Sometimes They Come Back is here to take a look at the horror genre and its love for remakes! We’ll be discussing both the original movie and its remake (sometimes multiple remakes) in detail before deciding who comes out on top! Are the originals always the best? Let’s find out!
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
As a child, Freddy Krueger was someone who genuinely put the fear into me. I used to beg to stay up late to watch even the beginning of one of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, only to be scared shitless within about five minutes, leading to my mum swiftly turning it off.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Wes Craven, opens with some of the creepiest music in horror movie history, as we see Freddy (Robert Englund) constructing his now-famous razor glove in a creepy basement. After the title card, we see Tina running around a similar looking basement/boiler room while being terrorised by a mostly unseen Freddy. After he jumps up behind her and grabs her, Tina awakens in her bed. It was all a dream! Thank goodness for that, eh?
But then Tina’s mother notices her slashed nightshirt, and we start to get the idea that Freddy might not be wholly confined to people’s dreams.
As we’re treated to our first listen of ‘one, two, Freddy’s coming for you’ with some creepy rope-jumping kids, our group of friends pull up in their car. We have Tina, her friend Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), and Nancy’s boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp). Tina is still badly affected by her earlier dream, and when she shares her dream with Nancy, it turns out she’s been having nightmares too. But before they can delve into things further, Tina’s dickhead boyfriend Rod shows up proclaiming that he had a hard-on when he woke up this morning. This leads to one of my favourite lines in the movie when Tina retorts, “There’s four letters in my name, Rod. How could there be room on your joint for four letters?” Yas gurl!
Because Nancy is the best friend a girl could ask for, her and Glen agree to stay over at Tina’s house while her mother is out of town because her nightmares have been giving her so much trouble. It’s all very innocent until Rod shows up, and upon finding Tina’s mother isn’t home, promptly takes Tina upstairs. Her mother’s bed to be more precise. Gross.
Nancy isn’t as willing to spend some alone time with Glen, so she sleeps in Tina’s bed while Glen frustratedly listens to Tina and Rod from the couch. While Nancy is asleep, Tina’s crucifix falls off her wall overhead, and Freddy’s face and hands press through the wall and loom over her, before disappearing again.
Meanwhile, Tina is awakened after hearing noises in the garden and decides to investigate what’s going on. She makes her way through her back garden and into the alleyway before she finally encounters Freddy. Freddy’s reveal is something we’re all keen to see, as we’ve only got glimpses of him in earlier scenes, though Tina is already well acquainted with him. He creeps out of the darkness, his face still in the shadows, as his arms extend to a monstrous length to allow him to drag his clawed hand along the side of the alleyway. “Please God,” Tina mutters as he approaches her. “This… is God!” Freddy replies, gesturing to his glove and allowing his face to be shown in the light for the first time. As movie monster reveals go, it’s pretty high up there.
Tina’s death is much more brutal than I remember it, as Rod watches on in horror as she’s slashed across the middle before being dragged over the walls and ceiling and then dumped on the bed. The sheer amount of blood in this scene is staggering, though I do think they beat it was a later scene involving Glen and his portable TV.
Unsurprisingly, Rod gets the blame for Tina’s murder as there was no one else in the room at the time, and after a bit of a chase, he’s promptly put in jail by Lieutenant Thomas (John Saxon), who is also Nancy’s father.
Despite the fact her best friend was just murdered, Nancy decides to go to school the following morning, only to fall asleep in class and be greeted by Tina’s bloody body in a body bag outside the classroom door. The effect of her classmate suddenly whispering the passage from the book he’s reading is super creepy, and I like that the film always makes it very clear early on what is a dream and what is reality, so they don’t rely on stupid jump scares to create tension. More on this later.
Nancy follows Tina’s body, which is now being dragged along the corridor and shedding even more blood on the floor, though I doubt she has that much blood left in her body at this point. She finds herself in the school basement – the setting of Tina’s opening dream. Serious question for you here – are basements in American schools always this terrifying? Scenes from the TV mini-series of IT (1990) also spring to mind, with Ritchie making his escape from the werewolf janitor. If they all look like this then it’s obvious there’s a killer or a monster lurking in them, so I would stay well away!
Freddy stalks Nancy before cornering her against some pipes. Taking Glen’s earlier advice, she shouts that the whole thing isn’t real and presses her arm into a nearby boiling pipe, which brings her screaming back to the real world in her classroom. After deciding it’s probably a better idea to go home, Nancy discovers a real burn mark on her arm, and much like Tina did before her, starts to question where the lines of her dreams and reality are blurring.
