A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated May 5th, 2010 at 10:34 am,

nightmare on elm street A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

Screen Rant Reviews A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street is yet another horror movie remake from Platinum Dunes, the same company behind the remakes of The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. Like those films I just listed, A Nightmare On Elm Street is a slickly-polished but ultimately hollow echo of what was originally a unique and enjoyable horror movie.

In this revamped version, a group of teens in a small town begin to die inexplicably in their sleep. Each of the victims confesses to having vivid nightmares shortly before their death – nightmares involving a terrible burned man in a striped sweater who wears a razored glove on one hand. As more victims get added to the body count, two of the teens uncover their town’s dark secret and the origins of this mysterious ghoul who is terrorizing their dreams.

What made Wes Craven’s version of  A Nightmare On Elm Street so enjoyable was the combination of a scary premise (a killer who attacks you in your dreams), imaginative kills set in surreal dream sequences, and a wonderful villain, Freddy Krueger, played with alternating moments of wit, charm and menace by the now-legendary Robert Englund.

This new version, directed by music video director Samuel Bayer, only incorporates one aspect of that potent combination. The premise is this same, yes, but gone are the imaginative kills and wonderful villain that once made this franchise what it was.

Nightmare On Elm Street 9 570x235 A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

The main problem (for me) was the script, which was written by Wesley Strick (Arachnophobia, The Saint) and relative newcomer Eric Heisserer. The screenplay for A Nightmare on Elm Street budgets its time rather foolishly, and the misstep shows. For starters, the writers chose to sacrifice the first half-hour of the film’s 90 minute runtime laying out the premise: Freddy stalks kids in their dreams and if he kills them there, they die in the real world. Do we really need a whole half-hour and multiple elaborate kill sequences to understand this? Certainly not, but that’s what we get…

It’s not even until the third victim is dispatched  (and the second act kicks off) that we really know who the main characters of the story are: Nancy Holbrook (Roona Mara) and her semi-crush Quentin O’Grady (Kyle Gallner). Nancy is the weirdo Goth artist of the high school pecking order, and Quentin is that cool kid jock who secretly pines for her – not that any of this matters.  By the time the film finally centers on its two leads, we’re already too far into the blood, gore, and “mystery” to care. Nancy and Quentin are merely vessels that  carry the story of Freddy Krueger along and that’s about as much development as they get.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Rooney Mara A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

After wasting 1/3 of the movie setting up a premise that could’ve been explained in minutes, the screenwriters then chose to drag the second act of the film through a mystery sub-plot involving the origins of Freddy Krueger and his vendetta against the teens. This sub-plot attempts to inject the story with “originality” by forcing us to wrestle with doubts about who Freddy Krueger is and what was done to him; but by the third act, most of those dangling threads are cut and the entire “mystery” becomes another shamefully wasted opportunity. I don’t even think there is one killing in the second half hour of the film – cheap jump scares and half-boiled plot points are pretty much what we get.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that for a story which invested so heavily in asking who Freddy Krueger is, most of the important story points – like how did Freddy end up with these dream powers? Why did he wait so long to reappear? What exactly does Elm Street have to do with any of this? – are left to speculation – or worse, a sequel. It’s simply lazy storytelling.

By far the worst offense though is the new take on Freddy himself. Robert Englund’s Freddy was an unapologetic bad guy – so evil in life that not even death could contain him. The character was simple, effective, and fun to watch in the way great villains are. The new Freddy is simply…creepy. By trying a ‘realistic and humanizing approach’ the new Elm Street actually deflates the horror icon, leaving us with a Freddy who is more off-putting than engaging.

Nightmare on Elm Street Freddy Krueger close up A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

Speaking of the razor-fingered man in the striped shirt, I’ll say this upfront:  Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) is not a bad Freddy Krueger. To the contrary, in the menace department I think Haley far outshines Mr. Englund. The new Freddy is a stone-cold killer, stripped of all the winking humor and over-the-top theatrics. This is not a guy you want to meet in your dreams, ever, for any reason. And that both enhances and detracts from the film.

Whenever Freddy is meant to be scary, Haley knocks it out of the park. However, whenever Freddy is meant to be light or funny, Haley (as I’ve stated) comes off as awkwardly creepy and Elm Street‘s third act is especially off-putting in this way. A good horror film uses the supernatural as allegory for real-life events or issues – it doesn’t take real-life evil and rub your face in it. A Nightmare On Elm Street makes it clear (to me) that while “torture porn” horror might be a passing trend, the core idea of that sub-genre (reveling in the pain of others, be it physical, psychological or emotional) is now firmly embedded in the horror movie landscape.

Nightmare On Elm Street 8 570x235 A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

When he was first announced, I thought director Samuel Bayer was going to bring serious creativity to this film, considering his past history directing music videos. And where there is opportunity, Bayer does impress with his visual flare – too bad those opportunities are few and far between. The script pretty much relies on rehashing Wes Craven’s wonderfully imagined kills from the original Elm Street or settling for flat and uninspired dream sequences that the story tries to justify with third act “explanations.”  Never has a movie about dreams – the most fertile device for narrative creativity – been so boring.

