Horror fans seemed to be all the more skeptical when it came to the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Sure we had already seen the likes of Jason Vorhees, Leatherface, and Michael Myers get the remake treatment.
And while these weren’t without their backlash (particularly Rob Zombie’s Halloween), none were so dreaded by the horror community as the “re-imagining” of their beloved Freddy Krueger. And to be fair, it’s not without merit.
The other aforementioned slasher villains are silent, masked killers that were always played by stuntmen, and always different sequel after sequel. Freddy was sacred in that he was always played by Robert Englund, and his dialogue and personality made him who he was.
But did we judge the remake too harshly? Did we automatically decide that we hated it because we were so outraged that they would dare recast a character as iconic as Freddy Krueger?
So on the 10th anniversary of this despised remake, we thought it would be a good opportunity to take a retrospective look back at 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and see if perhaps it deserves more credit than it gets:
Getting the Tone Right
While we all adore Englund’s Freddy Krueger, we also all know that by the time we got to Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, the character had fully become a parody of his former self.
The sadistic dream demon we meet in the original friend is “Fred” Krueger, and he’s not really cracking too many jokes.
His dark sense of humor became more prevalent as the sequels went on, and as much as audiences loved him, it was difficult to take him seriously anymore as a threat.
During his interview for Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments, Eli Roth even remarked that Freddy is really only scary to kids under 10 and that to anyone 15 and over, he’s more a source of comedy.
The remake sought to remedy this by going for all out, serious horror, and in many ways it succeeds. Its tone and atmosphere are legitimately creepy and unsettling.
And there are even a few great scares along the way. If we simply judge the movie on its own, and forget the rest of the franchise, it would hold up as a decent piece of supernatural horror.
(Warning: Contains Sensitive Material)
Long before Freddy was stalking kids in their dreams and killing them via supernatural means, he was an incredibly evil human being. The 1984 original continuously refers to Krueger as a “child murderer” and doesn’t really elaborate any further.
In the original script however, Krueger was a child molester, but there had been a recent, high-profile case of child molestation in California. And Wes Craven felt it a bit too close to home and even exploitative to reference that.
So molester was changed to murderer. The remake however, demonstrates Freddy as the true despicable being that he was, and gives a stronger connection between him and the children of Elm Street, particularly Nancy.
It makes Freddy even more evil, and presents a stronger motivation for his vengeance from beyond the grave. He wasn’t just angry about the parents burning him alive, he was angry at the children for revealing the heinously inappropriate things he had done to them.
A Noble Effort
Now for the most controversial point of all. We’re not suggesting in any way that Jackie Earle Haley was a better Freddy than Robert Englund, just that he brought a grit and gravitas to the role that is worthy of praise.
His Freddy Krueger didn’t quite have the sense of humor, but he was a menacing presence. His less overt and over-the-top performance made him seem more grounded and realistic, which in a way is even scarier.
Especially in the flashbacks where he’s human, we get the sense that his sick and disgusting actions towards children felt justified in his own mind. And that’s a level of development that we never really get from Robert Englund.
He’ll still of course always be the one and only Freddy, but Haley (and this film) deserve just a tiny bit of recognition.
It may not be the iconic classic the original film is. But it’s certainly not the piece of garbage that so many people discount it as!