Directed by Samuel Bayer [Other horror films: N/A]
Unlike some out there, I don’t hate this remake. I don’t think it’s a good movie, but I don’t hate it. What I feel is far more akin to disappointment, because while this rendition of A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t good, I will say that it really had potential.
To fully delve into this, I need to get into some spoilers. That’s something I try to avoid, because I like my reviews to be approachable even if the reader hasn’t seen the movie, but in this case, I have got to talk in detail about portions of this film, and so there will be spoilers in this review, starting with this next paragraph.
This film deals with teenagers who discover they have repressed memories about a preschool and a man named Freddy. Their parents refuse to tell them about it – when pressed, Nancy’s mother tells her that the kids said Freddy had abused them, and Freddy left town. During a dream sequence of Quentin’s, we see instead that the parents find Freddy on the outskirts of town, and angry that he may have abused their children, they burn his hiding place to the ground with him in it.
After Quentin sees this, it leads to what I find the most promising part of the film, in which Quentin and Nancy confront Quentin’s father about Freddy’s death. Nancy and Quentin wisely say that they were five at the time, and could have said anything – that there was no evidence Freddy was guilty, as the “secret cave” the kids mentioned was never even located, and that Freddy is seeking revenge on the kids who falsely accused him, which hurts all the more because Freddy loved the kids while he was a handyman at the preschool.
And you know what? If the film had continued to go this route, that would have been fantastic. Throughout the whole Freddy Kruger mythos, I don’t believe we’ve seen an innocent Freddy, and in this remake, they could have indeed made Freddy an innocent man who was killed due to false accusations of child abuse. The repressed memories of Quentin, Nancy, and company could have been Nancy, at five years old, deciding to play a joke and get her friends to accuse Freddy of things he didn’t do, and the finale could be her confronting her guilt, and an emotional scene of her apologizing to the innocent Freddy of her complicity in the events.
As you can probably tell, what with my hypotheticals, that didn’t happen. Upon exploring the old preschool, Nancy and Quentin come upon the aforementioned “secret cave,” and find photographic evidence that, indeed, Freddy Kruger was guilty. And everything that follows is just generic Nightmare on Elm Street stuff that you could get with a more classic feeling from almost any other film in the original series.
I think they blew a large opportunity to change the whole idea of Freddy, but instead of taking that leap, which might have been controversial, but would have been ballsy, they just keep with the “Oh, he’s just naturally evil, brahs,” stuff. I think this was a mistake, and instead of being an interesting movie, the finale of this remake is just generic and of about zero interest. Oh, and to make things better, they throw in a final scene that’s fucking awful. Even the ending of the original movie is better, and it’s not even close.
Perhaps it’s just me, but this pisses me off, because I really thought this film could have been something different. When I first saw this, I was really engaged in the story – was Freddy actually innocent? I thought it could have been so cool if they flipped the script. But they didn’t. And what was an okay movie (not great, but okay) just fell apart completely in the last twenty minutes, and I found it quite insulting, and again, a lost opportunity.
Rooney Mara (The Social Network) did pretty decent as Nancy, and Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut) was good in the stoner-esque role. I thought the two worked well together as they were trying to figure out what their memories meant. Neither of the other teens, be it Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas, Wolves at the Door, and When a Stranger Calls) or Thomas Dekker, did much for me. Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption and Pet Sematary II) was nice to see, but aside from one strong scene, he didn’t really add much.
When it comes to Freddy Kruger, I don’t think Jackie Earle Haley did terribly. I mean, let’s be honest – anyone who wasn’t Robert Englund would have a very difficult time getting praise. I don’t personally care for Freddy’s look here, but I also understand it’s more realistic as far as burn victims go, so that’s fine. More troublesome for me, though, is Freddy’s voice, which just grates. I could do without the one-liners (“I haven’t even cut you yet”), but what really takes me away is the voice. Honestly, maybe it would have been cooler if he didn’t talk, and was just a threatening figure slowly leading these kids to realize what a mistake they made in accusing him of a false crime.
Oh, wait. I’m sorry. I forget the movie wasn’t trying to be different, and so I momentarily forgot how cliché it was. My apologies.
The CGI was hideous most of the time. It’s funny that the scene in which Freddy is pushing himself out of the wall above the bed is done so much better in 1984, as well as the Tina-equivalent death scene. I did like the pool scene – when Quentin comes up from the pool and sees the flashback of Freddy’s origin take place – but otherwise, there’s nothing here that’s all that unique.
More than anything, I believe with all my heart that A Nightmare on Elm Street could have been a worthwhile remake if they had just changed the story up a little, and instead of making a generic horror movie, had gone with a more emotionally poignant ending about facing the consequences of your mistakes (the mistake being falsely accusing Kruger). Instead, you get a subpar movie that has it’s moments, and it has it’s potential, but is largely a waste of time.