HT Schuyler: Remake Comparison-A Nightmare on Elm Street

Posted: August 15, 2011 by htschuyler in Retrospectives

Another Wes Craven classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984, and spawned six sequels, various TV spin-offs, a video game, books, comics, a crossover with Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees and of course, a remake. This movie also created the horror icon Freddy Krueger, played originally by Robert Englund. The movie was remade in 2010, and Robert Englund was replaced by Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger. It seems bizarre that they would even make a remake, considering A Nightmare on Elm Street still has a big fan base, but never the less we received one. So…how do they compare?

Warning: Reviews contain spoilers.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Released: 16th November 1984

Director: Wes Craven

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Jsu Garcia and Ronee Blakley.

One of the many ‘slasher’ films to come out in the 80’s, A Nightmare on Elm Street really stands out from the rest due to its creativity and uniqueness, creating fear through the concept of dreams, instead of just a guy in a mask stabbing people. By adding the supernatural aspect to the film, it was able to explore and display haunting scenery and ideas that would seem out of place in a real world situation. It’s a brilliant format, a serial killer who kills his victims through their nightmares. They can’t escape their dreams, and they’re constantly doubting reality. For lack of a better word, the concept is genius.

Plot Outline: Tina (Amanda Wyss) is having nightmares of a strange man with a razor fingered glove and red and green striped sweater who chases her around and torments her dreams. While discussing it with her friend Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), the girls realize that they have been having similar nightmares. The girls have a sleepover at Tina’s house, joined by Heather’s boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp, in his film debut). Tina’s boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia) comes along, and decides he’s spending the night too. So Tina and Rod go to bed together, where Tina has another nightmare. Only this time, she gets killed in it. Rod wakes up to see his girlfriend being dragged across the bedroom wall by an invisible force, only to then be sliced open. So with Tina dead and Rod as the only witness, he gets arrested for suspicion of murder. Nancy doubts whether he did it or not, which causes conflict with her father (John Saxon), who also happens to be the chief of police. Nancy visits Rod while he’s in prison, and he confesses that he too has been having dreams of a scary man with knife hands. Rod is later killed in his sleep, but is made to look like he hung himself. Nancy has a confrontation with her mother (Ronee Blakley), who reveals that the man she is dreaming about is Fred Krueger (Robert Englund), a child murderer who was released from prison due to a technicality. The parents then took vigilante justice on him and hunted him down and burned him alive in a boiler room. Nancy’s mother shows her Fred’s glove, which she kept for some reason, and tells her not to be afraid of Fred Krueger because “Mommy killed him”.

Nancy’s mother takes her to some sort of ‘dream specialist’ who analyzes her dream patterns and tries to determine the problem. Nancy once again dreams of Fred Krueger, but when she wakes up she discovers that she brought his hat back from the dream world. She then constructs a plan to literally pull Fred out of the dream world into reality, then kill him. She forms a plan with Glen, who is unfortunately killed (by being sucked into his bed then exploding into a bloody mess) before he can help her. While her dad is at the crime scene of Glen’s death, who lives across the street from Nancy, Nancy’s dad promises to aid Nancy in her plan, while at the same time telling her to go home and get some sleep. Nancy sets up traps around her house to catch Fred, then enters the dream world and pulls Fred Krueger out of it, only to have him chase her around the house until she lights him on fire. She later tries to show her dad that she’s killed Fred Krueger, only for his body to be missing. She runs up stairs in time to see her mother dissolve into her bed sheets and disappear. Fred Krueger appears once again, and Nancy realizes that he doesn’t exist, because it’s all just a dream. Fred lunges at her but disappears into pixels before he reaches her. What follows is one of the most bizarre and confusing endings ever; Nancy says goodbye to her mother while setting off for school. Her friends (who are all suppose to be dead, but are alive for some reason) drive up in their convertible and pick her up. The hood then covers the car (designed in red and green strips, like Fred Kreuger’s sweater) and the car drives off while the kids inside scream. The mother smiles and waves goodbye, only to have Fred’s hand burst out of the door window and pulls her inside. The end. Confused? So am I.

