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A Nightmare on Elm Street
Genre Horror
Year: 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most successful horror franchises ever... carrying Freddy Krueger, the burnt man with a fedora and bladed claw through our nightmares for almost three decades. Freddy's colleagues, Halloween's Michael Myers and Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees recently received their own remakes, so it was almost inevitable that Krueger would be given a face-lift remake. Rob Zombie's Halloween remake placed more emphasis on the face behind the mask, while the Friday the 13th remake got a less imaginative redux with Michael Bay as producer.

Bay has been producing '70s and '80s horror remakes over the last few years... including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th and now A Nightmare on Elm Street. While most of these remakes have proved watchable and fairly entertaining as stand-alone features, many have not retained the same spirit and flair for horror, opting for a more contemporary stylish look and feel. The same can be said for A Nightmare on Elm Street with renowned music video director, Samuel Bayer and Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger, (Watchmen's Rorschach) at the helm of a largely unknown cast.

Robert Englund will always be the Freddy Krueger and there have been some noticeable modifications. Apart from the burn scars, Freddy's face doesn't look the same... he looks like an alien rat with 3rd degree burns or Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. Jackie Earle Haley has the look of a pedophile, but having a short Freddy is like having a tall tokoloshe! He's still got the homemade garden glove with shears on one hand, possibly inspired by the late Michael Jackson and Wolverine. Then the stripey red and black top is obviously a tip of the hat to the original Dennis the Menace with the slasher mit substituting for Gnasher. The scary look is complete with an Indiana Jones style fedora to keep the Sun... to keep his hair... what's that hat for anyways?

The Nightmare franchise has mainly worked because of its dream state, where reality and the subconscious melt into one another - giving Freddy the opportunity to switch between the real and the unreal. As a composite "creature" Freddy's pretty scary... especially when you consider his Michael Jackson influences. However, as a horror the remake isn't... and becomes quite repetitive with the familiar sound build-ups and jump cuts nullifying the fear factor. Poor guy, he probably learnt the hard way about doing the infamous one-hand grip, although can't say he'd be that terrifying if he did a little sing and dance before slicing-and-dicing. 

The remake starts early with this dream state uncertainty, diving straight into the deep end and continually smothering and resuscitating the audience with horror until the grand finale. Samuel Bayer does well to maintain the steady flow of horror as the speed bumps get bigger and bigger and the nightmares build to a crescendo. The struggle to stay awake makes the characters immediately identifiable with the majority of the audience, who having seen the Nightmare series in the '80s, have become somewhat immune to the psychotic slasher. It's true, Freddy's become a Hollywood icon, eliminating most of the mystery and fear associated with the character.

The A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) remake tries to give audiences a back story to explain who Freddy is and why he is what he is. This is a typical mistake for over-produced horrors, which try to tie up every loose end. In fact, the only unknown is how Krueger manages to haunt his victim's dreams from what must be some kind of purgatory. This is possibly why '80s horrors are reverred - the unexplained, the uncertainty and the unknown all create the perfect climate for fear. These classic horror films didn't intend to justify their existence, they were primarily concerned with trying to make you jump or scream.

It's perceived by film-makers like Michael Bay that modern audiences want a back story to put horror in context. This takes away from the element of surprise and dulls the scares. If the scariest thing about a horror is that you feel sorry for a bloodthirsty pedophile "ghost", then you've got to ask yourself - why bother? A Nightmare on Elm Street's production values and execution raises the bar from a visual effects and aesthetics perspective, but a grainy picture, creepy characters and slightly shaky camera usually works better for horror, take Paranormal Activity for example.

Bayer's remake can be commended for its use of lighting and special effects, which help create a taut, realistic atmosphere with grounded visual effects. This is where many horrors fail horribly, relying too heavily on visual effects or stretching their budget too thin for the effects to be taken seriously. The new Nightmare also succeeds with Freddy's surround sound chuckle, which feels like its coming from inside your head. There's also a fair amount of gore for horror fans and the movie's pacing keeps you entertained.

The performances are ordinary with good-looking stock characters in reserve. A stronger lead actress would've given the film more edge, but then again they're just there for eye candy and the slaughter. Rob Zombie and '80s horrors are more open to tasteless nudity and Nightmare botches the nude scenes with obvious avoidance techniques, taking away from the roving voyeuristic cinema eye. The remake will pass the time for anyone, who hasn't been exposed to the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but comparisons with the original - just find this film wanting on all fronts. All in all, the new A Nightmare on Elm Street is a competent, formulaic albeit unnecessary modern horror remake.

The bottom line: Competent.


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