Nancy returns home for a relaxing bath, where understandably she starts to drift off. Once she’s asleep, Freddy’s hand breaks the surface of the water, disappearing only when Nancy’s mother knocks on the door to warn her of the dangers of falling asleep in the bath. Little does she know, drowning is probably the least of Nancy’s worries, and when she falls asleep again, Freddy pulls her under the water, which has become a vast tank. This scene is so bloody cool, as every time Nancy breaks the surface she is back in her bathroom but struggles to escape Freddy’s clutches. After making her way out of the bath and convincing her mother nothing is wrong, Nancy makes the quite sensible decision not to sleep unprepared again.
Nancy lies in bed watching The Evil Dead (1981) – a reciprocal nod to Sam Raimi after Raimi featured a The Hill Have Eyes (1977) (also directed by Craven) poster in the basement of The Evil Dead cabin. Glen comes to check on her, and Nancy decides to purposely fall asleep to see what Freddy is up to while Glen is there and able to wake her up.
Nancy is hands down one of my favourite horror movie heroines because she is instantly a badass. She’s had two terrifying encounters with Freddy today alone, but she thinks she’s working out how he works, and she decides to go and investigate further. She doesn’t spend half the movie working up the courage to face Freddy – she’s ready to go now to get rid of him for good.
A wander through her dream world leads her to the prison, where she sees Freddy sneaking into Rod’s cell while he’s asleep. She screams at Glen to wake her up, but of course, Glen is the worst and has also fallen asleep. Freddy chases Nancy back to her house, and when she tries to run up her stairs, they turn to this gloopy, quicksand-like consistency that leaves her struggling to put distance between herself and the knife-handed killer. Honestly, if you’ve never imagined this happening as you run up the stairs at night after you’ve turned the lights off, you’re lying. Or maybe it’s just me.
Freddy fights with Nancy on her bed, bursting open one of her pillows in the process, and luckily for her, her alarm clock goes off and wakes her up, because Glen was worse than useless.
“Glen, you bastard. I just asked you to do one thing. Just stay awake and watch me… And what did you do, you shit! You fell asleep!” Nancy has no time for your shit Glen, and neither do I!
After her dream, Nancy decides they need to go and check on Rod and arrives just in time to see him apparently hanging himself with a bed sheet in his cell. The police aren’t keen to believe Nancy about Freddy, as the whole thing looks so much like suicide, and her mother instead decides to take Nancy to a sleep clinic. Nancy’s mum and the doctors watch as Nancy falls asleep, starts to dream, and then becomes visibly distressed. I like that we don’t see another dream from Nancy’s point of view, as it could start to get a bit old. When Nancy wakes up, not only does she have a badass white streak in her hair due to the trauma and a massive gash in her arm, she also has Freddy’s hat, which she claims she grabbed just before she woke up. Because Nancy is smart and doesn’t waste all of our time taking forever to figure things out, she realises that if she can pull Freddy out of her dream when she wakes up, perhaps she’ll be able to kill him in the real world.
Nancy’s mother decides the only way to deal with the whole situation is to put bars on all the windows and start drinking a copious amount of alcohol. Nancy is understandably pissed off, but the alcohol loosens her mother’s tongue, and we finally get Freddy’s backstory.
Freddy was a child murderer in the area, who killed around 20 children. While they knew he was guilty, he got off on a technicality when someone filled out a warrant incorrectly. The parents of Springwood decided to take the matter into their own hands and burned Freddy to death. For some reason, Nancy’s mother saved the glove Freddy murdered many children with and stored it in her furnace.
Realising that Freddy is back for revenge on the children of Springwood and that she’s the only one who can stop him, Nancy decides to tackle Freddy head on. She tries to encourage Glen to stay awake in the meantime, but despite his awesome crop top, Glen is still the worst and falls asleep pretty much instantly. He’s then sucked into his bed, along with his TV and headphones, and a fountain of blood spews out of the bed, drenching his room. I’ve always wondered why Freddy instantly kills Glen rather than playing with him like he’s done with Nancy. I also wonder exactly what happens to Glen that he instantly turns into a meat milkshake.
A combo of lecherous phone calls from Freddy and the police turning up at Glen’s house alerts Nancy to the fact that something has happened to Glen. She phones her dad at Glen’s house and tells him to come to her house in exactly 20 minutes, as she’s off to get the killer. Understandably sceptical, but also not a completely shit dad, he posts another policeman to keep an eye on her house.
Meanwhile, Nancy Kevin McCallisters the shit out of her house in a bid to catch Freddy when he’s back in the real world then sets her alarm and falls asleep. After a brief fight in the rose bush outside, her alarm goes off, and Nancy is faced with the reality of having Freddy in her bedroom. She spends the next 10 minutes running around the house, occasionally shouting out the window at the policeman to get her dad, and trying to dodge Freddy as he encounters her various traps. She eventually manages to set him on fire again and locks him in the basement. The smoke draws her father across the street, and they break in to save Nancy.
