I must admit that I am not a Freddy Krueger fan. I have never seen the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and I haven’t seen any of the sequels, though I have heard that Freddy Vs. Jason is loads of campy fun. That being said, I still know the character Freddy Krueger from his trademark hat and striped sweater to his frightening Wolverine-like claws and cheesy one-liners. People love the concept behind A Nightmare on Elm Street, and they come back to the franchise because Freddy is such a fun character. While Jackie Earle Haley does an admirable job taking on this horror icon, I don’t think the screenwriters were quite as committed to making something above and beyond today’s standard 90 minute jump-scare montages.
In the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a series of teenagers all start having nightmares about a man named Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley). When Dean (Kellan Lutz) slits his own throat in a local diner, his friends start wondering why they are all dreaming about the same man, and a few suspect that if Krueger kills them in their dreams, they will die in real life. Nancy and Quentin discover a connection between all of the murdered teenagers, and they fight the urge to fall asleep while they try to find out why Krueger is haunting their dreams. Before the end, Nancy and Quentin begin having micro-dreams where can no longer tell if they are awake or dreaming.
A Nightmare on Elm Street had some advantages over other recent horror remakes. First, they had Jackie Earle Haley in the role of Freddy, fresh off of his stand-out performance as Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. Rorschach, like Krueger, was an entertaining killer with great dialogue. Though Rorschach is a bit more redeemable, Freddy could have just as well growled Rorschach’s famous line, “You’re locked in here with me!” Haley was a great casting choice, and he does the best he possibly could with the script he was given.
Second, the idea of nightmares coming to life is terrifying for people of all ages. Young healthy people can run away from monsters or serial killers, but the human body needs sleep. Eventually, everyone falls asleep, so anyone can fall victim to Freddy. To make matters worse, anything can happen in a nightmare. Laws of physics and reason do not apply. In the movie, Nancy is running down a hallway, and suddenly the floor disappears and a river of blood is in its place.
Unfortunately, A Nightmare on Elm Street has too many strikes against it. The dreams do not take full advantage of their freedom. More highly creative minds could have come up with some really scary stuff in these dreams, but the teenagers just kept ending up in a giant boiler room with lots of dark corners for Freddy to hide until his next jump scare. On the special effects end, I was disappointed with the unrealistic CGI kills and Freddy’s face which, as others have pointed out, looks weirdly like a lion. Also, the movie spends far too much time with the teenagers and too little time with Freddy, and somehow all the film’s characters wind up underdeveloped. My biggest complaint, however, is that the story does not explain how Freddy got the power to kill through dreams, and his motivations are still very murky at the end of the film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street had the chance to give this franchise new life, and there are elements of the film that worked. Krueger’s new origin story was interesting when the audience wasn’t sure if he was a pedophile or not. With Haley playing the part, Freddy Krueger could have become a tragic villain in the vein of Phantom of the Opera, and I could have justified the series reboot. Unfortunately, the plot takes predictable turns, and ultimately I didn’t get anything new from A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
Special features include the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes featurette which has interviews with the cast, director, and some of the production team. Watching the special features frustrated me because unlike most movies, the deleted scenes from A Nightmare on Elm Street actually clarified some plot points and would have filled in gaping holes of logic. Why does Freddy wait all this time to enact his revenge? The alternative opening shows Freddy in a hospital burn unit in a coma, identified only as a John Doe. His heart monitor flatlines, and his soul is released. This would have explained how the parents got away with Freddy’s murder, why he waited so long, and why he is so eager to cut these teenagers to shreds. The alternative ending was also far superior, and the cut scene at least tried to explain how Freddy escaped into this dream world again so he could come back for one last kill. I am glad that the filmmakers included the deleted scenes on the Blu-ray release, but I have to ask why they cut the scenes out in the first place. I hope that they make another Freddy Krueger film with Jackie Earle Haley, and if they do, I hope the studio has the good sense to keep Haley and get a new writer and director.
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is on sale October 5, 2010 and is rated R. Horror. Directed by Samuel Bayer. Written by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Wes Craven (characters). Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Katie Cassidy, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara.