Thoughts on “A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)”

So, at about the same time as I found the “Friday the 13th” remake, I also found the remake of the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. A quote from that post reflects my feelings about this movie before starting to watch it:

My biggest fear was that it would end up committing the same sins that most modern remakes do: trying to be too serious and/or artistic instead of capturing what was great about the series in the first place.

And the movie pretty much went that way, making Freddy much more menacing and much less fun. From reading around, it sounds like they were trying to do that to align better with what the original movie was supposed to be, but it doesn’t work all that well. What was best about the series was that while it was horror and could be scary, the villain was more taunting and through that really seemed to be enjoying causing that sort of mayhem, which also allowed for his attacks to be more creative and taunting than simply murderous. All of that was lost, especially since the actor playing Freddy this time has a more growly and mumbly which not only makes him less taunting but also makes him hard to even understand. Thus, all of the personality of the villain was lost, and that was one of the things that really made the original movies work. Here we have an uninspired and uninteresting villain that only leave the scares and the protagonist characters to hang the movie on. And a lot of those are copied from the original movie, making them seem less inspired or creative.

The movie contains a bait-and-switch heroine, with another one starting out as the main focus but it switching to Nancy when that character is killed. Nancy here is more of a goth girl who is a bit of a social outcast, which doesn’t really add much to the movie when compared to the more “girl-next-door” Nancy from the original. It really comes across as an attempt to be cool or subversive rather than as something that is either important to the character itself or that follows from the events that spawned Freddy (Nancy was stated to be his favourite, but since none of the characters remembered it there is no indication that her attitude came from what she experienced there). So there doesn’t seem to be much purpose to the change.

The movie raised an interesting idea, which is that Freddy was accused of hurting the children — likely molesting them — but that he didn’t really do it and was killed because the parents jumped the gun and coerced the children into lying about what happened, which then was behind his revenge spree on the children — now teens — because they lied about it. This seemed interesting at first, but before the movie even ended I realized why this wasn’t going to work. If this was true, then it completely changed the idea of Freddy as a horror villain. Sure, his revenge would certainly be disproportionate especially considering that the children would have been pushed into by their parents and wouldn’t have killed him themselves anyway. So Freddy would change to a villain that needed to be appeased or to have what happened acknowledged rather than a simple sadistic killer that needed to be killed, which would be difficult to pull off and would annoy fans of the original villain. On the other hand, if it turned out that that was a lie and he really was abusing the children then we’d need an explanation for why the false leads were planted, seemingly by him. That wasn’t going to work as a simple red herring, so it would have to either lead the protagonists into some kind of trap or have their defenses lowered, or else be used for some kind of torment. Again, making that false lead pay off in a satisfying way was going to be very difficult.

Ultimately, the movie went with it being a lie, and while that might have been a part of what encouraged the protagonists to seek out the place of the final confrontation, they would have done that anyway since he was trying to kill them and the information gathered there, at least, would be necessary to doing so. So it draws them to a place that they would have gone anyway. It doesn’t really make them come unprepared or weaken them, nor is it really used to taunt them. All that happens is that they find out that he really was abusing them and then the movie proceeds normally. Thus, it doesn’t pay off enough for the prominence it gets.

Also, an oddity about it is that we find out about the abuse from photos that Freddy had taken of the abuse. Or, rather, the two protagonists look at those photos and express shock at what’s in them, and we don’t get to see what was actually being done. Since it was to a young girl and likely involved molestation, I can understand why they might not want to show anything, but as part of a specific work it really dulls the effect for them to be looking at terrible things that we don’t get to see in a modern horror movie where people get killed in relatively gory ways. We’re probably not going to be that squeamish and it’s only going to raise the questions of what exactly was going on.

While the original series was actually pretty good, this one is pretty much uninspired in all ways. I don’t think I’ll watch this one again.

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