A Nightmare on Elm Street

Release Date: April 30, 2010


On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
98/123 David Mumpower Jackie Earle Haley is very well cast, but everything about the movie is a miss. With a solid script, he could do great things as Freddy Krueger.
142/190 Max Braden Jackie Earle Haley's voice was so effective in Watchmen, but it sounds forced and fake in this movie.

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Winter 1988: I was 11 and I had two life-size cardboard standees - both movie-related and passed along to me by my connections at the local video store – taking up the lion’s share of available space in my cramped upstairs room. One was Adventures in Babysitting. Why? Simple. Because I was a pre-adolescent male and Elisabeth Shue was the face of womanhood to me. I can picture her singing along to "Then He Kissed Me" right now. Sighhh...um, where was I? Oh yes, and the other featured a pair of cruel, cold eyes jutting out over a trio of bad-ass teens ready to rumble who lay perched on the blades of his steel-knifed hand.. All of this was accompanied by the incredibly awesome tagline "If you think you’ll get out alive, you must be dreaming." That’s right, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The one with the best tag lines ("Welcome to prime time, bitch!") the coolest cameos (honestly, I am sure there were times Dick Cavett wished he could have skewered his interviewees) and the riff-tastic title song by Dokken. I couldn’t tell you anything about them then or now except that the song rocked so hard, it gave Freddy Krueger himself nightmares – that is, if the accompanying video was accurate. While I maintain that NOES 4: The Dream Master is the best of the sequels (thanks to Renny Harlin’s direction), Dream Warriors cemented Elm Street’s status as a pop-culture touchstone and has become a reference point of sorts, much like Electric Boogaloo.

So there you have it: Kris Parker and Freddy Krueger face to face for my junior-high years. Or as I like to think if it, the angel and the devil on my shoulders whispering into my ears. But this isn’t a look at the reboot of Adventures in Babysitting, this is a consideration of the relaunching of the Elm Street series.

Fast-forward two decades later and I have been revisiting the series for the first time in awhile. The original Elm Street remains both fairly uncampy and somewhat disturbing. This is because time hasn’t diminished the genius conceit that creator Wes Craven came up with: What if your dreams could kill you? What if sleeping wasn’t something to be enjoyed but something to be feared? What if the Boogeyman wore an ugly sweater, a filthy fedora and could slice you open with his knife hands? The first Elm Street still feels like a waking dream/nightmare. It’s very visceral, played fairly straight and even the moments of sunlight and (relative) happiness feel as if they’re reflected off of impending clouds.

Of course, the key difference between Freddy and his slasher movie brethren is that he talked while they remained decidedly silent. And while the series became campy quite quickly beginning with the first sequel (Freddy’s Revenge), consideration must be given for the fine line that Robert Englund walks with his performance. The lines may be campy, the circumstances may be campy, but Freddy never is. He is confident, quite smart and exceedingly cruel. In a way, I think there is a hint of Freddy in Heath Ledger’s Joker – the delight in the chaos he brings to the world around him and his utter control of the situations he calls to life. Englund deserves all the praise he has gotten and continues to get for making Freddy such a diabolical and fascinating villain.

Like every franchise, Elm Street has been here and there and back again. And since Craven has shown (The Last Hill on the Left has Screaming Eyes) he has no qualms about remaking, revisiting, relaunching or reimagining his works, he has teamed with production company Platinum Dunes to bring forth a new Elm Street and potentially a new series. Oddly enough, I am not too concerned. Yes, I have no love for Michael Bay as director or producer (The Island aside and since that has been his only flop to date, consider me quite the contrarian) but he is just the money man. My biggest fear would be if it resorted to the torture porn mentality of the Saw series or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The latter made me want to take a bath for hours and hide from humanity in a way that only the gross out porn epic Caligula ever had.

I breathe a sigh of relief. The film appears to be aiming for scary and gory in equal measures. Screenwriter Wesley Strick (best known for penning the remake of Cape Fear, he also co-wrote the criminally underrated drama Return to Paradise which starred Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix) has turned in a lean 110 page script. It is worth noting that the Max Cady character in Cape Fear was referred to (scornfully) as an indestructible slasher villain a la Freddy Krueger in many reviews. Perhaps this gave Strick some inspiration for his current project? If the new Freddy is as creepy as Cady, I shudder to think how much I might be shuddering.

Freddy doesn’t say much in the current script, but in the right hands that could change. And those hands, it turns out, will belong to Jackie Earle Haley. Fresh off the praise for his performance as Rorschach in Watchmen and still maintaining the glow from his well deserved Oscar nom for Little Children, Haley continues to reap the rewards of his comeback. Truthfully, I can visualize him in the role and think that he’s a solid choice. The plot will hew faithfully to the original, down to new characters who match up archetypally with Nancy, Glen, et al. Freddy’s back story as a child molester, not just murdered, will be played up more, which may add even more of a moral dimension to the parent’s lynch-mob actions and Freddy’s revenge from beyond the grave.

One thing is for certain, though: they'd better have a kick-ass theme song waiting in the wings. (Brett Beach/BOP)

Vital statistics for A Nightmare on Elm Street
Main Cast Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner
Supporting Cast Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Katie Cassidy
Director Samuel Bayer
Screenwriter Wesley Strick
Distributor New Line Cinema
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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