Freddy’s fiery footprints show that he’s escaped the basement and made his way upstairs to attack Nancy’s mother, before sinking into the bed with her and disappearing. Nancy clearly doesn’t believe she’s seen the last of Freddy, and after her father leaves, she hangs around for Freddy to reappear. When he bursts back out of the bed, Nancy tells him she now knows her fear is what is fuelling him. She states she’s not afraid of him anymore, and turns her back on him, as Freddy lunges at her and turns to dust.
When she opens the door to leave her mother’s bedroom, she appears outside of her house. It’s a sunny day, her mother is there, and all her friends pull up in Glen’s car. However, once Nancy gets in the car, the suspiciously red and green striped car roof slams down, and the car drives itself away down the street as Nancy starts to scream. Nancy’s mother continues to wave from the doorstep until Freddy’s hand bursts through the glass and violently pulls her inside.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The town is the same, our leading lady is still Nancy (though you might not think it), and the story is roughly the same – it’s the remake version of A Nightmare on Elm Street! We open on Dean, having a nightmare after he’s fallen asleep in a diner. Nancy (Rooney Mara) works in the diner, and you can tell she’s meant to be a bit of an oddball because she’s wearing fishnet-style tights. She’s so edgy!
Enter Kris (Katie Cassidy), Dean’s friend who is visibly worried about him. Dean mentions he’s been in therapy, but when they started exploring his childhood, he began having these graphic nightmares. Also at the diner are Jesse (Kris’s ex-boyfriend) and his friend Quentin (who is clearly in love with Nancy). There are already too many characters, and I honestly did not remember anyone’s name apart from Nancy’s.
Dean falls asleep again, and Freddy kills him with a knife, which looks like he slits his own throat in the real world. This is the first time we see Freddy’s full face. About 12 seconds into the movie. Honestly, it’s too early, and his Batman-style voice is something I could do without.
One problem I have with this remake is how much they make everyone fall asleep so that they can do as many scenes with scary stuff in them as possible. Kris falls asleep at Dean’s funeral (as you do) and sees a creepy little girl with a slashed chest hanging around the coffin. Not that we realise she’s asleep at first – going straight for the ‘actually asleep’ jump scare this early in the movie doesn’t bode well. While looking at some family photos of Dean at his graveside, she spots the spooky little girl in one of the photos with young Dean and realises that it’s actually her as a child. But apparently she didn’t meet Dean until high school, so what is going on?
Back at her house, Kris questions her mother about why there are no photos of her as a child, and her mother says they’re probably above the garage and just ended up there in the move. Nothing suspicious there at all. Of course, the first thing Kris does is head up to the attic space and hunt out the missing photos. Not only does she find lots of pictures that confirm she’s the little girl from earlier, but she also finds a slashed dress before Freddy jumps out at her. “Remember me!” he says before Kris wakes up. Yup, she was asleep again.
Let’s cut to Nancy. Remember her… she’s our leading lady, not Kris. Further cementing the idea that Nancy is a bit of a weirdo, she has a grungy locker and does weird art. Oh no we’re back to Kris again and she’s falling asleep in class (way to steal Nancy’s scenes, Kris). While it’s not clear exactly when Kris fell asleep, the appearance of Freddy’s glove in her textbook twigs her on the fact she might be. When she tries to wake herself up, the whole classroom dissolves into an old, abandoned classroom, which is pretty cool effect.
One plus side about this movie is Freddy does look more realistically like a burn victim, with the front of his nose missing, so I’m not mad about the way Freddy looks, even if there are some dodgy CGI bits when we get too close to his face. Before Kris wakes up this time, Freddy slices a chunk of her hair off, which is lying on her textbook when she wakes up.
With epic bad timing, Kris’s mother has to go away for work, and so Kris is left in the house alone. Jesse comes round to make sure that she is okay after her freak-out in class earlier, and he ends up staying over to make Kris feel safer. After a dream sequence that takes place at an old nursery school, Kris wakes up in bed. I feel like this movie knows it’s relying on jump scares because they draw out the tension of her swinging her feet out of bed, as if something is going to grab her, and also her splashing water on her face in the mirror, as if Freddy will be lurking in the reflection when she looks up. When all this passes without incident, you think maybe she actually is awake, until she gets back into bed and it’s Freddy who’s waiting for her.
