When Wes Craven delivered his first Nightmare On Elm Street film back in 1984, there wasn’t much expectation for the film to do anything but deliver a little profit for the new independent studio New Line Cinema. The film did quite a bit better than that. It made the small studio into a player in the industry with the budget to make mainstream films that would have never been possible if not for Craven’s little Nightmare. You could say that The Lord Of The Rings owes its very existence, at least in the form of the Peter Jackson films, to Freddy Krueger. Of course, the studio just couldn’t help itself, and they continued to cash in on the franchise time after time. After the 7th film, it appeared that even the fans were about done with Freddy Krueger. A misguided attempt to pit Freddy against Friday The 13th’s Jason might have pulled in good money at first. But the film ultimately disappointed, and a follow-up became very unlikely, indeed. But, like all good cinema monsters, you can’t keep a good fiend down. A Nightmare On Elm Street joined the increasingly long line of horror films that received the remake/reboot/reimagining/regurgitation treatment.
A lot of the 70’s and 80’s slasher films have been remade by now. All of the big franchise names have been reborn. Michael Myers, Jason, Leatherface, and now Freddy Krueger have all been given the reanimation treatment. With most of these bad guys, there was little problem with replacing the man behind the mask. No one actor had played any of these characters exclusively throughout the franchise run. While Kane Hodder came closest with both Freddy and Leatherface, he was not the only performer under the hood for either monster. Freddy Krueger was different, however. In all of the Nightmare films of the original run, Robert Englund had been the only actor to play Freddy. There was an attempt to replace him in the early goings of the second film, but the filmmakers discovered rather quickly that you can’t just put a stuntman in the makeup and turn him loose. Freddy had a personality that had become quite intermingled with that of Englund. So the very first question that had to be answered when the subject of a do-over came up was who was it going to be in the red and green sweater wielding that knife glove. Could anyone but Robert Englund make the part work?
I’m not sure yet what the answer to that question is, even though I have seen the new Nightmare On Elm Street twice now. I can say that if there was another actor that could step in and carry the weight of Freddy, I’d have to admit it could only be Jackie Earle Haley. After watching, or more importantly hearing his rendition of The Comedian on the Watchmen film, I have to admit I heard a bit of Freddy in the character back then. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but I swear that I was reminded of Krueger when I saw that movie. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. So, I am more upset with some of the makeup design changes than I ultimately am with the casting of Haley in the starring role. No disrespect to Robert Englund, who will always be Freddy in all of our hearts, but Haley carried himself quite well. I believed him in the character. I was able to go on the journey into Freddy’s nightmares once again.
The story is essentially the same. Children in the small town of Springwood are beginning to have ultra-real nightmares. In them, a disfigured man in a fedora, green and red sweater, and wearing sharp knives welded onto a glove, dominates their dreams. When the teens start to die as a result of their violent dreams, Nancy (Mara) begins to suspect there is something behind this demon of their sleep. She discovers that she knew her high-school friends back in preschool where they all attended the same school. There they may have been molested by the caretaker, Freddy Krueger. The parents took justice into their own hands and torched the suspected sexual predator. Now Freddy has returned through their dreams to have his revenge.
Of course, it is possible to do so much more with visuals now than was even remotely possible in 1984. That’s not to say the original did not do an incredible job of pushing the boundaries of f/x in its day. Now there is such an infusion of computer generated wizardry that Freddy’s world can be so much more detailed and complete. The veil between reality and dreamland is also so much more seamless in this film. Even Freddy’s appearance is enhanced by computer images now. So the world is far more exotic and fanciful than it ever was in the original. Still, there is something missing in this remake. It’s entertaining, to be sure. But it never comes close to capturing the magic that the original film managed to do so well. Even though this film mimics the storyline and characters from the original film, I look at it as a solid sequel rather than a new beginning.
Many of the first film’s iconic images survive into this film. We have the claw in the bathtub and the girl walking around the school halls in a body bag. But they appear a little forced and throwaway in this movie. It might have been better to create something a bit more unique and original to live in the Nightmare universe. The original film is just too perfect the way that it is. All these people could have hoped for was to build on to the foundation already in place. It would have been a much better idea and ultimately more satisfying to Freddy’s legion of fans. It’s a fun film, but it will never leave the lasting impression the first one continues to leave. You just can’t leave a first impression twice.
A Nightmare On Elm Street is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1 codec at an average of almost 25 mbps. The image is quite solid here. There is a level of detail and texture that wasn’t even possible with the original movie. This high-definition release takes full advantage of the improvements in technology. Contrast and black levels are rock-solid. That means there aren’t any compression issues, and you get to see varying degrees of shadow and light. It helps the picture on so many levels to deliver an incredible nightmare landscape. This is a dark film that just wouldn’t have held up in standard definition. Thankfully Warner has given us a solid Blu-ray image presentation here.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers a sweet aggressive surround mix. There just seems to always be something going on around us. Most of the time it’s subtle enough to be just barely there at all. It’s all rather unnerving and creates the perfect immersive experience. Freddy’s boiler world is replete with steam escaping around us. There’s a lot of creaking throughout. Freddy’s knives create a wonderfully nasty gnashing sound as he slides them together for great effect. The dialog is exactly right. The score is an emotional rollercoaster, but it never intrudes into the movie so much that we’re taken out of our element.
Maniacal Movie Mode: Here you can expand the viewing experience to include plenty of supplemental material as you watch the film.
Focus Points: These picture-in-picture features are a branch-off option during the Maniacal Movie Mode. They give you even more in-depth looks into the making of the film.
Freddy Krueger Reborn: (13:54) Cast and crew talk about the Freddy legacy and what it’s like to tackle such an iconic franchise. They appear to be respectful of the source, while trying to make their own movie as well. They claim this is the first film to explain why Freddy is after the kids, but the background story was absolutely in the original.
Additional Footage: Alternate opening/ending and a deleted scene.
Digital & DVD Copy
I absolutely think this is the best of the latest trend of remakes. The film does respect the original and attempts to deliver the same kind of atmosphere that we all loved about the Nightmare series. I wouldn’t mind seeing Haley continue in the role just to see what he can do to bring Freddy fully into the 21st century. If anything, I’m glad to see Freddy still alive and kicking after some sequels that really didn’t do the character justice. If you’re not sure about taking the plunge, I’d say you owe it to yourself to at least rent the film and see how it fits. If you’re still not sure how you feel, “Why don’t you sleep on it?”