Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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Rooney Mara in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Photo: Warner Bros.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is formulaic, boring and ultimately a waste of time. You can look at this as a “no duh” statement or a disappointing realization, but the fact of the matter is screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer along with music video director Samuel Bayer have done nothing to reinvigorate interest in Wes Craven’s beloved horror-turned-comedy franchise, that certainly fizzled after its initial installment, but had some very entertaining roots.

The formula for a horror film from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production house seems to have become quite standard and it’s all here along with the now traditional “hook ’em” opening sequence, the series of stupid scenarios serving the paper thin plot and the jump scare coda reminding us there could always be a sequel if audiences spend enough money. Sure, we’re watching a movie about a pedophile come back from the dead to kill high school teens in their dreams, but that doesn’t need to result in a film this uninspired, derivative and just plain absent-minded.

For the entirely uninitiated, the film is a remake of Wes Craven’s 1981 original focusing on a group of high schoolers suffering from terrible nightmares in which a horribly disfigured man by the name of Freddy Krueger haunts them and has the power to kill them in their dreams. Remember, if you die in your dreams you die for real. While the original did its best to come up with original ways to involve Freddy and his potential victims, this remake just regurgitates a few of those while adding several unimaginative entries in a lackluster attempt to modernize a film that never really felt all that dated.

Dedicated to jump scares more than any real sense of dread, the worst use of the cheap thrill comes in the form of “micro-naps,” a word one of the teens finds while researching insomnia on the Internet. While micro-naps are indeed real, their use in this film isn’t concerned with any form of reality. According to our expert after his diligent online search, this means you will be dreaming, but you won’t know it. You’re just walking around (or driving) and dreaming while fully awake, offering up the perfect scenario for Freddy Krueger to pop up here and there accompanied by loud screeches. SCREACHEEACKAREEEE! Scared? Perhaps this explains why our characters seem to be falling asleep in every scenario imaginable, even while jacked on adrenaline.

The journey down the path of the questionable again comes up as Freddy tells one of his victims that after the heart stops beating the brain remains active for an additional seven minutes. Perhaps it was during these seven minutes one character that has been posting video blogs about his reoccurring nightmares posted his final video that ends with his head slamming into the camera, killing him. I bring this up because I have no idea how a dead man publishes a blog post, although I suppose Freddy could be practicing for his own dot com and been kind enough to post it for him.

Not making things any better is the digitally manipulated voice of Freddy, played by Jackie Earle Haley made up to look like a melted Kermit the Frog. When I think back to Robert Englund’s turn as Freddy, even to some extent in the original film, there was an aspect of fun to the character. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a ridiculously implausible story so something needs to be injected to allow the audiences to engage with the scene, otherwise you’re left with wash-rinse-repeat sequences of kids falling asleep, getting chased, and screaming; followed by their ultimate demise or the cliched wake up in a pool of sweat scene ready to live to die another day. The latter of which is obviously what we get here.

The acting doesn’t improve things either as the team of cardboard cut-out teens do little to liven up the soap opera-worthy dialogue given to them. You can actually see relative newcomer Rooney Mara and The Haunting in Connecticut‘s Kyle Gallner trying to access the “Gee whiz!” memory banks followed by the “Oooh, I’m mad!” reaction shot as they go about solving the Who is Freddy and why is he after us? mystery. It’s amateur hour at the cinema, and Gallner’s constant look of extreme constipation doesn’t do him any favors.

This film never stood a chance once it went in front of cameras, and once it was there nothing was done to elevate it above the bore the script described. Jackie Earle Haley was said to have gone into something of a closed off stupor while playing the role of Krueger. If he had been told to have a little more fun with the character perhaps things would have been better for both Haley and the film. As it stands it’s simply a film that isn’t so much awful as it is downright boring.

GRADE: D