Well, Kris may have been stealing all of Nancy’s scenes but she gets a poor man’s version of Tina’s death. Jesse flees the scene and heads right to Nancy’s house. I’m not sure why as it seems the only interactions they’ve had at this point are him being mean to her at the diner, and one conversion about nightmares at Dean’s funeral. Her and Kris didn’t even seem like particularly good friends. In the 30 seconds that Jesse screams at her before the police show up looking for him, they basically figure out Freddy is the man from the jump rope song and he’s been killing them all in their dreams and both instantly believe it. Unfortunately, the police take Jesse away for Kris’s murder, though I’m not even sure how anyone apart from him knows that she died.
Just like Rod before him, Jesse doesn’t last very long in prison despite his best efforts to stay awake. Luckily for Freddy, this time Jesse has a cell mate who will no doubt take the blame for his grisly murder.
Now that Nancy is in on the whole horrible situation, she instantly becomes unable to stay awake. Everyone in this movie is so sleepy, and there are so many dream sequences, they are too hard to keep track of. Nancy teams up with Quentin to research sleep and sleep disorders. Quentin reads about micro-naps, which is when you’re so tired your brain falls asleep without you realising. Apparently, when you reach a certain stage of not sleeping, you’ll eventually just fall into a coma. Because this movie definitely needs more people asleep.
Nancy asks her mum (Connie Britton) if she knows what happened to her and her friends when they were in preschool, as that seems to be where a lot of her dreams have been based, but when she claims nothing happened, Nancy and Quentin do some research of their own. Down the back of a drawer in Nancy’s house, they find a folder with a photo of a preschool class featuring Nancy, Quentin, Jesse, Dean, and Kris. When they question what it means, as they didn’t think they met each other until high school, Nancy’s mother finally gives us Freddy’s backstory.
A kindly janitor for the local preschool, Freddy was friendly with all the kids in the class. However, one day the parents started noticing scratches on their children, and the kids told their parents Freddy was taking them to his secret cave. Freddy then left town, and Nancy’s mum tells her that her dreams are just repressed memories of what Freddy did to them coming to the surface.
Nancy does a little research on the other kids featured in the picture with her and her friends and finds out they are all dead, with a lot of them having died in their sleep. Meanwhile, Quentin is at swim team practice, and he is tired. He has been pretty immune to Freddy up until now due to some medication he takes which keeps him awake, but it has run out! He somehow falls asleep mid-swim, and Freddy in a dream shows him what really happened when the parents found out what he’d been up to.
The parents of Springwood chased Freddy through some abandoned buildings, before throwing a petrol bomb through the window of the building he’s hiding in and burning him to death. The teens go to confront Quentin’s dad (Clancy Brown), who is also the school principal and was responsible for setting the building Freddy was in on fire. For some reason, Quentin seems convinced that they lied as children, and Freddy was an innocent man… well until he started murdering people in their dreams that is.
Nancy and Quentin decide to make their way to their old preschool to see if they can find any answers and work out how to stop Freddy. En route they stop at the chemist to get more of Quentin’s drugs, though the pharmacist refuses to refill his prescription. Despite Nancy burning her arm with a cigarette lighter, the micro-naps are taking over, and she keeps drifting in and out of sleep. When Freddy attacks her the scene starts to flicker between Freddy in his lair, and the pharmacy as Nancy thrashes along the aisles by herself. Eventually, Quentin wakes her up for real, but her arm is badly injured from the assault. However, she also managed to bring a piece of Freddy’s sweater back with her and realises the link between the dream world and the real world.
Nancy is taken to the hospital in an almost pointless break in the narrative, and the only reason it happens is so that Quentin can steal some adrenaline, which will no doubt play an important part later. Back on the road, Freddy jumps out at them and causes them to crash the car, but luckily they crash right next to the preschool they were looking for.
Inside they find blades for Freddy’s glove and soiled mattresses, so it’s clear they’re in the right place. After about a minute of looking around, they instantly find Freddy’s secret cave, along with a box of polaroid photos of Nancy. Surprise, he was a bad person all along! Nancy decides to go into the dream and bring Freddy out so they can get rid of him once and for all. Her and Quentin kiss, presumably because everyone else she knows is dead and she has no other options, and I find it hard to remotely care about the romantic subplot they’re trying to force in here.
While Nancy dozes on the ridiculously gross mattress, I actually think Quentin falls asleep before her. Here he is ladies and gentleman, a character worse than Glen. Freddy takes care of Quentin first, slashing him across the chest, and then goes after Nancy.
