Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes studio has produced a handful of successful original horror movies (A Quiet Place, The Purge series). However, horror fans primarily know the studio for its assembly line of 2000’s remakes. Over the course of the decade, Platinum Dunes tackledThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, and even VHS cult classic, The Hitcher. Though audiences flocked to theatres, no one was particularly impressed wth output. Outside of the relatively decent Texas Chainsaw reboot, these remakes were universally inferior. Before Platinum Dunes would move on to its original content, they took one last shot at re-imagining a horror classic – Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. Of course, the remake made enough money to qualify as a success. Too bad no one particularly liked it. And just like that, the franchise went dormant. So what exactly went wrong with the Elm Street remake?
Elm Street Remake Fails to Capture Any of Craven’s Scares or Tone
Simply put, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror masterpiece. To date, it remains one of the best horror movies produced. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that it was begging for a remake. But if Halloween and Friday the 13th got remakes, an Elm Street remake was inevitable. Technically, director Samuel Bayer’s re-imagining isn’t a bad movie per se. Just about everything about the remake looks good on a superficial level. Bayer’s background in music videos is clearly evident with upgrades in editing and production values. And the Elm Street remake never overstays its welcome. Bayer moves things along at a decent pace.
… the Elm Street remake fails to do anything new with Craven’s premise.
Unfortunately, for all its slick production values, Bayer’s remake is still a soulless, workmanlike effort. Neither scary nor suspenseful, the 2010 Elm Street lumbers from scene to scene in an almost cynical, perfunctory manner. While it avoids the Friday the 13th remake’s ‘greatest hits’ approach, the Elm Street remake fails to do anything new with Craven’s premise. In fact, the remake is arguably the least imaginative entry in the Elm Street franchise. The only times Bayer takes full advantage of the ‘nightmare premise’ are the occasions where he riffs on classic scenes from the original. But when Bayer recycles the bathtub scene and Tina’s death, it just draws more attention to his movie’s shortcomings.
Elm Street Remake Fails a Strong Cast
As much as horror fans would have liked to see Robert Englund return as Freddy Krueger, it made sense for the remake to try a new direction. And it’s hard to argue with Jackie Earle Haley’s casting. If you couldn’t have Englund back in the role, Haley was as good of a substitute as one could hope. He’s an intense performer whose lack of instant recognizability to wider audiences allowed him to disappear into the role. And Rooney Mara is a gifted actress who has amassed impressive credits over the years. With talented veterans Connie Britton and Clancy Brown (Pet Sematary 2) in supporting roles, it’s hard to understand why no character resonated. Aside from Freddy Krueger, the rest of the characters were as bland as the movie itself.
If you couldn’t have Englund back in the role, Haley was as good of a substitute as one could hope.
On this front, Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer’s screenplay is the main culprit. Regardless of the casting, none of the Elm Street remake’s young cast stand out. They’re essentially cardboard cutouts of familiar teen tropes, not relatable characters. Despite Mara’s talent, she can’t do much with Strick and Heisserer’s updated ‘Nancy’ who’s a downgrade from Craven’s original. This ‘Nancy’ lacks the resourcefulness and strength of Heather Lagenkamp’s version. In the remake, Mara’s ‘Nancy’ is indistinguishable from Katie Cassidy’s ‘Kris’. Neither Britton nor Brown are given anything to do in the remake. Their inclusion is something of a mystery. In contrast, John Saxon and Ronee Blakley’s characters had integral roles in the original, even if they were in the background.
Remake Makes Freddy Scary Again, But Makes Things Awkward
If the Elm Street remake gets one thing right, it’s returning Freddy Krueger to his scary roots. After several sequels, Krueger had become more laughable than frightening. In addition to casting the intense Haley, Bayer’s update wisely tones down the one-liners, instead opting to keep Krueger in the shadows again. There’s also a more noticeably sadistic tone to the character, which is much more in keeping with Craven’s vision. Nevertheless, Haley’s Freddy Krueger never approaches Englund’s boogeyman. This isn’t a knock on Haley’s performance – he brings exactly the right amount of menace to the character.
In part, Bayer’s creative decision to use CGI-effects to render Krueger’s burned face rings hollow. And the design just doesn’t look right. Just like the computer-generated kills in the movie, the Elm Street remake distances itself too much from the original movie’s grittier 80’s roots. The same problem arose in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake. But perhaps the remake’s biggest problem with its Krueger is making Freddy’s origins so explicit. In contrast, Craven referred to Krueger as a ‘child murderer’, leaving any reference to child sexual abuse as conjecture. It may have been hinted, but Craven never said it. As a result, the 2010 movie feels more uncomfortable than scary in its finale, particularly since the subject matter isn’t handled well.
Elm Street Remake Watchable, But Forgettable
In all fairness to Samuel Bayer, the 2010 Elm Street remake is hardly the worst horror remake to come out in the last 20 years. It’s not even the worst remake Platinum Dune has produced. On one hand, this Elm Street reboot is completely watchable from start to finish. Haley is excellent in the role and does the best with the material in front of him. But the remake is also instantly forgettable. It’s the kind of movie you can get up in the middle of and grab something from the kitchen without missing much. And that’s exactly the opposite of what A Nightmare on Elm Street was as a horror movie.