About halfway through this remake of the 1984 classic, my wife turned to me and said “I reckon this film would be more interesting if it turned out Freddy was innocent”. The bastard son of a hundred maniacs, child and teen murderer of 8 previous movies? I’m not sure it works out 100%, but let’s go through it and see. In the mid 90s much more than the mid 70s (roughly the dates the two Freddies were operating), the spotlight was on adults who worked with children, and let’s say Freddy, rather than the man we know and love, was just a developmentally disabled man who loved playing with children. A couple of smart kids hear about some Satanic panic from a few towns over, and jealous that Freddy plays with some other kids more than them, make up the beginnings of a story which is seized on and expanded by parents, psychologists, a local Police captain wanting to make a name for himself, and ends up with a gang of angry locals chasing Freddy to a disused factory, where one Molotov cocktail later, he is no more. Even the famous glove could just be a gardening tool, dreamed up by the autistic but smart Krueger.
After Freddy’s death, it’s all hushed up (he was never accused of a crime, in this new movie) and the town moves on. The kids who both lied and were lied to grow up to be disturbed teenagers, and the Freddy we know and love could be what he’s always hinted at being – simply an amalgam of small-town guilt and lies, turned from a campfire tale into a “real” force of evil. We know it’s not the same guy, because he quips in a way he never did while he was alive (information that could be dripped out over the course of the movie).
I mean, it’s not perfect, but it makes the reveal different, at least. Although I suppose they’d say turning Freddy from a straight-up murderer in the first run of movies to a rapist in this one could be seen as that. Ah, who knows? And I’ve not even really started reviewing this movie yet.
In quite a lot of ways, this is a cover version of the original, so feel free to go back and read my review of that if you’d like to refresh your memory. We get the iconic scenes – such as Tina being slammed round the room by the invisible Freddy, the bodybag being dragged round the corner, the torrent of blood rising from the bed, and so on; and those bits were great, although they were great the first time we watched them too. 2010’s version is about a group of friends who, coming together for the funeral of their friend (Kellan Lutz, “Twilight”) start to realise that they’ve been friends longer than their memories are telling them is the case, and there’s something so traumatic buried in their childhoods that no-one is talking about it.
Anyway, Freddy starts doing his thing, and without a doubt the new version (Jackie Earle Haley) is several orders of magnitude scarier than Englund’s original. Special effects have come a long way, and his face is absolutely hideous – plus, he’s a fantastic actor and given he’s under layers of both latex and CGI, he does remarkably well. He starts killing the teenagers who he originally abused back in the 90s, they stop sleeping, the parents are kept in the dark about what’s happening until about an hour into the movie, you know, the usual. He is a bit more quippy than I expected the new iteration of the character to be, which is a weird throwback to the later, badder, original movies.
I think this movie is fascinating and irritating almost in equal measure. They’ve clearly thought about the philosophical problems the first movie had – why did Freddy pick that moment to start killing people? How could they possibly hide every news story about what must have been the most prolific child murderer in history? But with those solutions come more problems. Freddy does what he does, at least in the beginning, partly to get revenge on the parents who killed him – on that, I think we can all agree. The problem is, with the alterations they’ve made to the movie, the parents are sort of irrelevant (despite having a couple of brilliant actors such as Clancy Brown and Connie Britton in the roles). The kids get no help from them at all, and not really any hindrance either, and it’s not until pretty close to the end that they have any idea what’s going on. Why doesn’t he pop into one of their dreams and start carving them up? Or leave a few kids alive, but make sure when they wake up, they tell everyone that Freddy is coming to get his revenge?
Even the production design has that fascinating / irritating thing going. The way reality crumbles around our two main characters is at least interesting…but then you get something wacky like a photo of all the kids from the kindergarten Freddy worked at, and rather than doing a little red dot by the side of their names (all written on the back of the photo), Nancy (our starlet, who has no similarities to the original other than a name) decides to draw a big red X over the faces of all the kids who’ve died. She is tired and has poor judgement, I suppose.
Because they stick so closely to the original movie in some ways, the changes they make end up feeling a little contrived and stupid. Jesse, you may remember, was the older, sleazy boyfriend of Tina, and it was at least a little believable when Freddy pinned Tina’s murder on him . In this movie, he’s a bland, baby-faced teenager, and their attempts to give him a “troubled” past feels like a last minute, “whoops, we forgot this glaring plot hole” decision. Then there’s the end, where we see Freddy’s apparently real room, in the old kindergarten. I can buy that the place where a child molester worked would probably shut down fairly quickly; but when you see it’s still full of his stuff, including the beginnings of his famous glove, you wonder how quickly did they leave that place? Also, thinking about it, if Freddy didn’t actually kill the kids, why did he have that glove?
The more I think about it, the more I realise it’s a weak rehash of a non-classic, with a nothing central performance (sorry, Rooney Mara). Unlike the other famous horror remakes from the same time (“Fright Night”, “My Bloody Valentine”), it pretty much follows the plot of its original, rather than trying to do something more interesting using that plot as a launching off point.
Rating: thumbs down