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Thursday, April 30, 2020

10 Years Later: Exploring the Good, Bad and Ugly of the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ Remake

While not so much a resurgence, it has been intriguing to see a few iconic slashers make a recent return. Michael Myers emerged from the shadows back in 2018 with the David Gordon Green directed Halloween (and will be returning once again this year in the new Halloween Kills). Chucky received a remake and has a planned television show in the works. Even Leatherface saw somewhat of a return in a 2017 movie with his name in the title. And while we’re at it, who knows when we’ll see Jason emerge from the waters of Camp Crystal Lake again.  

Then there’s Freddy. Recently Bloody Disgusting’s The Boo Crew chatted with actor Elijah Wood and during their conversation he mentioned an interest in potentially working on a new A Nightmare on Elm Street – on a fun side note, Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan has also expressed interest in providing his own spin on the slasher. But while that tidbit from Wood’s conversation got me excited, it also got me thinking about the existing remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (directed by Samuel Bayer, written by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer).

As of today, April 30th, 2020, the Elm Street remake is 10 years old. My general memory of the 2010 Nightmare was that it was fine – nothing super memorable. But upon re-watching it, it’s interesting to see the changes made to Freddy’s personality, as well as the shift in how his history with the children of Elm Street is approached. 

While the Nightmare films before this remake focused on Freddy as a child killer, the 2010 Nightmare leans heavily into him being a child molester. For all the violence and fantastical imagery in the 2010 film, Freddy’s past involvement with the children is what drives the film’s horror. Compared to previous releases in the Nightmare franchise, the 2010 Nightmare has a lot going for it in regards to unnerving emotion; flashbacks to Freddy being with the characters as kids bring a hefty discomfort as more of his history is revealed. 

Like the first film in the franchise, the 2010 remake spends a good deal of time shifting between interactions with Freddy and the main characters pursuing research about him. What makes the 2010 film interesting, however, is how it seems to slightly lean more into the conspiracy surrounding the parents and Freddy. For one, there is a decent level of conversation taking place between the central cast of teens and their parents. Nancy and Quentin (played by Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner, respectively) confront Nancy’s mom (Connie Britton) when they come across old photos of their childhood; this alarms them because they do not have memories of meeting each other at such a young age. After being pushed to explain, Nancy’s mom says that the parents wanted to hide what Freddy did to them so they would not have to relive that trauma. Now to be upfront, terms such as molestation are never explicitly stated, but the imagery is pretty forward in implying such notions.

Though it doesn’t delve too deeply in, this remake does make a thematic effort to convey a “fear of trauma” – the resistance of confronting the past. Even as a fantastical being, Freddy comes across as a much more realistic horror in the remake. In a dream sequence where Quentin learns about how the parents killed Freddy, there’s a brief line of dialogue between a few individuals where they debate trying to bait Freddy out of hiding by using fire; the line in particular mentions the opposition of having their kids take a stand in court against Freddy. So rather than making their kids live through the potential trauma of a court case, they end up killing Freddy themselves. And Freddy might, the film briefly posits, be innocent.

These alterations to Freddy and his backstory are the only components that give the film a unique voice. They allow the film to exude an unnerving air, fueling the 2010 Nightmare with dread. Not only does this new approach to Freddy’s history bring an added horror to his character, but it builds upon the thematic exploration of the Nightmare franchise.

Mostly, the 2010 Nightmare is a hodgepodge of good and bad.

There are multiple elements that pull directly from the original film, such as the subverting of who our protagonist is and other scene-for-scene similarities (e.g. the guy friend sleeping over and witnessing our false protagonist dying in her sleep). And while the cast as a whole is nothing special, the main blow to this remake is that of Freddy’s personality. Though I will say appearance-wise, I think the 2010 Freddy has an interesting look going for him (given the attempt to portray a more realistic spin on his burnt flesh).

Whereas we’ve always known Freddy through the voice and mannerisms of the great Robert Englund, 2010’s Freddy is played by Jackie Earle Haley (you may know him as Rorschach from Zack Snyder’s Watchmen). As far as positives, I like Haley’s voice in the film (it’s creepy enough to add a sense of intimidation). But that’s really as far as I can go with the praise; and to be clear, I don’t think the fault lies entirely on Haley’s shoulders.

When we think of Freddy from all his previous movies, one quality that immediately comes to mind is his black humor. Englund’s delivery of goofy humor not only brought a likable appeal to the character, but also elevated his sense of twistedness. Haley’s Freddy, however, barely attempts to follow in Englund’s path, failing miserably when trying to emulate the latter’s style. This is because Haley’s Freddy is much more sinister in delivery, losing much of that chilling playfulness Englund’s Freddy is known for. His dialogue here is more direct in the intention to cause harm rather than to toy with victims; so when he does attempt to try a goofy line, it feels out of place. I am all for artists providing their own spin on an iconic character, but the 2010 Freddy is a lackluster villain all around. Even with his ability to hop into his victims’ dreams, he comes across as a fairly ordinary bad guy due to his dull personality.

Considering this portrayal of Freddy, the film is a much less spooky delight in comparison to the original entry. Though its dark spin on past trauma does allow it to have a unique identity among the franchise, the main appeal should be Freddy – and this Freddy is a nightmare the viewer could easily sleep through.

Given that it has been a decade since this film was released, it won’t surprise me to see A Nightmare on Elm Street return sometime in the near future. The more intriguing questions are, 1) Who will take on the creative lead with a new film? And 2) What will their spin be? It goes without saying that for many of us horror fans, Freddy has a special place among our hearts. And I’d love to see the character come back with a fresh new approach to the classic material (Mike and Elijah, I’m looking at you and all your amazing creativity).

If you have never seen the 2010 remake, I would only recommend it if you are morbidly curious. There are numerous entries from the franchise that stand on a higher pedestal than the 2010 title. However, I do have to give it to the film for its slightly more involved approach to confronting trauma of the past; had that component been explored to a larger degree, I think the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street could have been something a bit more special.

Alas…



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3612498/10-years-later-exploring-good-bad-ugly-nightmare-elm-street-remake/

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