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Why Friday the 13th’s Remake Worked (But Nightmare On Elm Street’s Didn’t)

Warning: This contains potentially distressing discussions of child sexual abuse.While Friday the 13th’s 2009 reboot was a comparative success, 2010’s Nightmare On Elm Street remake was a disaster because A Nightmare On Elm Street’s franchise revival failed to avoid pitfalls that its rival slasher re-imagining dodged. It is never easy to reboot a beloved franchise. If a new movie in a series skews too close to the original entries, the reboot will be branded redundant. However, if the latest installment change too many major details, the reboot will be accused of rewriting the franchise and ruining the original movies as a result.

This is particularly true for slasher movies, whose simple setups often get mired in complexity as the franchise wears on, and the sequels pile up. A Nightmare On Elm Street’s first reboot New Nightmare re-imagined Freddy Krueger as a meta-monster and ended up underperforming at the box office despite positive critical write-ups. Meanwhile, the franchise’s second reboot, 2010’s more straightforward remake Nightmare On Elm Street, earned higher box office returns than the rest of the series but also got the worst reviews of any movie in the franchise. However, Friday the 13th’s 2009 remake managed to dodge this fate for a number of interesting reasons.

Related: Friday the 13th: Every Time Jason Died In The Series

Friday the 13th 2009 Changed The Story (Nightmare On Elm Street Didn’t)
Admittedly, Friday the 13th 2009 was not hailed as a masterpiece by critics upon release. However, the Friday the 13th reboot was nowhere near as derided (by fans or critics) as Nightmare On Elm Street 2010, and there are good reasons for that. Friday the 13th 2009 pioneered the slasher requel a decade before the formula became popular. By changing the story (but not too much), bringing back some classic kills and characters but giving them a new context, and discarding elements of the earlier sequels that didn’t work, Friday the 13th 2009 paved the way for requels while 2010’s Nightmare On Elm Street was simply a dull retread.

Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 was almost a shot-for-shot remake so, inevitably, the movie felt a little redundant in terms of plot. In contrast, Friday the 13th needed to bring back Jason, which meant ignoring the original movie’s story and skipping straight to sampling the best scenes from the sequels. This gave the 2009 reboot a level of creative freedom that later Friday the 13th projects should hold onto, with the movie dispensing of Pamela Voorhees’s death before the opening credits. Friday the 13th 2009 then established a set of campers who were seemingly the lead character only to kill off almost all of them, wrong-footing even slasher veterans.

Friday the 13th 2009 Was (More) Fun
Jason watches a victim in Friday the 13th 2009
Both Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 and Friday the 13th 2009 have the dour, self-serious tone of late ‘00s horror. Neither of them is the most unabashedly fun entry into their respective franchises and both movies are missing the campy tone and broad humor of Freddy Vs Jason or Jason X. However, like its best sequels, Friday the 13thhas some fun, funny kills, a fast pace, and a lot of time for its comic relief characters. 2010’s Nightmare On Elm Street, meanwhile, has troubled characters who fear their inevitable death, along with the revelation that Freddy molested his victims before he killed them.

This dark, unnecessary twist made Nightmare On Elm Street a lot more unpleasant and exploitative but no scarier. Similarly, the redesign of Freddy’s appearance made him look more like a real-life burn victim and less like a demon, a choice that was both more offensive and less frightening. While Friday the 13th 2009 had stoners wandering into Jason head-first while getting high, Nightmare On Elm Street had long conversations between teens who hadn’t slept in days and acted like it. While theterrible original Nightmare On Elm Street opening scene was dropped, the remake still had an adamant opposition to fun that cost the movie dearly.

Related: Nightmare On Elm Street Was Almost A Disney Movie (& Very Different)

Nightmare On Elm Street’s New Freddy Krueger Flopped
Freddy Krueger’s hand in the bathtub in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010
While Krueger’s 2010 makeover was partially to blame for the remake’s failure, everything else about the new Freddy Krueger was equally unsuccessful. Despite Jackie Earle Haley’s best attempts, the redesign didn’t work. The makeup wasn’t scary, the lack of quips and one-liners was less threatening and more boring, and the remake’s kills were all borrowed from 1984’s original A Nightmare On Elm Street despite the character being touted as a new, better Freddy Krueger. Over the decades, Freddy pulled off some of the grossest and most ambitiously inventive slasher kills ever (even if the MPAA cut great Nightmare On Elm Street murders from the finished movies).

However, since Nightmare On Elm Street’s version of Freddy was so invested in taking itself and its villain seriously, there was no room for cartoonish flights of fancy. Instead of turning his victims into giant Kafka-esque cockroaches or sentient motorcycles, Nightmare On Elm Street’s Freddy simply stabbed and slashed his victims like any other masked murderer in a conventional slasher movie. In contrast, the less powerful Jason still managed to innovate in Friday the 13th 2009, pulling off a gruesome bow and arrow murder as well as a savage and utterly unexpected Final Girl kill.

Friday the 13th’s Reboot Wasn’t A Remake
Derek Mears as Jason standing in the forest in Friday the 13th 2009
From changing the story to killing off the Final Girl in the closing moments, to even explaining just how Jason survived underground for so long, Friday the 13th 2009 offered a new take on the franchise. In contrast, Nightmare On Elm Street proudly did not, instead leaning into comparisons with Wes Craven’s original masterpiece by recreating entire sequences beat for beat. This approach backfired, as Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 felt like a less colorful, less playful retread of the earlier movie, and its few cool additions (like the concept of micro-naps suffered during waking life) were undone by its poor handling of sensitive subject matter.

Ultimately, Friday the 13th 2009 proved that there is no need to fix an original movie that isn’t broken, leading the filmmakers to instead create a new story out of familiar parts. Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 instead opted to revise the original movie, losing its charm while failing to make a mark of its own. As a result, Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 failed as A Nightmare On Elm Street follow-up while Friday the 13th’s reboot did the original movie justice.


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