Rebooting Reboots: A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Rhyme and the Reason

Hollywood spits out remakes and reboots left and right.  Sometimes they work wonderfully (Batman Begins) other times they fall down a well onto a hornets’ nest that is being guarded by an Inland Taipan (The Pink Panther).  With the recent release of the new trailer of the potential monstrosity that is the Ghostbusters reboot, I thought it was time that I stop bitching about bad reboots and actually provide solutions to fix bad reboots.

Enter Platinum Dunes

In 2010, Platinum Dunes released what was intended to be a reboot of the legendary Wes Craven series, A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Much like the previous Platinum Dunes Horror reboot, Friday the 13th, people did not like it.  The writers of A Nightmare on Elm Street – Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer – decided to take Wes Craven’s original story and attempt to craft a scarier film.  Instead of a the wise-cracking, quick-witted, child-killing Freddy Krueger of the old films, we got the far more serious child molester that Wes Craven had initially intended him to be.  Rather than the classic-looking Freddy, we got a more realistic take on what a burn victim would look like with the help of prosthetics and CGI (because of course they had to use CGI).  Obviously with the reboot, Platinum Dunes could no longer use the lovably terrifying Robert Englund to portray the infamous nightmare slasher.  Instead, they opted for the pretty-OK choice of Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in The Watchmen).

The final result was a real mess but had some real potential to be great.  The biggest problem that this movie had was that it seemingly refused to try anything new.  Just when it was dipping its toes in a new direction (more on that ahead), it ran to the old hot tub.  Below, I am going to discuss exactly what could have been done to make this movie the opposite of awful.


It wasn’t All Bad

Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger

Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger

The first thing I would do is to keep Jackie Earle Haley as well as the general interpretation of the character.  In the previous Nightmare films, they had swung too hard towards comedy and ceased to be scary almost entirely.  New Nightmare had the right idea but seemed to be far too concerned with meta jokes.  By keeping Freddy more serious (but let him have some humor), giving him realistic burn scars, and Haley’s general creepy demeanor, it’ll be easy to make Freddy Krueger scary again.

As a matter of fact, I really wouldn’t change anything about the cast and crew.  The kids all did pretty good, but I do think the script needed to be tweaked a little more and they could have used a bit more direction from Samuel Bayer.  There is only one crew change I would make now, and it is only retrospectively.  I would have handed the reins to James Wan.  At the time, he was untested and only had one unimpressive horror movie under his belt (Dead Silence), but has since proven that he truly has a great eye for horror.


If We Don’t Change, We Don’t Grow

The biggest change I would make is to the actual story.  I would have kept it pretty much the same up until they hinted that Freddy might not have been the child molester that all of the parents thought he was.  Part of the way through the movie, Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara) find out that the parents who burned Krueger alive did so without any evidence that he had actually committed any crimes.  They then believe that Freddy is simply looking for revenge on all of the kids who lied about him when they were younger.  It is this plot point that I would absolutely, 100% embrace.  Here’s how:

So, let’s say that Nancy and Quentin not only find out that their parents murdered a man without any evidence, but that their pants were perpetually on fire as children. As kids, one of their friends (we’ll just say Kellan Lutz’s character, Dean) accused Krueger of being the diddle monster back in the day because Fred wouldn’t let him play somewhere potentially dangerous (or something akin to that). When he told his parents, they told the other parents who pressured their kids into saying Fred had played Captain Bad-Touch with them.

Rooney Mara as Nancy Halbrook

Rooney Mara as Nancy Halbrook

Now Freddy Krueger has returned in the Nightmare world to seek revenge on the children for lying and the parents for killing him. I would add further to this “revenge plot” by having Freddy make the parents murder their children or have the kids kill themselves in front of them.

To end the film, we would have the Survivor Girl, Nancy, falling asleep to plead with Freddy. Once in the Nightmare, she is being chased by Krueger while trying to apologize. Finally, she is cornered outside her house and unable to enter. Before he can deliver the killing blow, Nancy begins to sob and scream that she is sorry. Freddy stops and stares at her. She explains that they were only kids and that their parents forced them to lie. She reasons that he’s clearly sent his message and that he doesn’t need to kill anymore. Meanwhile, during her monologue, the sky clears and children can be heard playing while birds chirp merrily in the background.

Nancy ending the monologue with “You don’t have to kill anymore,” Freddy slowly drops his hand and starts to turn around.  Nancy looks relieved and closes her eyes as if she is ready to wake up, but she notices that the chirps are gone and hears little girls chanting the famous “One, Two, Freddy’s coming for you…”  She opens her eyes with terror to find Freddy staring directly at her.  With a smirk on his face, Freddy matter-of-factly says, “But I’m having too much fun.”  With that, Freddy slashes to credits.


Final Thoughts

What this will do is give us a proper reboot to a legendary horror film while giving us something truly original.  This will make Freddy Krueger something different from the original and make him a new and different kind of monster.  Instead of being a monster in life and after, you make him a monster created by mob justice.  You also can whip in a little “absolute power corrupts absolutely” message to boot.

This is how I would have rebooted A Nightmare on Elm Street.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  How would you have done it differently?  What other reboots would you like to see me reboot?  Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at (my name is a proper mess).

All Images Courtesy of New Line Cinema

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