Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010

{A Nightmare on Elm Street opens in Seattle on Friday, April 30 and is playing at The Metro, AMC Pacific Place, and Oak Tree Cinemas}

I’m not going to lie: being a HUGE fangirl of the original Nightmare on Elm Street (it figures prominently into my current love of the horror genre), I was already dreading what this version would do to my sacred Wes Craven masterpiece. I dreaded the idea of a Robert Englund-less Nightmare, wondering if Jack Earle Harley could pull it off. I dreaded them changing too much, or worse: staging a shot-for-shot remake. I dreaded, well hell, pretty much everything.

As for Harley, hey – who knew? He actually made a pretty decent Freddy. It can’t be easy stepping into a role that’s been perfected by the same actor in EIGHT previous films. But, he was scary. He was creepy. He had a great evil laugh, and delivered the lines in a manner that you would expect – however, most of the one-liners that really worked were ripped directly from the original movie.

My second dread: the story. It was like a mash-up of changes and some almost shot-for-shot scenes (I’ll be generous and say homages). I found myself thinking that the screenwriters and director went through all the previous films, picked out what they thought were the most memorable scenes, and stuck them all into the screenplay at various points. There’s even a weird modern take on one of the more ridiculous murders in The Dream Warriors involving a video blog.

Look, I understand wanting to change a perfectly solid script to start with a little so that fans of the original might still be surprised, but the important thing about that is: it has to make sense, people – and honestly, this one just…doesn’t.

In the original, it’s ALL about Nancy. We learn a lot about her through her parents and friends: mom’s an alcoholic with a secret, dad’s an over-protective cop – they’re divorced and can’t agree on anything. Her friends are bad girl Tina and hoodlum boyfriend Rod, and her own boyfriend is boy next door Glen (Hello! Johnny Depp). The basic premise is that Nancy’s parents, along with most of the other ‘rents in Springwood, hunted child molester Fred Krueger down and burned him to death after he escaped incarceration on a technicality. Thus, Freddy is now killing the kids of those parents while they sleep to get revenge. Simple, non?

In the new film, character development is almost non-existent. Nancy’s mom enters and leaves rooms suddenly and takes off her glasses – I think she has maybe 10 lines. Nancy’s dad has been replaced by the High School Principal, Clancy Brown, whose son (Kyle Gallner – is this guy in every horror film now?) may or may not have the hots for Nancy. And Tina & Rod have been replaced by Kris (Katie Cassidy) & Jesse (Thomas Dekker), a couple who has recently split up. But what’s really wrong with the film is that they screenwriters felt they needed to attach a better reason to why Freddy is killing these particular kids – outside of the whole “punishing the parents” thing. Get this:

As it turns out, halfway through the film you find out that all 5 kids (there was an extra at the beginning – a token appearance by Twilight actor Kellan Lutz) went to the same preschool where Krueger worked as a gardener, and was BFF with all the kids. AND NONE OF THEM REMEMBER THIS. The script is peppered with instances of dialog such as:

“Oh, who remembers anything from when they were 5?”
“I saw a photo of him & I when we were kids, but I don’t remember meeting him until High School!”
“This is so weird, I know we didn’t meet until 6th grade!”

Um. What. Who reading this remembers stuff from when they were 5? Anyone? Ok. Who here also remembers the school you attended, and at least one of your classmates? How about if those SAME classmates went to your Jr. High or High School and you were all friends? How in the hell could you not remember any of it? Mass hypnosis?

In addition, the script tries to trick you – or my current running theory is that they changed the ending at the last minute – with the possibility that maybe Fred Krueger didn’t actually do anything wrong, and the parents burned him by mistake. A possibility that’s verified by Clancy Brown admitting that they never found any evidence, and because they “didn’t want to put the kids through a trial”, thus, no police were called and nothing was ever reported. As it turns out, the preschool is still in the exact same place, untouched, with all of Freddy’s stuff in his various rooms. So obviously the parents never even went in there. Ever. WHAT. Again.

Also of the suck – Nancy isn’t Nancy. Heather Langenkamp’s teen from the original is fierce. She gets really pissed after her friends start getting murdered, and is determined to find out what happened and find a way to stop Krueger. She downs cup after cup of coffee (she hides an entire coffee maker under her bed!) and soda, and takes No-Doz pills to cheat the ZZZs. In contrast, Rooney Mara’s version is an angsty artist who refuses to take anything to help her stay awake (???), and pulls Freddy out of her dream by complete accident. And a third: WHAT.

Now before anyone gets up in my face about how I was obviously opposed to this from the very beginning, let me just say that I don’t auto-hate all 80s horror remakes. I actually thought Zombie’s Halloween reboot was ok, and the Friday the 13th update they did was mostly awesome, because they didn’t try to copy anything and they injected it with the appropriate amount of cheese. There are just so many things wrong about the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street that it makes me angry.

Dear makers of this thing: You guys are doing it wrong. So much so that I want to get you in a room and say, “I don’t believe in you! You’re not real!” until you disappear.

I recommend that you skip this one and go rent the original instead. It’s still way scarier, despite the shoulder pads and crimped hair.