The acting? Meh. Whether it’s the modelesque faces of the young actors (Mara, Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz) or the familiar faces of the parents (Clancy Brown, Connie Britton), nobody really stands out in this film – not even Haley as Freddy, if I’m being totally honest. Everyone involved feels like they are requisites of the story without actually being important to it, and the actors go about their scenes as if they themselves are sleepwalking – so it’s kind of hard to care about whether they ever wake up or not.

Nightmare On Elm Street 7 570x235 A Nightmare On Elm Street Review

We’ve said it before here at Screen Rant and we’ll say it again: if you’re going to remake a movie, bring something new and interesting to it – tell us the story in a way we haven’t heard it before. A Nightmare On Elm Street gets the latter part wrong in its narrative approach and completely disregards the former. Does it ruin Freddy Krueger? No. Does it revitalize him? The box office may indicate “yes,” but my heart says the opposite.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Sadly, being a fan of the franchise, I dared to see this. I don’t know why, but I was half hoping that the various breakthoughs in SFX over the past decade-or-so would, in some way, be used to add to the atmosphere and visual impact. Unfortunately, I could not have been more mistaken. The slick flicking between dreams and reality, with little or no imagination, completely took away from the ‘dingy’ feel that I have come to appreciate with the Elm Street stories. There was something magical captured in the comparitively degraded piture quality of the originals, there was a dank feeling that accompanied them. That, however, is all sacrificed to the god of crisp and sheen. Dare I say it, this was too cleanly edited and too contrived from beggining to end. Now, it takes a brave man to step in to the shoes of Mr Englund. Unfortunately, brave as he is, Jackie Earle Haley was wholey inappropriate. The new makeup brought a softness to Freddy’s face that, coupled together with a lack of the ingenius facial expressionism and body language of Robert Englunds take on the character, left me somewhat disillusioned. If they had spent less time making his glove blades spark on piping, and more time thinking of original scenarios, we may have been slightly more satisfied. Sadly, however, the inability to think of something new has almost put a wet thumb over Freddy’s flame. I am sorry to say this, but I think a continuing chapter or even prequel would have been more adventurous. So, in summary, a lack of menace, orginality, playfulness, innovation, writing and adventure, made Elm street 2010 a very poor product indeed.
    Was it an hour and a half of my life lost??… No!. I think a lesson can be taken from this and, as long as more people adopt the attitude that nothing is lost that can be learned from, that may keep a little ember in Freddy’s dampened flame aglow for long enough to be effectively revived.
    All in all, the film has sadly lost in an unexpected battle with it’s predecessors. My advice, if you want it, is to wait for it to be on TV. You won’t be missing out on much in the mean-time. What do I think the film makers should do in terms of remedial action?, well, I think they should at least consider some nice ‘maniacal’ contact lenses, bring the jagged broken teeth back, direct him to snarl a little more and start thinking about NEW ways to kill pretty teenagers in their sleep. Even a remake can be more imaginative than this.

    Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the shrimp :-)

  2. well,I thought it was pretty good, i really dont kno why ppl hate this remake, u ppl cant just hate it just becuz that jackie earle haley dude is freddy, he is a good actor and robert englund is probably saying “give this damn guy a rest, he is a good actor and I would have been the same if I was in this remake too” i am pretty sure robert englund said that. And even if he didn’t would u be good at acting if u had slimy, sticky, stuffy make-up on u? robert would have been in the remake but he rejected it becuz he didn’t like all that make-up, and yes it is make-up, not a mask.
    and more than 60.% of the ppl who comment here are just saying the movie sucks becuz they are too scared that someone would go up to them and say they are retarded just becuz they think the world revolves around them and their fatness. u kno who they are? cyber-gansters, they are ppl who failed in reality and thinks they can be cool on the internet(or virtuality) they have no lives anf friends and they try to act cool on the internet. dont follow them! they are gay-ass-turds. just becuz they say it doesn’t u ppl have to follow them, dont be one of those wimps, let those cyber-gansters be themselves (gay ass turds) and if u really dont like it and that is ur opinion, then fine, but dont be a cyber-ganster and dont follow them,
    and if this movie doesn’t make it then freddy vs. jason won’t be out, even though it may not be as good as the original but we cant just compare a remake to its original.
    and I am a potato, so if u are gonna insult me then make it short cuz once i expire i will be thrown away and start a new life as a mushroom

    • Ineteresting thought process you have there. From a personal opinion of the film, to a complete attack on everyone else that has an opinion?. More shocking than your ability to turn your ‘review’ in to a carpet-bombing frenzy on peoples personal likes and dislikes, is your complete inability to spell or punctuate (a little ironic that you should be accusing people or “ppl” of being retards).
      You can blanket-label the world as much as you like but, so far, you’re the only one that has posted a completely nonsensical article about the other users of the forum. Leading me to believe that you are under the impression that the world revolves around you and your fatness.
      Please, keep your playground attempts at psychology under your hat for now. I think we can understand what you’re trying to say, but you just aren’t clever enough to communicate your message effectively and have made yourself look like a bit of an idiot.
      On the other hand, I’m really glad that you liked the film!. As I said in my first post, I think it’s one of those things that you have to see and make up your own mind about. as the old saying goes “You can’t please everyone all of the time” but nowhere does it say ‘you can’t please anyone any of the time’.
      Until the next time you feel the urge to splurge and desperately try to tell the world how superior and clever you are.

