A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Movie Review

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If there’s a sudden run on No-Doze and Red Bull, thank the folks over at Platinum Dunes. Their latest effort is a frighteningly crafty film, one that keeps viewers perched on the edge of their seat from start to finish. At long last, New Line is taking Freddy seriously again–and so will you.

The basic premise of the “Elm Street” series is retained for the 2010 makeover; years ago a janitor named Freddy Krueger was hunted down by a group of angry parents determined to get justice from Freddy for harming their children. Trapping Freddy in an abandoned building, the parents burn him alive and sweep this incident under the rug. But Freddy refuses to go quietly into the night, returning when the children have grown into adolescents and murdering them while they dream.

Soon, only two of Freddy’s original victims remain — Quentin and Krueger’s favorite Nancy. With no one to turn to but each other, they must discover who Freddy was, and why the parents of Springwood are so desperate to erase him from memory. But Krueger has plans of his own, specifically for Nancy, whom he plans on trapping in the dream world and endlessly assaulting. The pair head to Krueger’s old lair, hoping to drag him into the real world and kill him once and for all–but he’s waiting for them with plans of his own.

If there ever was a character that cried out to be rebooted, it was Freddy Krueger. Since his introduction in 1984, he began devolving over the course of sequels and a half baked television series; Freddy stopped being scary and became ridiculous, a cartoonish killer spouting one liners while offing teens in predictable fashion. The reboot puts the menace back in Krueger, a nightmare so scary it’d make Carl Jung pack up his archetypes and head for the hills. He still has his patented one liners, but the humor is drained out of them and replaced with an undertow of dread. Inheriting the role is Jackie Earle Haley, and he makes it his own so effectively that when the final credits roll, you’ll be struggling to remember who his predecessor was.

The “Elm Street” remake has more to offer than just an amazing lead, it boasts a whip smart script by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. They take a gamble by introducing Freddy as a mystery, essentially reintroducing him by having the surviving teens piece clues together until the truth is revealed. Crafty move, because by doing this the franchise’s old convoluted mythology is swept away and there’s now a clean slate to work with.

Doing this also allows them to mold Freddy into a more repellent form; he’s not just a killer of children, he’s a sadistic molester with a penchant for innocent little girls. The writers also create a nifty plot device, basically a micro-nap. Sleep deprived characters involuntarily nod off without warning, allowing Freddy to strike anywhere. Granted it’s a bit of a cheat, but it keeps the audience on edge while constantly guessing when Freddy will leap out.

Equally impressive is the direction by Samuel Bayer, a novice film director but an experienced music video helmer. Bayer effectively balances gory kills with shock scares; he spills plenty of blood but is saavy enough to use Freddy’s menace and ability to appear out of thin air to inject fear into the audience. Also admirable is his vision of Freddy’s boiler room, a place the character is most identified with. Under Bayer, it becomes a demonically possessed industrial workplace, complimenting the dark visual poetry so rarely seen in horror films of recent years.

Sadly, the film’s only flaw is a fairly big one: aside from Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy, the rest of the cast seem so bland and generic they’re practically nonexistant. Clancy Brown and Connie Britton appear to be the only adults around and their screen time pretty limited. Most of the performances feel phoned in as if the actors were just killing time until better roles presented themselves. Kyle Gallner is scattershot as Quentin, who wanders around the film looking as if he can’t decide whether to be scared or just mildly concerned. Even worse is Rooney Mara’s turn as the pivotal Nancy, who looks so dim you’d think she has to pre-plan every breath. None of the other teens in the film stand out either, they just meander in and out while trying to stay out of the way of the storyline.

“Nightmare on Elm Street” has a few flaws, but this is a rare instance where the film’s good qualities overcome the negative. In an era where moviegoers lament the lack of originality in horror movies, “Elm Street” is a sharp rebuke, one that shows a neglected character can be remade into an imaginative feature. All in all, the new “Nightmare” is an amazing reinvention of a classic character that’s sure to please old fans and new viewers alike.

