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Not Even Freddy's Nails Can Sharpen a Dull Nightmare Remake

  • Christian Hamaker Contributing Writer
  • 2010 30 Apr
Not Even Freddy's Nails Can Sharpen a Dull <i>Nightmare</i> Remake

DVD Release Date:  October 5, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  April 30, 2010

Rating:  R (for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language)

Genre:  Horror

Run Time:  95 min.

Director:  Samuel Bayer

Actors:  Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Christian Stolte

The new A Nightmare on Elm Street, a remake of the Wes Craven horror film from 1984, is directed by music-video specialist Samuel Bayer, but there's another name that jumps out during the opening credits: that of co-producer Michael Bay. The king of loud blockbusters like Transformers, Pearl Harbor and Armageddon has a definite fanbase—and an even more passionate group of detractors. If there's one thing you can say about Bay, it's that his films are, whatever else they might be, rarely boring.

Boring, however, is a good description of this unfortunate remake of Craven's film, which led to numerous sequels and created a cultural icon in Freddy Krueger. The disfigured villain haunted the children of Elm St., entering their dreams and killing the victims one by one, usually with a wicked wisecrack.

The new version has lots of Krueger, but unlike the killer's trademark razor-nails, it's deadly dull. A little more visible influence from Bay would've done it some good.

Freddy Krueger is troubling the dreams of the kids of Elm Street, but it takes a while for Nancy (Rooney Mara), Kris (Katie Cassidy), Quentin (Kyle Gallner), Jesse (Thomas Dekker) and Dean (Kellan Lutz) to discover that their fear of falling asleep has a shared cause. The man in their dreams has a red and green striped sweater and long blades at the end of his hand. He uses the blades to cut, puncture and slash the kids. If they die in their dreams, they die in real life.

The film shifts from one young protagonist to another, lingering just long enough on each individual for us to figure out their names before they're killed. One by one they end up in bloody heaps—throat cut, neck pierced, chest slashed. It's ugly, but in the world of A Nightmare on Elm Street, it's these scenes that represent the film's "payoff," the scenes that give the audience what they want to see—gore and blood. In the earlier version of Nightmare, these scenes were preceded and followed by Freddy's bad puns and one-liners, but the new version barely musters the effort to lighten the proceedings. (The sole memorable line comes when a woman discovers her pet dog, dead, with several slashes to its side. "I was just petting him," Krueger says.)

Jackie Earle Haley's portrayal of Krueger is a more obvious problem with the new Nightmare. His interpretation of the character can't hold a candle to Robert Englund's embodiment of Krueger in the earlier films. The razor-gloved menace can still kill at will, but the buildup to those death blows misses out, with one or two exceptions, on the crazed delight Englund's Krueger brought, for better or worse, to the grisly proceedings. Without much of the earlier films' attempted humor, this new Nightmare becomes a series of scenes of killings that could be changed out with nearly any other horror film. Its biggest failing is its inability to separate itself from the pack of impersonal, mindless contemporary horror films, despite the presence of an iconic genre character.

Haley, a former child star, has been amassing an interesting body of work since his return to the big screen. His performance as Rorschach was the best part of last year's Watchmen, but he was even better as the pedophile Ronnie in Todd Field's Little Children, a role that provides an interesting parallel with the character of Freddy Krueger. The Nightmare killer has his own ugly past that involves an unhealthy interest in young children, but unlike Ronnie, who had to live with the continued suspicion and taunts from parents in his neighborhood, Krueger is out for bloody revenge upon the offspring of those who took vengeance upon him years earlier.

Little Children is, ultimately, a complex story of forgiveness; A Nightmare on Elm Street, on the other hand, asks us to enjoy the murderous rage of a man who took advantage of young children. For much of its running time, the film hints that Krueger may be a sympathetic, wronged character, whose revenge might somehow be explained in light of his earlier mistreatment. However, Nightmare eventually makes clear that Krueger was guilty of what the Elm Street parents suspected, albeit a victim of vigilante justice. While no crimes justify the parents' retaliation, it's hard to view Krueger's dreamtime retaliation against their kids as in any way understandable (Leviticus 19:18). It's all the more troubling because Krueger is the only character developed during the course of the film's running time; the kids of Elm Street are disposable, mere pawns in Freddy's game.

There's nothing to learn from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the promised scares are infrequent. You'll sleep better at night if you avoid this film altogether.

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at [email protected].


  • Language/Profanity:  Lord's name taken in vain; a man says, "Oh, God!" when he sees Freddy, who replies, "No. Just me"; the "f" word; multiple obscenities.

  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  Prescription medications are taken, and a young man unsuccessfully attempts to get a refill.

  • Sex/Nudity:  A young woman walks through her attic with her shirt hanging off, revealing a nighttime garment underneath; child molestation is a major theme; a girl asks her ex-boyfriend to stay with her, and in the next scene they are sleeping side by side, with her arms on his chest; a girl undresses for a bath, revealing only her upper back to the camera; in the tub, her knees protrude out of the water but nothing else is seen; swim-practice scene shows several men in swimsuits.

  • Violence/Crime:  Several scenes of Freddy attacking; slashed clothes and flesh; a man controlled by an unseen force stabs his own neck and cuts his throat; a dead dog has been slashed by Freddy; a woman is tossed about her bedroom by an unseen force; a man is burned alive; a man almost drowns; a bloody corpse in a body bag is dragged through a hall, then rises up on its own; girl burns herself with a cigarette lighter; a syringe is injected into different characters; a character is stabbed in the eye with scissors.