Happy Halloween week, everyone! Our good friend Blake Best, author of Seeing Red and Green, joined in the remake conversation this month to discuss this horror classic. Please show some love, and feel free to learn more about him in our Artist Spotlight: Blake Best.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: Original vs. Remake
When the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was released in 1984, it became a surprise hit. The late Wes Craven (1939-2015) created the perfect horror film: great story, believable characters, and the cinematography was spot on for the dark nature of the film. Craven expanded on the “rubber reality” concept and in doing so created an iconic boogeyman in “Freddy Krueger” (Robert Englund), the fire-scarred, razor-fingered maniac that launched one of the most successful horror franchises in modern cinema.
The remake of the film was released in 2010 to DEFINITE mixed reviews. Most purists balked because Robert Englund did not return as “Freddy,” the role that essentially made him a household name among horror fans. Jackie Earle Haley was cast instead, fresh off his turn as “Rorschach” in the hit film “Watchmen.” Another reason for the criticism was the presence of Michael Bay as a producer on the film. Bay is known for his attachment to action blockbusters like the “Transformers” films. I was initially biased because of my unabashed love of the first “Nightmare” film. My new book “Seeing Red & Green” examines the popularity of the films and discusses why “Freddy Krueger” has become such a pop-culture icon. I concluded there would be no better time than now to share my comparison of the original to the remake.
There are a few similarities between the films. The basic premise is the same, with a group of teenagers sharing collective nightmares about this dark and ominous man. Several of the teens are killed off by Freddy one by one in unique ways and the ending of the film is ambiguous, leaving room for a possible sequel. Freddy’s general appearance is very similar to the original film (tattered red and green striped sweater, hat, and razor fingered glove), though in the remake his sleeves are striped and the makeup has been altered to resemble a more realistic burn victim.
The differences are the defining characteristics in comparing the films. The characters are altogether different (including Nancy, who is less the girl next door and more an introverted artistic type) and Freddy himself underwent changes to his backstory.
The original allows you to get to known the characters on a more personal level, allowing you to feel a certain way about them (sympathize, clamor for their death, etc.) The remake doesn’t give you enough time to know them. With the exception of a couple of characters, the majority of the teens are introduced and promptly killed off, allowing you no time to feel ANYTHING about them.
Freddy’s backstory in the original was that of a child killer who escaped conviction due to a technicality. Vengeful parents cornered him in his boiler room hideout and set him ablaze. The remake’s backstory is markedly different, with the revelation that he was a pedophile. Originally Craven intended for this to be included in the original film, but it was scrapped due to a very public scandal in California involving children at the time of the film’s production. In this film the child killing facet of his backstory is completely removed from his “pre-burning” history. The film goes one step further and toys with the audience, leaving them unsure of Freddy’s guilt (until closer to the ending of the film).
The original featured all practical special effects, as computer generated imagery (CGI) was over a decade away from being introduced. Freddy’s makeup/prosthetics and all of the other effects (including the “face through the wall” gag) were all physical effects made with latex, wires, ingenuity and a ton of fake blood, around 500 gallons. The remake featured an overabundance of CGI effects, including a portion of the “Freddy” makeup. The iconic “face through the wall” effect was entirely CGI. It feels like the CGI was used to distract audiences from issues with the plot and character development.
The original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was an entirely original concept and used very few tropes typical to the ‘slasher’ genre at the time. The remake actually re-used several one liners from the previous “Nightmare” films. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones!
How do I rank them?
The original surpasses the remake in nearly every way, save for budget ($1.8 million for the original, around $35 million for the remake). The 2010 film is far less gory than the original, which is surprising, since the films are part of the ‘slasher’ genre. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010) is less of a “remake” and more of a “re-imagining,” geared towards catching the attention of younger generations
— Blake Best, author of “Seeing Red & Green”