Sometimes Hollywood remakes films. I know, I know, it’s shocking. It happens, though, and when it does, sometimes it works out pretty well. I think of examples like John Carpenter’s The Thing or the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. These are prime examples where the best of the original films were preserved and built upon in fascinating ways.
The 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is not one of these films. It takes the best parts of a great slasher film and then cuts them out in an attempt to go full grimdark. Unfortunately, I guess somewhere along the way it was forgotten that Freddy Krueger is actually pretty funny. It was also forgotten that lighting exists, but I suppose in the grim darkness of slasher remakes, nobody knows how to properly choose a high watt light bulb.
Ok, so I can’t completely fault everything about the picture. Jackie Earle Haley makes for a great villain. He’s creepy, nasty, and both rasps his lines and seems to enjoy it. He’s not playful in the way Robert Englund was, so he isn’t Freddy Krueger, but that’s not to say I’d avoid seeing other movies in which he hacked up a bunch of teenagers. Plus, the prosthetic makeup looked good on him. Again, he’s different, but he knows how to pull off wearing a costume and mask.
As for the teenagers, well, yeah, they’re gonna die. Fodder is a good word for them. I don’t really root for them, though I thought at first the film might go for an interesting angle with Krueger having actually been innocent of his original crime. That ain’t what happens though, so we’re back to the old take without any interesting new angles. I’ve seen this movie before, and it was better the first time. We even get a greatest hits of the best of the original film, and you know what? It feels stale and rehashed. Scenes like hallucinating your friend in a bloody body bag in the school hallway just don’t have the punch that they did.
You know what else pulls that punch? The darkness. If you’re spending all your time trying to make everything so gritty, then it doesn’t feel heightened when the nasty stuff occurs. In the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, the bloody body bag contrasted heavily with the clean white floor and bright light. People got killed outside in broad daylight, and while we had nightmares, those nightmares weren’t so terrifying as to water down the shock of the actual kill. Here, that’s what happens. Even with lighting, this movie looks clinical in an unpleasing way, so everything that I see in it is just going to be more of the same, no matter how much blood you spray everywhere.
I won’t go down a rabbit hole of complaining about remakes, because it’s been done for as long as we’ve been making films. Everything old is always new again. What it requires to keep going though is a sense of freshness; some new way to look at things, perhaps a new lens or a take from modern culture that updates a movie beyond just saying, “Let’s make it dark!” That just feels like it misses the point. This whole movie is this way, and instead of being good, it comes off as a cash grab.