The Nightmare on Elm Street's big scary reboot is out today. Does Jackie Earle Haley's new melted head make us more afraid of the new Freddy Krueger? Or does he burn away the only part of Freddy we loved? Spoilers...
Starts With A Bang
Nightmare on Elm Street starts off with a bang. It wastes no time getting right to the action and delivers its first real gore scene in an wonderfully violent manner. Watching the first kiddie, in a Freddy-induced dream coma, slash his own throat at a perpendicular angle with a knife, was fresh new and ultra violent. This opening set the bar at a relatively high standard for kill scenes. Sadly the deaths get progressively worse from this point on, but more on that later. All in all the film starts off on a high note.
Attempts To Explain Freddy And The Parents' Motivations Almost Work
As far as adapting and updating the original, the new Nightmare attempts to fill in a lot of the holes and tried to justify each characters actions and motivations — something the originals never really considered. For example, if Freddy Krueger is just a child serial killer, how is it that an entire small town forgot he existed? That makes absolutely no sense. I can practically list off every personal tragedy that happened in the town I grew up in, it's the nature of living in suburbia. But in the updated version, Freddy isn't a murderer — he's a pedophile who lives under their kids' preschool as the gardener. Something these parents are much more hush hush about "for the sake of their kid's mentality" or something to that nature.
The new Freddy didn't murder any children — instead, he took them down to his secret cave, and well... let's just say he's a bad dude. So when the small number of parents find out their kids were molested, their murderous actions, followed by a "Let's never speak of this" mentality, makes a tiny bit more sense. Maybe. But still, the kids completely forgot about this horrific experience entirely? I guess it makes slightly more sense than forgetting about an massive murderer who would have been on the front page of every newspaper in every town. Also this "angle" also explains why Freddy would later target the children of the parents that turned on him, because he knew the kids — not just because they lived on Elm Street.
New Freddy Has His Scary Moments, And Is Still Slightly Funny In A Sick Way
Even though everyone said this would be a joyless Freddy, Jackie Earle Haley managed to slip in a few one-liners here and there, including the classic, "Why are you crying? I haven't even cut you yet." By pulling back on the amount of zingers, it made the later "jokes" a bit more horrific than the previous movies tongue gags.
Haley is also a great choice for an updated Freddy — the melted face, slurred gravely voice and constant knife finger twitching brought chills. But the scariest thing about this Freddy was the eventual pedo reveal. Especially when he puts teenage Nancy in his "favorite dress" from her preschool years and pins her on the bed. It was revolting. Especially when she manages to break free, only to wind up back in the same place with the snap of Freddy's fingers. This was the only real time Freddy took advantage of his dream world powers, and the results were upsetting. Deeply upsetting. But that was the point. There should have been more of this, much more Freddy manipulation.
Lots of Fan Service
Plenty of great Elm Street nods to look for: Freddy in the wall, Freddy in the tub, similar ceiling death scenes and the walking and talking girl in the body bag. Just the right amount, really — it never detracted from the film.
The Big Boo Got Really Boring
While the film started with a horrific neck slice, all the kills after that were forgettable. And this is a movie about a man with magical dream powers who has a knife glove! I'm not saying I need a geyser of blood to come pouring out of a bed, similar to the first movie, but they could have done something, anything — besides the repetitive "Freddy hits a kid with his knife hand, game over." The best part of Nightmare is, you never really know what's actual reality and what's a nightmare. And while the new film played with this concept quite a bit in the beginning, it eventually felt like the audience was being rushed through the death scenes to get to more boring talky talk, and scary noises.
It's a horror movie! I want to watch people get cut up in ways I didn't think were possible. If you rip a knifed hand through someone's chest 2-minutes into the dream world with no fun mind-screwing, at least show the death. The rebooted Nightmare was almost uncomfortable wallowing in the blood and flesh that make the horror genre such a fun place to visit. Instead, new Nightmare rests pretty hard on two tactics: The shock of the child molester reveal and actual "Boo" scares.
Everyone loves a few pull back the mirror and oh my god he's right behind you jumps. But this film was literally strung together by "look outs" and "zomg" scares. It's like riding on a 2-hour roller coaster loop with only one big hill.
Freddy's Backstory Doesn't Work 100%
Making Freddy this child molesting monster doesn't really add up. Why does he need a glove? The film shows flashes of the children all cut up, but it seemed forced onto the character. The glove is part of the "murderer" backstory they jettisoned. But he's not a murderer in this, so it doesn't really make much sense when you really think about this creep's motivations and actions. I mean there's nothing particularly inviting for children about a guy with knife hands. Why would he have it, for gardening reasons?
Also, what was the reason for the boiler room dream sequences then, it clearly wasn't his home, the new Freddy lives in a cave under a preschool — no really, that's where he lives. I would totally be okay with that as a parent, wouldn't you?
And how did the parents get the school closed down? Didn't the teachers wonder where the creepy man that lived in their basement go, let alone the town being curious about a school getting shut down? Also there's a moment where they toy with the idea that Freddy is innocent and that fuels a lot of the kids panic, "so that's why he wants to kill us, revenge! He's innocent. We must have made it up because we don't remember!" I don't want to stereotype creepy gardeners living in cave basements of preschools here, but there was no doubt in my mind that he hurt those kids, based on occupation and residence alone. I mean come on, sheesh.
Where Were The Fun Teenager Moments?
What's the point of making a movie about teenagers if you're not going to give them the chance to act like kids? Part of the horror fun is watching people behave like idiotic children. Almost every single fan favorite horror film is filled with humor or something resembling fun, it's why you're sad — or secretly happy — when they kill the big d-bag jock. The fun makes you care.
These new kids are all just scared right from the get-go, and it's dull. Forget the fact that they are stereotypical 2-D representations of teens, the real issue is that they are just so utterly boring. I didn't care whether most of them lived of died. I don't know if a pool party scene would have helped, which was clearly in the trailer and cut like a lot of things, but a little levity would have gone a long way in this film.
While the good might seem to out weigh the bad here, it doesn't in the end. The boo scares got so tedious it almost killed the films momentum and actual frightening moments.
Is it a bad movie? No. But this Freddy, while physically terrifying and gutturally disturbing, is no Robert Englund. Who knew that wonderful Englund charm could actually make a character more terrifying than this reinvention? As cheesy as the original Freddy was, we always wanted to know what he'd do next. Where would this guy take us, what horrible scenario would he dream up next? And he never needed a "realistically melted head" to scare me, he did fine all on his own. I was never really invested in this new monster, even during his big creepy end moment with Nancy. It's not a bad film by any means, but it's not anything more than a rental, sadly.