Samuel Bayer (director) / Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer (screenplay)
CAST: Jackie Earle Haley … Freddy Krueger
Kyle Gallner … Quentin Smith
Rooney Mara … Nancy Holbrook
Katie Cassidy … Kris Fowles
Thomas Dekker … Jesse Braun
Kellan Lutz … Dean Russell
Clancy Brown … Alan Smith
Connie Britton … Dr. Gwen Holbrook


Buy A Nightmare on Elm Street on DVD

Author: Joseph Savitski

Joseph is a contributing writer for BeyondHollywood.com and ScifiCool.com, where he critiques movies, television, and books. He lives in PA, and obsessively loves movies, books, and the New York Yankees.
  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3RSRMMTMT22UPOXNKTWX5CEL64 Hangman's Joke

    I just got back from watching the 5:35 showing and I loved every blood splattering minute of it. I thought it was cool how some of the scenes were re-created from the original movie or throwbacks to the original and the ending was just spectacular.

  • steve

    I saw the movie last night. I am glad to see the writers go back to the real original story line before they changed him into a deranged child killer…. I would have to say that it seemed like they tried to put a splash of the old into the new movie….. the bath tub scene seemed almost comical and Nancy seemed like a goth girl stuck in the valley girl lifestyle. She really seemed very weak and unimportant to the story line… I am also wondering about the decision to cast the new Freddy…. although he is a good actor. i am not entirely sure he is good for the part…. liked the ending tho…. overall a good pick tho.

  • shaun574

    I saw the movie and thought it was the worst piece of crap ever created. I am the biggest Nightmare on Elmstreet fan ever, and I was extremely dissapointed in this half hearted boring re-make. It was very predictable and the plot was just out right nonsense. When I first heard they were going to do a re-make of Elmstreet, I was like okay I'll give it a chance, especially since I'm a fan of Jackie Earle Haley, but I was so upset watching this movie, I literally wanted to walk out of the theater, and I've never felt that way about any movie, except Jurassic Park 3. The writer should have focused more on telling a good story rather than trying too hard to scare people with the constant waking up just before Freddy kills you crap “which was very predictable I might add”. I honestly felt like Freddy's Nightmares did a better job telling the back story of Freddy Kreuger. The worst part is everyone who saw the original will want to see how they did with this so called re-make thus making this crap a lot of money at the box office. Little do they know, most people who really appreciate a good horror movie will crucify everyone who had anything to do with this movies relaese. They did no justice to a great and beloved horror character. Wes Craven should be ready to kick a lot of ass at the injustice done to A Nightmare On Elmstreet.

  • http://moviestudy.wordpress.com Minnie

    100% totally agree with you. It felt like it was a horrible spin-off of the original Nightmare On Elm Street. I walked out after 30 min. The story was not clear and concise. When I read the credits in the beginning and it stated “characters based on wes craven” I was like “oh boy”. The makeup for Freddy was horrid, not to say that it should not be but it looked sloppy, like a pile blop on someones face. Also the comment that predictable comment, awesome cause it's so true! Who gets scared because he snaps open his hand.

  • justjoe

    Meh. Can´t stand this remake-crap anymore. But he, Platinum Dunes is pretty much the cinematic version of MTV. Sit in your seat, leave your brain on the door, don´t bother about build-up, tension, an engaging story or even interesting characters and get dizzy by all these nicely lit shots, overdone FX´s and “innovative” carmera angles. This is all the crowd nowadays seems to be able to enjoy.

  • Larry

    So right you are veteran fans of the original film will not like this film. At least when Wes Craven made it, the actually was a climax before every kill. Not just a kill, if Nancy had something special that Freddy saw, he must have kept it to himself. What cause because she was the “artist”. Classic Freddy lines were so bland in this film. i don't know the actor who played Freddy, but he was boring. Robert England had the right size to be imposing on the children and the voice. This Freddy was about the size of the “bigger” students and sounded like a mute trying to speak.

  • Larry

    At least when Wes Craven made it there actually was decent climax before every kill.

  • Larry

    Hell Rob Zombie would have done a much better job doing this movie and he was the very first rumor to do this movie. Where was the soundtrack for this movie?

  • Phil

    I have'nt seen the film yet and judging by what the fans are saying, I probably won't bother. I've got to say to Larry though, Rob Zombie is NOT a quality filmmaker. The sad thing is we really do have a whole generation who have never seen a great horror film and thats why we're getting these remakes. I'll bet Larry is no older than early 20s because it's that generation that unfortunately have'nt been able to see great horror films.

  • Tommy

    i havnt seen it yet but im going to see it because it has Jackie Earle Haley in it. He was the best character in watchmen and hopefully good in this one too.