Despite the bizarre and almost absurd ending, I really love this movie. It has a really great tone and atmosphere, surprisingly good effects for the time, and is a perfect balance between being gory and scary. The tension is very high, and the dreams sequences are very elaborate and creative. Despite my praise, this film is not without its flaws. The biggest one being the acting is terrible. With the exception of Robert Englund (who is outstanding in creating one of the best horror icons out there), the acting is just laughable. Heather Langenkamp’s character Nancy never came across as a likeable character, and she just annoyed me every time she was one screen. Plus, she mentions that she has been awake for seven days straight, but she barely even looks tired. If anything she just looks bored. But luckily for her, she is outdone in the annoying category by her tedious and frustrating mother, played by Ronee Blakley. I really don’t know why, but I couldn’t stand this women. Every time she came on screen I groaned due to her constant annoyance. Thankfully she gets a pretty brutal demise at the end of the film. The rest of the acting is pretty bad. This was Johnny Depp’s first film, and it shows. Granted, besides Fred Krueger he was my favourite character. He’s not bad, it’s just he’s not as good as he would later become. Everyone else is just sort of there, and you don’t really care what happens to them.  Despite the bad acting, this is really a great film. It’s a must see for any horror fan, as it delivers a fresh, creative and even terrifying experience.

8.5/10

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Released: 30th April 2010

Director: Samuel Bayer

Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy and Clancy Brown.

A Nightmare on Elm Street with a good budget, a talented special effects crew to work with, and infinite possibilities on how you could really take this concept and make it your own, using today’s modern techniques. And guess what? They didn’t. While this isn’t a shot for shot remake, it’s close enough, showing little creativity, and just rehashing everything that made the first one so good. It’s not a terrible film, there were some new ideas and some genuinely good effects, but at the end of the day it is just unnecessary, which is unfortunate, as it did have potential.

Plot Outline: The movie starts with a boy named Dean (Kellan Lutz) being killed at the local Diner (in his dream Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley) slits his throat, and in reality it looks like he’s doing it to himself) while his friends Kris (Katie Cassidy) and Nancy (Rooney Mara) watch in horror. While attending his funeral, Kris sees an old photograph of Dean as a kid surrounded by other children, herself being one, which confuses her as she claims to have only met Dean in high school. While staying home alone one night, her ex-boyfriend Jesse (Thomas Dekker) comes to visit her and promises to spend the night with her to keep her company, as she is fearing her safety. Kris falls asleep and is brutally sliced open by Freddy, while Jesse watches in horrific confusion. After telling Nancy what happened, he is arrested by the police, and is later killed in his sleep in jail. Desperately trying to figure out what is happening to her friends, Nancy and her friend Quentin (Kyle Gallner) do some research and find out that they all attended the same preschool, and Nancy’s mother (Connie Britton) tells them that there was a man there named Fred Krueger, who abused the children, but escaped before they could apprehend him. Nancy tracks down all the names of the children at her preschool and finds out that they are all dead, most of them while in they’re sleep. While falling asleep at swim practice, Quentin has a vision/dream thing where he sees what really happened to Fred Krueger, that the parent’s took vigilante justice on him and burnt him alive in an old warehouse. Nancy and Quentin decide to go to the old preschool and investigate, but on the way there Nancy falls asleep and is injured, but not before she pulls a chunk of Freddy’s sweater out of her dream.

Quentin takes her to the hospital, and steals some adrenaline to help him stay awake. After they leave the hospital they crash their car by accident, but eventually make it to the preschool. They discover where Freddy use to live and find out that he was in fact a child molester, and that he had abused all of them as kids. Nancy decides to go into her dream and pull Freddy out, but before she does Quentin falls asleep and is attacked by Freddy in his dream. Quentin eventually wakes up, and in turn wakes Nancy up, as she pulls Freddy out of the dream world. The two end up killing him, and Nancy torches his body. They then leave the preschool and Nancy goes home with her mother. Her mother and her have a brief chat in front of a giant mirror that they happen to have in their front hall, when suddenly Freddy’s hand bursts through the mirror and his blades stab through Nancy’s mother’s face while Nancy just stands there helplessly and screams. The end.