The next few scenes are horribly uncomfortable as Freddy pervs over Nancy, telling her she’s basically fallen into a coma now and is all his. Quentin manages to bring himself back from bleeding to death long enough to try to wake Nancy, and when nothing works, he stabs her in the chest Pulp Fiction (1994) style with the adrenaline, and she and Freddy come barreling back into the room. A brief fight ensues before Nancy slices his gloved hand right off, slits his throat, and sets him and the whole building on fire.
As Quentin is being packed into an ambulance, and all seems well, you can hear one of the emergency staff say there was no sign of a body as they battle to put the fire out.
Nancy and her mother arrive home, happy the nightmare is finally over. Just then Freddy smashes through the hall mirror, slashing Nancy’s mother’s face, and dragging her back through the glass, leaving Nancy screaming in the hall.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) vs A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – The Final Verdict
When the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street was announced, I remember being really excited. I was keen to see a really scary Freddy, and not one that rattled off puns all the time. However, I think I forgot how scary Freddy actually is in the first movie, and the smart-mouth villain doesn’t really become so comedic until later movies. While he still makes some wise cracks in this movie, he swiftly follows them with ripping his face off or cutting his fingers off, which means it always stays scary.
However, I’m not annoyed about the way Freddy looks in the new movie, and I think they tried to make him look scarier, and it might have worked if the movie itself had been scarier.
Much like the remake of Cabin Fever (2016) the remake tries far too hard to be dark all the time. There are no light-hearted moments, no relief from the horror, whereas in the original we get genuine moments of friendship between the group. Or silly moments such as Glen’s sound recordings to try and fool his mother on the telephone.
A major problem I had with the remake is also the sheer amount of dreams we have to sit through. Because they are a mix of Freddy terrorising the teens but also trying to make them remember what was going on, we seemed to spend a lot of time in Freddy’s world. I also get the feeling they just wanted to show off Freddy as much as possible to try and keep the movie interesting.
The whole concept of micro-naps is brought in not only so the characters can fall asleep very frequently, but also so they can fall asleep in whatever setting, whether it makes sense or not. I’m also not down with the sheer amount of ‘Bam! It was a dream all along!’ jump scares. There are also a few situations where Freddy suddenly slashes someone, and they wake up and yet are not slashed in real life. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense and it’s a cheap way to constantly get a scare out of the audience. I kept getting annoyed at myself for jumping.
My other major gripe with the remake is Nancy. In the original Nancy is a total badass. She pieces the whole thing together herself, takes on Freddy even though no one believes her, all her friends are dead, and she’s fucking knackered. She’s sassy and witty, and doesn’t take anyone’s shit. The remake version of Nancy is such a let down. I mean, you honestly think Kris is going to be the lead character until she dies. They made her a bit of a weirdo who sits in her room and does weird art to try and fit in with the overall darker theme of the movie. Original Nancy with her beautiful ‘80s hair and her pink sweater just wouldn’t fit in in this movie.
One thing that doesn’t make a particularly huge amount of sense in either movie though is the ending. I think it’s something I always gloss over in the original because the ending kicks ass, but it does confuse me. Does she really pull Freddy into the real world or is the whole end of the movie a dream? If she does pull him through, how is he able to use his powers and do things like burst out of the bed sheets? Which death for Nancy’s mother is the real one? None of it is super clear, and apparently the confusion stems from a more open ending being tacked on to create sequel potential, rather than the slightly happier ending Craven wanted.
The same goes for the remake ending – is the ending a dream or is she awake? Is her mother really dead? How can he use his powers in the real world if he is real? How is his hand reattached? I wonder if they were setting up a potential sequel with this one too, or if they just wanted to copy the unhappy ending from the original. Either that or they just really like killing Nancy’s mother.
Overall, as it usually the case with a lot of these modern remakes, they tried to make it darker and scarier and ultimately failed. I actually like a lot of the effects they used in the new movie, but I wouldn’t say they were an improvement on the effects from the 1984 movie. The scene of Freddy pushing his way through the wall above the bed is a particular scene of note that fell flat in the remake because the CGI was just awful.
It was also a challenge to connect with the characters, especially Dean who was killed off instantly or Jesse who just angrily drifts on the periphery until he shows up at Kris’s house to take the blame for her murder. Even though Tina dies quite quickly in the original, we know a lot about her character by that point. She’s Nancy’s best friend, has a douche boyfriend who’s quite good in bed, a mother that leaves her home alone a lot, and she’s not afraid to ask her friends for help when she’s struggling. We know who she is and we’re sad when she dies. We also see the effect Tina’s death has on Nancy, whereas remake Nancy doesn’t seem to have a close friendship with any of the characters.
If you’re looking for a more modern Freddy movie to watch then Freddy vs Jason (2003) would be a better shout than this poor attempt.