This is an article on Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) as portrayed in Samuel Bayer’s 2010 reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street (read our retro review here). On that note, let me address the huge elephant in the room: This is not really a review of that movie, which is widely regarded to be a subpar entry in the franchise. However, I will say that, at the very least, it was an attempt to help Freddy keep breathing, even if much remains missing from the final product. Obviously, many franchise fans can be heard moaning in pain from miles away upon the mere mention of this reboot. Peace be upon them, even if they get attacked by a giant spider in an unrelated, catastrophic event.
Moving on: Freddy, in this case is played by Jackie Earle Haley, and his backstory and characterization are noticeably different. As usual, Freddy moves confidently in spite of his facial injuries as he separates family from teenage children, who all appear to be in their early-to-mid-twenties.
While Freddy never had that much class in the conventional sense, here he is, a little pervier than before. In the original series run, it was never 100% verified that Fred Krueger was an outright pedophile. He was merely a child murderer (merely!). In this installment, it becomes impossible to deny this element to the character. He is that way, plain and simple, whether it makes him scarier or makes the movie worse.
This movie focuses considerably less on its Nancy character (Rooney Mara: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 2011), narrowing in more on Freddy’s mystery and powers. In case you were concerned, Freddy is by no means weaker in that regard here. He takes out Dean (Kellan Lutz: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 2012) in the diner rather easily, although he does play with his food first (in a manner of speaking). We also see a theme rather familiar to A Nightmare on Elm Street fans: Events in dream-deaths may run parallel with reality. In this case, Dean ends up slitting his own throat in tandem with Freddy’s glove. This obviously hints at some interplay between Freddy’s deeds and the real world.
Nothing about this is really outside of a traditional Freddy Krueger story. We instantly learn Freddy hasn’t been replaced by a huge teddy bear. This makes a fair-minded viewer somewhat more interested in the nightmare. The game Freddy plays with his victims is also played with us as we also might wonder what is real vs. what is a dream. Although I’m not intending to exactly review this movie, I have to say it: One of the most successful scenes is when Nancy is menaced by Freddy Krueger during moments of microsleep.
Generally speaking, the reboot Freddy is somewhat creative in his dreamscapes, but actually not as wild as some of his past personality’s kills. He is cruel and sadistic, and most traditional Freddy rules still apply. Perhaps the main difference in Freddy’s power here is that, often, he uses it to reveal more of his own backstory to his victims.
Then again, even this isn’t particularly new. It’s just that, in this case, Freddy had more of a gross, personal relationship with more of his victims (eww!), though their memories seem suppressed. And yes, Freddy uses his glove with some skill, as usual. In fact, oddly enough, this movie has plenty of love for the glove.
This Freddy is by no means a weaker version. In fact, there isn’t quite the same “mind over matter” dynamic that’s run through the series (including the very first one). It’s actually more like, “Freddy’s here, Freddy’s feared, get used to it!” Again, one can debate the overall quality of the movie, but it would be unfair to say Krueger was made into a weakling or anything like that. His primary weakness is that, yes, he can be dragged out from the dream world. As we’ve seen throughout the series, though, even this strategy is not a surefire way to kill this Christmas sweater-wearing dream demon.
Finally, it’s plausible that, to some degree, Freddy Krueger is sensitive about the truth of his own death. At the core of his character throughout the series, Freddy is ultimately a tortured soul of sorts. The fact that he was torched didn’t only damage his complexion, but it was part of his evolution into a monstrous character. As Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) said in the third film, “He was a child murderer when he was alive. After he died, he became something much, much worse.” Obviously, in Part 4 he was (temporarily) destroyed by seeing his own reflection. This movie side steps some of this, but there is a sense that his evil leads to his undoing.
Still, Freddy hasn’t hung up his hat and gloves for good. In our next installment in this series, we’ll look at the series Freddy’s Nightmares, in which Freddy was largely relegated to a Cryptkeeper role. Though it had its fair share of cringeworthy moments, it’s at least a curious artifact of horror history, and its general cheesiness still has a certain charm!
What are your thoughts on Freddy Krueger as depicted in A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)? Let us know in the comments!