      Take Care and have fun!.


  3. I loved the storyline:) I liked that it explained even more about Freddy and his freakish ways.. However I didn’t like Freddy.. I thought that the original looking Freddy was much more horrifying.. I think if Freddy could look more like the original it would be fantastic.. For those who say it’s not original, they’re idiots.. It’s a REMAKE. I just hope the second remake is as good if not better than the second original..

  4. The remake of A Nightmere on Elm Street was as a stand alone movie a decent one. If you take it as what it is not a sequel to the originals, it has some merit. The Freddy was much darker and more realistic if he was killing in real life than he would scare me, but he is killing in dreams. Dreams are meant to reflect the personality of the dreamer and when Freddy gets in them he then changes them. The originals did this after the first one and the one that does not even get mentioned in the mythology (Personally… Thankfully not remembered) Freddy’s revenge. The campy, and joking quality the subsiquent sequels had was a reflection on the dreamers. This movie could have used some of that I think. Jackie Earle Haley played a very sick man who in turn was a very sick killer with little imagination. I believe if they do a sequel than they will have a more imaginative killings but the Box office will reflect the way many feel this movie went and not as many will watch it from their Elm Street theaters but will wait to watch it from home…. Hopefully they remember “WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T FALL ASLEEP!!!”

  5. i think the new one says so much more about the present day, the old ones very old fashioned in my view. But i can honestly say if i ever saw the Freddie from this movie i’d run for my life, but if i saw the one from the old i’d probally laugh at him.

  6. I really don’t understand the hate for this film at all. I really think it mostly comes from the fact that this is a new actor as Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund admitted he probably could have done 2 more Freddy films but really it wouldn’t be healthy for him. He’s been type cast in all honestly, I’m surprised he’s gotten roles that have nothing to do with Krueger. Am I bashing Mr. Englund? No, Robert was good as the comedic less scary Freddy Krueger. That’s part of the reason I never watched any Nightmare on Elm Street films past the original except for the freddy vs jason spin off and the remake. I really didn’t like how his Freddy was written. I like Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy because he is actually menacing and scary like a killer should be. This film gave more back story and the characters for me were more interesting, I liked what Platinum Dunes and Samuel Bayer did with the franchise and I really hope they come back for Nightmare 2. I personally give this film a 4 out of 5 stars and I can’t wait for New Line to come back and give us a sequel for the Jason and Freddy remakes.

  7. I’m so glad that Freddy’s back. I do hope that there will be a sequel to this 2010 bloodfest. However, in hindsight, this is a movie that I’ve watched again, and again. I still don’t truly like it. But was this first Nightmare on Elmstreet just a set up for something much bigger? This movie was all about Freddy, not about the the teens, not about the town. This was an introduction to what is now Freddy. This was a reminder to the next generation, that this is a demon that kills you when you slumber. It was nothing more, and nothing less than a tease. That’s all. To truly do this movie justice, there must be a sequel. A sequel that focuses on hot teenage characters, with developed roles. The key to a good Freddy film is that Fred actually knows every childs fears,fears that are made known to the audience through character development throught the coarse of the movie. I’m currently watching the original Freddy saga, again. Just about each one had better development of the characters, to really give the audience a feel for what each individual character was about. That’s what made Freddy so creative to us. That creativity was lacking in this recent 2010 installment. However, this was just a tease. The fix is in! I’m looking forward to this next Freddy film.

  8. I know I am going on this for a now old film but I am a big Nightmare on elm street fan. Yes it was a remake that touched on the points as if you did not know who he was but I loved it. How they focused on the other side of freddy. The orginals focued on him being a killer, the remake runs of the fact that he was a child molester/killer. It made you learn to hate him not love him, wanting to see him be stopped. I would love to see a part 2 for this new outlook on Nightmare on Elms street. At this point now though 2 years later there may be little hope.

  9. I have no personal problem with this movie but if your to remake a movie like this a legendary movie at that you really can’t be original you gotta stick to the story completely like Freddy was a child murderer not a molester and when he got burned to death he didn’t run out the building he stayed in it and made a deal with 3 demons which still creeps me out but that’s how it happened and it was to much in one movie did you not notice Freddy had a saga that explained his actions bit by bit and why does this new Guy look like he’s Waring a mask the original Freddy you couldn’t tell Haley looks like they didn’t finish the mask in time and jessie just had to take how it was dude get in touch with Wes craven and Robert englund and get it right yall did good for the who never seen an original a nightmare on elm street movie but for ones who grew up watching it you gotta do better and you can well I hope so