Every movie starts with a script. Take away the big name actor, lighting, costumes, and makeup, and you’re left with a story that either does or doesn’t hold up. A Nightmare on Elm Street opens on 4/30/10, so if you don’t want to know about the story ahead of time, here’s your spoiler alert. Hard to believe there could be spoilers regarding a remake of a 1980s classic horror film that almost everyone has seen. Director, Samuel Bayer, and Jackie Earle Haley, the new Krueger, took a different take on the once campy boogieman who cleverly delivered one-liners while terrorizing teens in their dreams. This Nightmare has psychological motivation. The movie takes us back to Fred Krueger, a seemingly loveable groundskeeper of a preschool. His victims are no longer connected by their proximity to Elm Street but by something far more insidious. So now Krueger’s got a motive, but that’s really where the character development ends. The parents, in typical horror movie fashion, are impotent to help their children or unknowingly thwarting their attempts to stay alive. The real failure of the script is that the writers (or anyone involved with the making of the movie) didn’t realize that they were no longer making a movie about a mythological creature who audiences loved to hate, but instead made a movie about victims of child molestation and rape who were then later in life murdered in their sleep by the very same psychopath. While extremely dark, it’s not a bad angle to take—if you’re aware that’s the angle. In this Nightmare, the victims are the same one-dimensional characters as they have always been, motivated exclusively by fear and their will to survive. Even children with repressed memories (how plausible is twelve children all completely repressing their entire preschool experience?) manifest the abuse subconsciously—promiscuity, frigidity, inability to connect with people, being withdrawn, suicidal, etc. None of these characters exhibited any of these traits, so they basically were meat puppets placed into a plot that was not motivated by character, but that instead moved from one scare to the next.
It was definitely a noble effort to put a new spin on a story everyone already knew and find some way to make it scarier than the original, but if a movie is going to deal with issues of child abuse, then the movie actually has to deal with them and not just as a new twist.
Script rating: Do your homework! (C-)