Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes produced the film for New Line Cinema, as an intention to reboot the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, with the cast of Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker and Kellan Lutz. This production makes it the ninth installment of the franchise. The film was released by Warner Bros. on April 30, 2010. It received mainly negative reviews from critics and grossed $115 million against a production budget of $35 million, making it the highest-grossing film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.
Kris Fowles (Katie Cassidy) goes to the Springwood Diner to meet with her ex-boyfriend, Dean Russell (Kellan Lutz), who falls asleep at the table and meets a man covered in burn scars, wearing a red and green sweater, a fedora and a clawed glove on his hand. The burned man cuts Dean's throat in the dream, but in reality it appears that Dean is cutting his own throat as his friend, waitress Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara), looks on with Kris. At Dean's funeral, Kris sees a photograph of her and Dean as children, but cannot recall ever knowing Dean before high school. Kris begins to dream about the burned man herself and refuses to go to sleep for fear that she will die in her dreams. Jesse Braun (Thomas Dekker), Kris's ex-boyfriend, shows up at her house to keep her company while she sleeps, but Kris meets the burned man in her dreams and is murdered. Covered in her blood, Jesse runs to Nancy's house to try to explain what happened and he learns that Nancy has been having dreams about the same man: Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley).
Jesse is apprehended by the police under suspicion of murdering Kris, and is killed by Krueger when he falls asleep in his jail cell. With her friends dying, Nancy begins to question what everyone's connection is to each other, given that none of them can remember each other before their teenage years. Eventually, Nancy and her friend Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner) discover that all of them attended the same preschool together. Nancy's mother, Gwen (Connie Britton), reluctantly tells Nancy and Quentin that there was a gardener at the preschool, Fred Krueger, who was accused of abusing Nancy and the rest of the kids. Gwen explains that Nancy was his favorite, and that she came home one day telling her mother about a hidden space in Krueger's room and the things he did to her there. Gwen claims Krueger skipped town before he was arrested. Nancy does not believe her and attempts to track down the remaining kids from the school. Nancy eventually discovers that all of the other kids have been killed, most of them in their sleep. Meanwhile, Quentin tries to accept that his nightmares are nothing more than repressed memories, but he falls asleep during swim practice and witnesses what really happened to Krueger. Quentin sees everyone's parents hunt down Krueger, and then burn him alive. Quentin and Nancy confront Quentin's father, Alan Smith (Clancy Brown), about murdering Krueger with no evidence that he had committed any crime. Thus, Nancy and Quentin believe that Krueger wants revenge on them for lying as children. As a result of their insomnia, Nancy and Quentin begin sporadically dreaming while they are still awake. To try to stop Krueger, they decide to go to the preschool and learn what they can.
On the way, Nancy falls asleep and is attacked by Krueger, but when Quentin wakes her up they discover she has pulled a piece of Krueger's sweater out of the dreamworld and into reality. Quentin takes Nancy to the hospital for cuts on her arm; there, he steals some adrenaline and a syringe to help them stay awake. Nancy and Quentin eventually make it to the preschool. Quentin uncovers Krueger's hidden room and the evidence that proves Krueger was in fact abusing all of the children; they realize that Krueger actually wants revenge on them for telling the truth. Nancy decides the only way to end this is to pull Krueger out of their dreams and kill him in reality. Quentin tries to stay awake long enough to pull Nancy out of her dream when she has Krueger, but he falls asleep and is attacked. Krueger then goes after Nancy, and explains that he intentionally left her for last so she would stay awake long enough that, when she finally fell asleep, she would no longer be able to wake up. While Nancy struggles with Krueger, Quentin uses the adrenaline to wake up Nancy who pulls Krueger into reality. With Krueger distracted by Quentin, Nancy uses a broken paper cutter blade to cut Krueger's gloved hand off, and then slice his throat. Afterward, Nancy torches the secret room, with Krueger's body left inside, while she and Quentin leave. Nancy and her mother return home from the hospital; Krueger suddenly appears in a mirror's reflection and kills Nancy's mother before pulling her body through the mirror while Nancy screams.
A Nightmare on Elm Street was originally going to follow the same design as Platinum Dunes' other remake, Friday the 13th, with the writers taking what they thought were the best elements from each of the films and creating a single storyline with them. Eventually, they decided to use Craven's original storyline, and try to create a scarier film. That being, they decided to remove the one-line quipping Freddy, who had become less scary and more comical over the years, and bring him back to a darker nature; this included developing the character as a true child molester, something that Craven wanted to do originally in 1984 but changed to a child killer instead.
