There’s no doubt that Freddy Krueger is an iconic figure in American horror cinema. Wes Craven’s inventive mind birthed the striped-sweater wearing, melted face dream invader 26 years ago, and he continues to have a strong following to this day. His appeal is an interesting one; the guy murders children after all.
But Robert Englund brought a sense of whimsical joy to the role that other horror titans have never been able to achieve. The reason? They don’t talk. And this is one of the issues that many people will have concerning this re-invention of the Nightmare franchise.
Unlike Leatherface, Jason, and Michael Myers, we got to know the pun-loving Freddy that Englund so expertly brought to the screen in a slew of Nightmare films and the enjoyable Freddy vs. Jason. We never connected with the actors who portrayed the killers in the other slasher flicks that popped up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s because they were merely psychos in masks.
Krueger was different. He taunted his victims. Literally got inside their heads and turned them into his personal puppets of death. He was unrelenting, mischievous, and had a gallows humor that always chimed in at the right moment (usually before he killed some teenager). Of course, that was Robert Englund’s version.
Englund will always be Freddy Krueger. He’s left an indelible mark on pop culture with his knife-laden glove, striped sweater, and oozing complexion. It would be a challenge for anyone to replace Englund as Freddy. Enter Jackie Earle Haley.
Haley does a decent job playing the evil man who kills you while you dream. Many will automatically hate the remake since Haley’s interpretation of the iconic character is much darker than Englund’s and that’s fine. People are entitled to their opinion. In fact, here’s Robert Englund’s opinion of Haley stepping into the role:
“Jackie is not big, and I think that Jackie’s size is gonna really work […] One of the metaphors […] I’ve used for Freddy is a little rabid dog that just bites your ankle and holds on. […] And I think Jackie brings that, with his own physicality, to the role, without ever having to work it a little bit. […] He brings that naturally with who he is, which I think is really part of the way I see it.”
— Robert Englund on Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger from Joseph McCabe (June 27, 2009). “Robert Englund on Jackie Earle Haley and the ‘Nightmare’ Remake!”. FEARnet.com
But I would ask you to give Haley a chance. Haley has some big shoes to fill here, and while his Freddy does have a few good zingers, he’s not as pun happy as Englund’s Freddy was. Haley does do a good job and his make-up looks great; he looks like a real burn victim this time around.
Another issue many will have is the fact that the new Freddy’s voice sounds a lot like Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight. Is this the new way to tell the audience that a character is scary and intimidating? Like Batman, Freddy’s voice gets lost in the bass at times and you have to really listen to hear what he’s saying.
What did I think of the movie? Like many, I went in not expecting much out of this film. I mean, come on, Freddy is Freddy, and the original Nightmare is a classic piece of horror cinema. Plus, after slogging through the reboots of Friday the 13th and Halloween, my interest in yet ANOTHER horror remake was rather low.
However, after seeing the movie, I thought it was the best horror remake I’ve seen since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). The dreamscapes are visually stunning, the special effects are great, and the kills are graphic and creative.
A few of the kills pay homage to the original, which was a nice touch by the filmmakers, but they’ve also found other creative and devious ways to slice and dice the cast. Despite the blood and gore, it’s still not as bloody and graphic as Kick-Ass. I guess you could say that Freddy Krueger is a more discriminating killer than Hit-Girl in this regard.
Nightmare held my interest throughout. Not once did I check my watch or wonder when the movie would be over. I became fully immersed in the film and was struck by how entertained I actually was. Even with the knowledge of the original, the new twists on the story kept me glued to the screen for the duration.
Nightmare plays a lot with loud noises and complete silence, which helped to ramp up the tension during certain sequences in the film. You knew that Freddy was going to appear, you knew the jump-scare was coming, but the timing of each varied and a few caught me off-guard.
Another thing I found interesting was the filmmaker’s decision not to have nudity for the sake of nudity. There is none anywhere in the film, which was a surprise. You also get a sense that the teens in the movie aren’t just horror movie clichés; they come across as actual people. Well, actual people being terrorized in their sleep by Freddy Krueger in a horror movie.
So, does the new A Nightmare on Elm Street transcend the horror genre? No. Is it better than the original? It’s a few rungs down but doesn’t fall into the “Sucks” category. Will Haley’s Freddy be as iconic and memorable as Englund’s? Probably not. Would I see it again? Yes, I would.
Bottom Line: I was thoroughly entertained by the new A Nightmare on Elm Street. If you’ve never seen the Nightmare series, you may find it just as entertaining as well. If you’re familiar with the series, you may compare and contrast various aspects and come to a conclusion either in favor of or against this new version.
I know that a lot of haters are out there who will automatically hate this film or me for liking it, and that’s fine. But if you hate this movie, feel free to leave a comment and explain why. No personal attacks please.
And just remember, at the end of the day, it’s only a movie.
For some fun recaps of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, click here.
What’s your favorite horror film of all time? Leave a comment and let us know!