Script Review: Nightmare on Elm St

The original Nightmare on Elm Street
The original Nightmare on Elm Street

Yes, the cover of the script says “Nightmare on Elm St,” not “A Nightmare on Elm St,” which I actually prefer, but no one really says anyway.  Freddy Krueger is coming, played by Jackie Earle Haley (who’s name sounds like a serial killer name, doesn’t it?), stalking Nancy Thompson (Rooney Mara) and her friends in their nightmares.  The film, helmed by newcomer Samuel Bayer, is due to start filming on May 5th, but, thanks to YaMBA, I was able to get my hands on a copy of the script by Wesley Strick, dated January 14, 2009.

So, Platinum Dunes’ new Nightmare on Elm Street really reads more like a remake of the original, moreso than even their Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboots, which didn’t necessarily contradict previous movies, but more modernized them.  This is a direct remake of the original film, with some bits added and some bits taken away.  Does it measure up to the original?  What did I think of it?  Is it the stuff of dreams, or is this remake going to finally put an end to our beloved Fred Krueger?  Check after the jump for my full review!

Nightmare on Elm Street starts with its focus on Kris (pretty sure they haven’t announced who’s playing her), a pretty girl who just got out of a relationship with boyfriend Jesse (Thomas Dekker from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and runs into him again at a party being held by mutual friend Dean (who may be the guy Kellan Lutz is playing – I’m not sure).  At the party, we also meet Nancy (who’s a touch of goth, and played by Rooney Mara) and Quentin (a podcaster, who’s played by Kyle Gallner of A Haunting in Connecticut).  Dean tries to comfort Kris (not come on to her, but more in a friend kind of way), and she stays the night in the living room after helping to clean up the party.  She wakes up that night after hearing a noise to find Dean on the ledge to his balcony, panicked and breathing heavily.  He says  “he’s back,” to Nancy before four slashes appear on his shirt and he falls off the ledge, shattering through a glass sun room.

We follow Kris as she tries to make sense of what happened, and she starts seeing the image of a young girl in a blue dress, who she suspects might actually her her as a little kid.  A little more digging into her past, she finds a box in the attic, a photo of her as a child, and some old clothing, all slashed up.  A china doll in the box begins singing the quintessential Nightmare on Elm Street song…”one, two, Freddy’s coming for you…” as a silhouetted fedora-wearing man comes from the shadows.  “Remember me?” he asks, wielding his blade-lined glove.  Kris wakes up, but Freddy continues to haunt her until she finally asks Jesse (who’s like Rod in the original) to stay by her side one night, to keep her company and wake her up if anything happens.  In a scene very reminiscent of Tina’s death in the original, Kris is lifted off the bed and slashed to bits while Jesse watches helplessly.  He’s arrested for the murder, but only after confiding in Nancy, who’s also been having the same nightmares. While Jesse sits in jail, Nancy and Quentin research the man in the sweater to determine who he is, and how he’s linked to them.

The way I’d describe the new Nightmare on Elm Street script is that it is, essentially, a remake of the original, with the story fleshed out more.  We spend a good half hour of the film solely focused on Kris (with Nancy almost a piece of the background) before her death scene.  Even Jesse’s story is more fleshed out than Rod’s, and his attempted escape from the police (and prison death), along with Kris’ death, are the catalysts for the actual story of the film beginning.  In some ways, it’s kind of similar to Friday the 13th, in that it’s almost like watching two different storylines, where the first one is the reason for the second.

Freddy Krueger is back, played by Jackie Earle Haley
Freddy Krueger is back, played by Jackie Earle Haley

The second story is more of a mystery, as Nancy and Quentin search for clues on who Freddy Krueger is, and his relation to them.  His motivation and background is essentially the same as the original, but for a while, an interesting question is posed (was Freddy innocent of molesting the kids?).  As big of an effort as it was to find a replacement for the awesome Robert Englund, it’s hard to imagine Jackie Earle Haley having much to do in the film, honestly.  Freddy says maybe five lines in the entire movie before the end, and isn’t really given terribly much to do.  In fact, the body count in this film is relatively small.  It really does go back to the original in spirit, but with a bunch of Supernatural-type investigation with Nancy and Quentin searching the web for clues, reading books, visiting old rickety schoolhouses.  The middle portion of the film will probably drag a bit, save for a few pretty decently done dream sequences.

How are the kills?  What few there are are pretty decent, but we only actually see third of them.  The third and final kill of the script is…well, it’s kind of reminiscent of some of Freddier’s less-cool kills.  It doesn’t involve a Nintendo, but it doesn’t involve his claws either.  I kind of rolled my eyes at it, honestly.

All in all, though, the script is great.  It’s a good read, and I’d imagine it’ll make for a good flick.  It’s not a rock-’em up slasher like the Friday the 13th remake was, but Nightmare on Elm Street, at least its original incarnation, wasn’t meant to be.  It was meant to be more cerebral, more creepy.  I like some of the ideas of the script, like the Nightmare Map, that I wish had been fleshed out more.  I like that the focus is on Kris for much longer than it was on Kris in the original.  I don’t like the fact that the parents’ storyline, while important to the film, is given so little screen time.  Nancy’s father (the cop in the original) is GONE from this script, and the parents are pretty much just there for exposition that’s given away in dream sequences anyway.  Kind of a bummer, because focusing on the cop angle of things, I think, would have brought a unique perspective to the franchise, rather than watching the kids read books and Google things for an hour (some of those scenes could have been removed, I think).

It’s a worthy remake of the original, but it’s not a reboot, necessarily.  It doesn’t bring anything new to the franchise, or to horror in general, but I have a feeling it’ll be a real good time, if Samuel Bayer can bring a good visual eye to it.  Of course, as with any script (especially for a film that hasn’t even started filming), a good number of things can change, and at 115 pages, I’d imagine some of the stuff I read won’t be in the final movie.

Nightmare on Elm Street is due out in 2010!

3 comments on “Script Review: Nightmare on Elm StAdd yours →

  1. “It doesnt bring anything new to the franchise,or to horror in general”….Then why the hell remake it? At least they were smart and kept Freddy’s godawful oneliners out of it…the more he spoke and joked,the worse the series got…Cant wait for Platinum Dunes remake of Dr. Giggles….

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