The decision was also made to bring Freddy's physical appearance closer to that of an actual burn victim, and the use of computer-generated imagery was used in certain sections of Haley's face to further assist in that vision. A Nightmare on Elm Street was primarily filmed in Illinois because of the positive experience the producers of Platinum Dunes had when filming other films in the same area.
Robert Englund, who portrayed Krueger in the previous eight films, voiced his support of the remake and the casting of Haley in the role. A Nightmare on Elm Street was officially released in North America on April 30, 2010, and later released in foreign markets on May 8, 2010. The film was met with primarily negative reviews from film critics, as well as audience members who scored the film a C+. Regardless, A Nightmare on Elm Street broke the record for midnight openings for a horror film. The film has brought in over $63 million at the domestic box office, and over $115 million worldwide.
On January 29, 2008, Variety reported that Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company would be rebooting the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise with a remake of the original 1984 film. In an interview, producer Brad Fuller initially explained that they were following the same line they did with their Friday the 13th remake, by abandoning the things that made the character less scary—the film's antagonist, Freddy Krueger, would not be "cracking jokes" as had become a staple of his character in later films—and focusing more on trying to craft a "horrifying movie". Fuller expressed how everyone at the studio loved the concept of being killed if you fell asleep. The producer stated that the film would be a remake of the 1984 film, but clarified that they would be borrowing certain character deaths and dream sequences from the entire Nightmare series.
In February 2009, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Samuel Bayer was hired to direct the film. According to New Line production chief Toby Emmerich, Michael Bay advocated heavily for Bayer's hiring, as Bay, Bayer, and director David Fincher came up as commercial directors together. It is Bay's opinion that Bayer had "the ability to capture the kind of seductive and unsettling imagery that would make Nightmare feel like a fresh, visually arresting moviegoing experience". Bayer declined Platinum Dunes' offer; twice. It was not until Bay sent the director an email "talking about the business", and explaining what kind of opportunity it would be for Bayer that he finally agreed.
In a June 9, 2009 interview, Craven expressed his displeasure in the remaking of his 1984 film, primarily because the filmmakers chose not to have him as a consultant to the film, unlike with the 2009 remake The Last House on the Left where he "shepherd[ed] it towards production". In contrast, Robert Englund, who portrayed Freddy throughout the film series, felt it was time for A Nightmare on Elm Street to be remade. Englund liked the idea of being able to "exploit the dreamscape" with CGI and other technologies that did not exist when Craven was making the original Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. Subsequently, Bayer believed that the film is designed to pay homage to what Craven did in 1984, but not replicate it entirely. Bayer recognized that Craven attempted to put more meaning into his films, and that the character of Freddy Krueger was one that affected the lives of a certain generation of people. For Bayer, remaking A Nightmare on Elm Street was about bringing that feeling to a new generation, with a new spin on the character and story.
Fuller and Form likened the new Nightmare film to their 2003 remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and retracted an earlier statement when they said they did not plan to "cherry pick" the best elements of the franchise, like they did with the reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise they released in 2009. Instead, the 2010 film is more of a reimagining. The pair also explained that A Nightmare on Elm Street would have a different tone than the Friday the 13th remake. Form states, "I think a Friday the 13th movie like we made was really fun. You know, sex, drugs and rock and roll, and I think a Nightmare movie is not that."
When asked why New Line was rebooting the Nightmare on Elm Street film series, Emmerich explained, "The Nightmare films are profoundly disturbing on a deep, human level because they're about our dreams. It's why we thought that we could reach an especially broad audience with a new film, since the feeling of having your dreams being invaded was something that would translate to any country and any culture." Overall, Bayer wanted to create a darker Nightmare on Elm Street, one he felt would fit into what he describes as "a darker world". Bayer said there is subtext within the film, which is designed to get the audience to ask, "What makes a monster?" Bayer wants the audience to think about whether a monster is something that exists purely from a physical appearance—someone with a scarred face and a clawed glove on their hand—or can a monster be something that is deeper, and within the man himself without a scarred face and bladed glove?
