A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)    0 Stars

“He knows where you sleep.”


A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Director: Samuel Bayer

Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner

Synopsis: A re-imagining of the horror icon Freddy Krueger, a serial-killer who wields a glove with four blades embedded in the fingers and kills people in their dreams, resulting in their real death in reality.




Is this a remake, a reboot or a re-imagining? It’s difficult to tell these days, as Hollywood continues to plunder its cavernous vaults with a depressing regularity that’s matched only by the same lack of imagination that prevents the Dream Machine from coming up with something new. The original Nightmare on Elm Street was a massive hit, the reasoning goes, so all we have to do is update it for a new generation, then sit back and wait for the moolah to mount up. No need to freshen up a franchise whose origins date back more than quarter-of-a-century, no need to embellish or expand upon the original idea – just get out the tracing paper and draw around the outlines.

And the saddest thing of all is that it’s a strategy that works. In 2010 the new Nightmare on Elm Street earned a global revenue that was more than three times its budget, a success that gave rise to worrying rumours that it would get a sequel of its own. It seems that it really is true what they say: the public gets what it deserves…

The new Nightmare on Elm Street begins with a quintet of high school friends already suffering from vivid nightmares in which they are stalked by the familiar (to us) figure of Freddy Krueger, dressed in his iconic Dennis the Menace shirt and fedora, and sporting deadly razor-sharp finger-blades. While this plunges us straight into the action, with one of the five (Kellan Lutz) meeting his demise at Freddie’s hand within five minutes of the opening credits, it provides no opportunity for the audience to get to know the teens in peril, meaning they are never anything more than sketchy potential victims for the remainder of the movie, and so preventing us from engaging in their plight.

Three of the five are killed off in fairly short order, leaving the more nerdy of the quintet struggling, like us, to stay awake as they desperately search for clues as to why they’re being stalked in their dreams. These two, Nancy and Quentin, are played by the vaguely Goth-like Rooney O’Mara and a moon-faced Kyle Gallner. They both do a decent job, but are hampered by a pedestrian script and nondescript characterisation as they blunder their way towards a predictable showdown with the enduring Mr. Krueger. It turns out that when they and their classmates were five years old, Freddy was their school caretaker, and he had a cosy little cavern behind his office in the school basement where he used to take the little tykes to engage in a spot of kiddie-fiddling. Somehow, these 20-odd kids all managed to suppress this trauma, which is proof, if ever it were needed, that repression is bad for you, sometime after their enraged parents burned Freddie to a crisp.

On the subject of Freddie, there’s something not quite right about his new incarnation, played by Jackie Earle Haley (here receiving top-billing, whereas Robert Englund was ranked ninth in the original cast list). It’s not just that the one-liners he delivers are particularly flat and uninspired, sometimes resembling in fact the kind of quips Arnie used to voice in his 1980s action pics, but also the fact that he just doesn’t look right. Englund’s face looked like it had been moulded by intense flames into a complex pattern of twisted flesh. Haley just looks like he’s wearing one of those shiny cheap alien masks.

So is there anything worthwhile to be found in the new Nightmare on Elm Street? Not really. Rooney O’Mara stands out amongst a distinctly average cast of young faces, and there is one genuine scare to be found, but for the most part we’re simply subjected to a series of dream sequences that possess neither the surreal atmosphere or jumbled randomness of dreams, and the usual attempts of the director {Samuel Bayer) to play with the audience’s expectations. You know the kind of thing – when the pretty teen-in-peril raises her head to gaze in the bathroom mirror after dousing her face with water we’re conditioned to expect a menacing demon to be standing behind her, so now when she raises her head there’s nothing there, and we experience a brief moment of relief before the director hits us with the real scare. It won’t be long now before we become conditioned to expect there to be nothing behind her so that they can get back to doing things the way they used to…

Check out the original movie if you wish to revisit Freddy and his nails – at least that version is entitled to look a bit tired.