ORIGINAL VS. REMAKE: ‘NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’ (1984/2010)

“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.”

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The 1980s were prime real estate for the horror genre. Begging audiences to partake in a level of fear not often seen in cinema, the films that came out of production during that time were easily some of the most memorable due to concept originality. 1980 brought us Jason Voorhees and the Friday the 13th films. Stephen King’s The Shining and Christine, the original Poltergeist film, and even Child’s Play all debuted during the era of neon and hair metal.

But one of the biggest fear-defying successes was easily Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street. It spawned not only a ridiculous amount of sequels (here’s looking at you New Nightmare), but also one of the most recognizable characters in all of modern horror.

Seemingly untouched, Nightmare on Elm Street fans assumed that they were given a safety net from the remake curse when, out of the blue, Michael Bay (a guy known for explosions and horrendously bad dialogue) decided it was a great idea to “reimagine” the film. The remake hit theaters on April 30th, 2010, and, despite less-than-stellar reviews, managed to rake in the cash, earning it the highest grossing title in the franchise’s history.

Horror fans were less-than-pleased. While it was considered financially successful, genre advocates called for a lynching of the production. Rotten Tomatoes only gave the film a 15% approval rating, and Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called the film’s cast “lethargically lifeless.”

But let’s be fair- there have been worse remakes. The film had flaws, but did it really deserve the lack of critical acclaim and severe dismissal? Purists will say yes, but could it be a case of ‘it’s so bad it’s good’? In this first of its kind column, we will try and find out…

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Let’s break down its mistakes….

 

  • Mistake #1- Replacing Robert Englund.

We get it – legendary horror actor Robert Englund IS Freddy Krueger. Despite his lifelong commitment to hand knives and ugly sweaters, he was replaced for the first time in the franchise’s history by actor Jackie Earle Haley, who was one portion of the cast that helped Watchmen’s cinematic debut. While Englund publicly stated that he agreed with the casting, it just didn’t stack up for lifelong fans, who would rather the series be retired than made without the legend. It showed, too, as Haley turned Krueger into a ‘relatable’ character, and dismissed the previous portrayal altogether. The character felt like a standalone, and despite efforts to keep the film as the 9th installment, it just didn’t feel right without Englund.

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  • Mistake #2- Where’s the Humor?

What made Freddy Krueger so appealing in the prior films was his sense of humor. He might have been a psychopath who murdered children, but dammit he had fun torturing his victims later in the afterlife. He cracks jokes, has a few fetishes, and he amps up the creep factor with some catchy nursery rhymes. When the remake hit theaters, horror fans were still expecting to see a touch of humor- and instead, the film slapped them in the face with a case of severe seriousness. The writers, who also botched the Friday the 13th remake (which I have the pleasure of ripping to shreds next month), decided it was better to make Freddy ‘darker.’ The only thing they succeeded at was turning him into a molester, which is something even Wes Craven didn’t feel was necessary.

 

  • Mistake #3- Randomness

Normally randomness wouldn’t necessarily be an entire category, but the remake needs to have this covered. Hell, it starts in the first five minutes of the film- unless you’ve seen the originals, you’d honestly have no idea what was going on. Somehow the character who dies in the opening cuts his own throat even though Freddy is supposedly doing it ‘from the other side.’ And then there’s the whole body bag issue- as fans of the original remember it, protagonist Nancy’s friend, Tina, was seen throughout the film in a body bag after her death which, naturally, haunts Nancy. In the remake, they just randomly throw it in. For one scene. No explanation necessary. Overall, there’s a severe lack of continuity, they overcomplicate the backstory, and the implicit nods to the original aren’t even accurate. Like I said, it’s random.

 

  • Mistake #4- The Special Effects

Horror flicks from the 1980s weren’t widely known for over-the-top special effects, but they did go down in history as some of the most creative and, well, colorful displays of violence. Tina’s death in the 1984 Nightmare original was grotesque and disturbing, while her remake counterpart’s death was lackluster. Johnny Depp (who debuted in the original) left us wondering how much blood the human body can actually make, while the same death in the remake wasn’t even memorable enough to give a descriptor for. Truthfully, most of the deaths in the 2010 version just didn’t stand up to its predecessor. They just weren’t memorable enough to care. To expand further, critics weren’t thrilled with Krueger’s new look either. The filmmakers tried to give a sense of realism to his burns in the remake, but instead his appearance fell flat with horror fans.

 

  • Mistake #5- The Ending

In the 1984 film, the ending felt like a scary dream sequence, something meant to invoke nightmares and leave the viewers wondering if there would be a sequel. The remake attempted a similar scare effect, but boy did it fall flat. Nancy and her companions were taken away by Krueger in the original, with use of a scary Krueger-designed car, as Nancy watched her mother being taken captive in front of their home. After Nancy ‘defeated’ Krueger moments before, you weren’t expecting it. In the 2010 flick, audiences were hoping for something just as fun, but instead they were given a poor character performance by a struggling Rooney Mara (who is normally very talented) and Connie Britton (of Nashville and Friday Night Lights fame and also very talented). Krueger slams through the glass and literally hooks Britton through the eye in a horrible CGI sequence, dragging her into his nightmare. Yeah- we didn’t really care.

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The Bottom Line:
Overall, there have been worse attempts to revive a franchise. For this generation, it served as a placeholder while horror takes its time to revitalize its presence in theaters. Or for Robert Englund to decide when he’s returning as Freddy Krueger. Regardless, the film fell flat for a lot of reasons- but it’s still worth a shot if you’re looking for something new. However, if you’re like me, and still loving on 2003’s Freddy vs Jason, take a rain check. It’ll save you the frustration. Espeically if you really liked the original.

 

RUMOR MILL: Rumors have been circulating that there’s another film being developed for the franchise, and Englund has only mentioned that he would possibly have a cameo in the film. I wouldn’t hold your breathe for a big resurgence anytime soon.

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-Andrea Albin
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine
@theandreaamanda

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