Movie Review:
A Nightmare on Elm Street

By Matthew Huntley

May 5, 2010

That claw looks so fake! Who does your special effects?

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A lot of horror movie fans started raising a stink about A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) even before its release, and now that they’ve gotten a chance to see it, it seems their concerns were valid. Many are saying it bastardizes the original, is nothing but a cheap ploy to make money and that it lacks a vision of its own. All of these claims are sound, but rather than waste time reiterating the majority’s opinion, the flaw of this movie boils down to one bottom line: it’s unnecessary.

For the record, I was never a huge fan of Wes Craven’s original Nightmare from 1984. I recently re-watched it and although I agree it was a breakthrough 26 years ago, it doesn’t hold up well over time. Some still find it scary and effective, but I find it rather frivolous. But even as frivolity, I can appreciate the film as an analysis of fear, and I admire its craft and practical effects.

With Samuel Bayer’s new Nightmare, there’s no sense of admiration because you feel it’s merely updating and digitally glossing over the original’s iconic scenes. These include Freddy stretching through the wallpaper; the first female victim being thrown across her room as she’s murdered in her sleep; and the gallons of blood pumping up from the bed. But these are all just special effects and the movie doesn’t care about the psychology of these scenes; it’s only concerned with flashy sensationalism and quickly succumbs to the same old tired conventions of cheap, modern-day horror. Once again, we’re stuck with lifeless, uninteresting characters; poor performances from the cast; laughable dialogue from the screenplay; and loud shrieks and gore. You know the drill.


If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s more or less the same as the ’84 version. Suburban teenagers are being tortured and murdered in their sleep by a marred villain named Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), whose trademark is a glove with knives attached to the fingers. Two of the kids - Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara) - think they can fight back by forcing Freddy into the real world and destroying him corporeally.

As with the original, the motivations of Freddy aren’t entirely clear (there are hints he used to be a child molester), but I guess that’s supposed to make him scarier. Unlike the original, however, we get to see how he acquired those scars and burns (which will probably be a reason why die-hard fans say it bastardizes Craven’s version). But even with such a grotesque face, he’s more goofy than scary. All throughout the Nightmare series, I’ve never feared Freddy Krueger, probably because he’s short, skinny and talks too much. He’s got nothing on Michael Myers from Halloween, who’s large, brooding and mute. And if Sam Bayer thinks multiple close-ups of Freddy’s claws make him any scarier, he should think again.

There have been a lot of bad horror remakes over the past few years, and A Nightmare on Elm Street is no exception to the flaws that plague them all. It’s a rushed, over-produced mess that’s completely devoid of substance in an effort to make a quick buck. It’s not as offensively bad as Friday the 13th (2009), but it’s just as stupid and nonessential. And like most of these trashy remakes, it didn't affect me in the least.

A friend of mine pointed out that Nightmare is opening the weekend before Iron Man 2, so the studio must know it has to make all of its money upfront. Unfortunately, for these types of inexpensive movies, one big weekend at the box-office usually means success and, therefore, the guarantee of another remake. The formula calls for them to get into theaters as fast as possible, make their money back in one fell swoop, and then run for the hills. I know that Hollywood is a business, but that just sounds sleazy. All I ask is for one of these remakes to plug craft and substance into the equation - anything to raise the bar, even if it’s just a little.



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