“You have nothing to worry about. This won’t hurt one…little…bit.”
Not being able to sleep is a terrible feeling…and yet it would be the perfect inability to have if a badly burned and razor gloved was a real entity who only came during that time. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a mild retelling of the famous 80’s figure, known as Freddy Krueger, a terrifying monster who makes his residency in the REM sleep state stalking teens. All these youngsters know is that if they catch some zzzzz’s, it’s for good.
One by one, a small group of high schoolers fall victim to The Springwood Slasher upon prolonged slumber. There is a connection that they share, but it is unknown as to exactly what it is. Regardless, survivors Nancy Holbrook and Quentin Smith (Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner) somehow have to get down to the crux, all while suffering from enormous sleep-depraved mental fatigue, causing reality to frighteningly fuse with the dream world.
Whether a fan of the horror genre or not, you know who Freddy Krueger is. Ever since the debut of the character 30 years ago, he has been cemented as one of the more charismatic and recognizable characters in cinema history, with the first Nightmare film being a horror classic. So, it isn’t a shock that the franchise was redone in an effort to reintroduce the character and world to a younger generation. It is easy to think that this could have been a flat out failure (as these things are sometimes) in comparison to the original. Flat out failure this is not, but the recent A Nightmare on Elm Street is about as middling as a horror can be.
Surprisingly enough, this new Nightmare carries some originality to it—or as much as can be allowed while retaining the core of the story. Off the bat, it is clear that this NoES is much darker than the ones that came before. Sharp one-liners barely exist, and Freddy himself is really overhauled, both in a visual sense and an origin sense. It is a welcome change, and one that undoubtedly plants Krueger as a complete monster as opposed to a monster who is sort of cool. A nifty little addition to this entry are the concept of micronaps. These occur because the main characters force themselves to stay awake, which slowly but surely causes the person to fall asleep during the alert period while still believing they are fully awake, giving Freddy an opening to do damage.
The blurring of the two mental states allows the directing to literally flicker back and forth, and it is sort of visually appealing the first few times it is employed. Eventually however, the effect wears thin, mainly because there isn’t a mystery as to when the characters are napping. So even though it does allow the movie’s action to occur outside of traditional sleep, the usage of the gimmick shows its hand often immediately in scenes which in turn reduces the scare factor.
This scare factor is pretty lacking throughout as a matter of fact. Scares are sort of like comedy, but there does appear to be more of a consensus as to what makes something scary as opposed to funny. With that said, A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t all that frightening. There is some tension from time to time and a really well-crafted opening scene may be the best in the movie, but nothing truly gets the heart beating. To most this will register no more than a 3 on the fright scale. It is pretty standard fare, from jump scares to locales. Part of the lack of tension may be due to the familiarity of Freddy, and part of it could be due to the movie’s pacing. The body count feels a little low but it really isn’t, but it feels that way because of how the good stuff is frontloaded in the movie. Heed caution: those expecting a sizable bloodbath or inventive kills may be disappointed.
Many horrors aren’t exactly lauded for their acting or characters portrayed by the actors, and the most recent Nightmare film doesn’t exactly rewrite the script. At least the characters aren’t of the cookie cutter templates found in many similar films. That isn’t to say they’re fleshed out either, but they are easier to get behind, especially the character played by Kyle Gallner, who is easily turns in the best performance of the actors playing teens as adults. Rooney Mara is a different story, as she has gone on record saying she basically regrets being in this movie and wasn’t all that interested in the role when auditioning. Her performance is dull, uncommitted, and phoned-in, and makes you wonder why the studio couldn’t just hire another actress who would have at least been happy to be there.
Of course, the star of the show is Fred Krueger, not played by Robert Englund but instead Jackie Earle Haley. Haley is pretty good and wields an effective and menacing voice, and while his Freddy isn’t as witty or sharp, it is a much more methodical, no-nonsense, and vile character which falls in line with the darker tale. If a sequel was ever made, JEH should return. The new look is a bit of a mixed bag. It certainly is more realistic to mimic a burn victim yet isn’t that scary. Have you ever come across a person who you expected to sound a certain way based on their appearance and then they sound nothing like what you expected, making them hard to take seriously? That is the feeling I had with Freddy, and though this feeling over the duration of the movie dissipated in time, it was a little iffy to accept at first.
All in all, the 2010 iteration of A Nightmare on Elm Street is akin to one of those dreams you remember in pieces, but not vividly because it wasn’t a nightmare or something awesome. It is just an average
movie dream, nothing more or less.
Photo credits go to rottentomatoes.com, screencrave.com, and bloody-disgusting.com.
Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.