy works much better on the visceral level instead of depending on a psychological profile that requires digestion by the mind. This emphasis on rationalization is extended to the method devised by the teens to rid themselves of their nocturnal nemesis. While the original version came up with the idea of pulling Freddy being venerable if pulled out of the nightmare into reality the focus on details not only contributes to the dilution of the overall impact. This methodology destroys the pacing of the story with excessive, unnecessary exposition. This is a case where throwing money at a film, reportedly $35 million, does not ensure success. Traditionally horror sometimes working on a shoestring can help. It forces the film maker to be creative; depending on talents other than that of a team of computer programmers. If you need another example consider ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Samuel Bayer’s previous experience shows here, his career began with his direction of music videos. This shoes in the attention deficit afflicted flow of the flick. Bayer exhibits raw, untapped potential for this genre but it will require a learning curve to develop. It took some risk to start a change in genre by remaking such a pop culturally significant movie made by one of the true luminaries of the genre.

Posted 10/03/2010

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