Though this film was very pointless except for the fact that they wanted to make more money, it’s not the worst remake I’ve seen. It’s not that good, the acting is equally bad as the original, but this time it’s mainly the “young” actors who are bad. Jackie Earle Haley is incredible, but then again you don’t hire someone like Jackie Earle Haley and get a bad performance. Clancy Brown is good for the short time he has on screen, as at least he was trying. My biggest problem was that all of the younger actors just didn’t seem interested in what they were doing. Katie Cassidy was probably the best out of them, but that’s just because she was actually showing some emotion. The two leads, Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner, just seemed bored and completely oblivious to what movie they were in, though Kyle Gallner is definitely the best actor of the two. Another thing that is common in horror movie but really stood out here, was that they were suppose to be high school age, but all of the “teen” actors were in their twenties, but the worst part is, they LOOK like they’re in their twenties, so it’s laughable when they show them in the school setting, because all the lead actors stick out like a sore thumb. Plus it also makes it hard to take their parent’s seriously, as they look as if they’re only five years older than their children. As I said, it’s common in horror films, but it really stood out here. Besides the acting, the movie is just bad because of the unoriginality. A lot of the death scenes and scares were done before in the original, and the dream sequences could have been a lot more elaborate and creative, instead of just the same as the original. Some of the deaths scenes are well done, but overall it just feels like you’ve seen it all done before, and done better. One thing I can praise it for is its attempt to be unique with a different twist on the origin story of Freddy, as it is handled differently than the original. So besides some cool effects and Jackie Earle Haley and Clancy Brown’s performance, this move does not have that much going for it. As a horror movie it’s entertaining and good for a few laughs, but as a remake, it really falls short.

6/10

Comparison:

Best Acting: 2010 (But that’s not saying much).

Best Atmosphere and Tone: 1984.

Scariest: 1984.

Best Director: Wes Craven, 1984.

Best Kills: 1984.

Best Freddy: Robert Englund, 1984.

Best Heroine: Rooney Mara, 2010. (I’m not fond of either).

Best Overall Film: 1984.

It’s no surprise that the 1984 original is the best. It has the most creativity, the more originality and is definitely the scariest. It also has one of the best creations/portrayals of a horror icon, as Robert Englund is fantastic (though I really did think Jackie Earle Haley did a good job at making it his own, and he does deserve credit for his performance). The 1984 films withstands the test of time, and is definitely one of Craven’s best. The biggest problem with the remake is that it just doesn’t need to exist, as the 1984 still holds up and is a very good film. If you want a dumb horror film to throw on and entertain you 95 minutes, go right ahead, but if you want a unique horror experience with some good effects and well done scares, check out the original.

Comments
  1. ianthecool says:

    I like the comparison idea. You should do more of these.

  2. Seconded!

    I liked the comparison column idea, it was a really nice idea… but I actually haven’t seen EITHER of the two “Last house on the left” movies.

    These, though, I’ve seen both.

    The first movie was actually a good movie, but I find the entire series a little overrated, mainly because even though they have a great, iconic central villain… none of these movies outside of 1 and maybe 3 are really any good. Unless you want to look at them as comedies. They definitely did embrace the camp factor.

    I was disappointed by the remake. I think my expectations were way too high. Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy? I was amped. Plus, actually, I had seen a couple of New Line remakes that weren’;t that bad. The new Texas CSM was pretty good… and the Friday the 13th one they did was AWESOME. LOL… its one of my favorites in the entire series.

    So I just… wanted more. Instead all you got was a Freddy who didn’t crack wise, a more open disclosure of his pedophilia and a lot of regurgitation of the original. I was unimpressed.

    Great column man, looking forward to more of these!

  3. CMrok93 says:

    The remake was dreadful because there was nothing really cool about it at all. Just a bunch of lame and cheap jump-scares. Good Stuff Man!

  4. Ipodman says:

    Nice post! I actually like the remake more than the original O.O I like that the remake has an origin for Freddy, and JEH’s Freddy is better :D

    • Ipodman says:

      Oh, and I forgot to add, I don’t think the acting in either of those movies are all that bad… Rooney Mara in particular is pretty good….

  5. Great post. I love the original, and liked the remake well enough. The remake had a “Superman Returns” vibe to it, for me. You could tell the creators really wanted to recapture something great from the original and do it justice. You can tell they love the material, and really want to knock it out of the park. But everything has either an “I’ve seen this before” feel to it… except the outright original additions (Super-kid in SR, Freddy’s a diddler, not a terrifying murderer), which are just terrible ideas, and poorly executed.

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