Wesley Strick was initially hired to pen a script for a new Nightmare on Elm Street, after he impressed Emmerich with a prequel script he wrote for the 1995 film Seven; the film was never produced. Eric Heisserer was subsequently hired to provide a rewrite of Strick's script before the film moved into production. When Bayer came on board he received a script that reflected the combined efforts of Strick and Heisserer, and which still "needed to be tinkered with". Bayer explained that the script goes deeper into "[Freddy] as a person [and] how he became the thing he was". Bayer expressed that, unlike the Friday the 13th remake that picked the best parts from the first four films, the Nightmare remake is coming straight from the first film. At one point there was a scene in an early draft of the script where some characters were playing Guitar Hero. Fuller explained that the scene was removed to keep the film from feeling dated. To him, if someone watched the film five years later, and Guitar Hero was not as popular as it once was, it would automatically make the film feel more dated upon viewing. At the same time, they wanted the film to feel relevant, and including things like the Internet, mobile phones, and text messaging would give the film a more timeless feel.
For the remake, Freddy was brought back to his darker roots and away from the comical character he had become in later Nightmare on Elm Street sequels. Fuller pointed out that this Freddy does have one-liners, but his comments come from a darker sense of humor and not intended to be as campy as previously seen. In addition, it was decided to follow Craven's original characterization of Freddy as a child molester. The decision to apply that characteristic was based in part on the idea that there would not be much of a story to tell if he simply killed children for no apparent reason. It would be easy for the teenage characters to figure out, whereas it is easier to hide the idea of children being molested and force the teen characters to seek out the truth of what happened. In an effort to keep the story fresh, Heisserer developed the concept of micro-naps. In the story, as the characters prolong their time without sleeping they begin to experience micro-naps, which is where a character will unknowingly start dreaming while they are still awake. The micro-naps allowed the filmmakers the chance to blur the lines between reality and the dreamworld by offering an explanation for how the characters could slip so easily into a dream.
In February 2009, The Hollywood Reporter revealed Robert Englund would not reprise the role of Freddy Krueger for the remake; Englund had performed the role for the eight previous films. On April 3, 2009 Entertainment Weekly reported that Jackie Earle Haley was cast to take over Englund's most well-known role. Initially, the studio wanted to cast an unknown for the role of Freddy Krueger, but it was Haley's performance in Little Children that impressed Emmerich enough to cast the actor against the original intentions. Emmerich explained, "Freddy is this incredible stew of malevolence and anger, but he also has a hint of vulnerability, and Jackie really has all of that and more. He just seemed completely right for the part." Bayer stated that he and producers Form and Fuller managed to acquire the screen test Haley gave as Rorschach for Watchmen; after viewing it, Bayer said it "blew [his] mind", and that he knew Haley would be able to go deep and create a believable character who was a "[psychopath] with a burned face and a claw".
Haley said the first time he heard his name mentioned in conjunction with the character was from people suggesting his casting on the internet, which he appreciated, and then later learned that his agents were already in talks with Brad Fuller. Haley stated that he was apprehensive about taking on the role of a character with such a dark past—that of a child murderer—for about a "minute and a half". Knowing the Freddy Krueger in the remake would be even darker, Haley came to the realization quickly that at the end of the day he is doing a horror film, and this is just a fictional character. Haley said that once he embraced the idea of Freddy just being a "mythical boogeyman", it became "very freeing" for him as an actor.
Haley is contracted for three films, which includes the remake and two sequels. Englund stated he agreed with the casting of Haley, noting that he feels Haley's physical size works for him in this role. Explaining why they chose to take away the comical aspect of Freddy's personality, Form and Fuller stated, "We've never been attracted to a jokey antagonist because it feels less scary and less real". Even though the character is closer to how he was portrayed in the original film, Haley has stated that he does not intend to have Englund's performances influence his own. Haley stated that he used the frustration of having to sit in the make-up chair for three and a half hours as his motivation to get into character.
Rooney Mara plays the role of Nancy Holbrook; Mara is also contracted for a sequel. Bayer describes Nancy as "the loneliest girl in the world". Mara stated that her Nancy is different than the role of Nancy Thompson, performed by Heather Langenkamp, and described her character as "socially awkward and timid and really doesn't know how to connect with people". Kyle Gallner was cast as Quentin, who forms a connection with Nancy. Gallner described his character as "a mess, more jittery and more 'out there' than Nancy is". Gallner pointed out that his character is like this because of the amount of pharmaceuticals he ingests to stay awake. Producer Brad Fuller commented that Gallner brought a sense of "humanity and relatability" to the role with his compassion and intellect. Other cast members include Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, and Kellan Lutz. Cassidy performed the role of Kris. According to Cassidy, Kris becomes an emotional wreck throughout the film. Cassidy described her character's ordeal: "She is literally dragged through hell, having to crawl through dark, claustrophobic tunnels. She's always crying and freaking out as her nightmares of Freddy bleed into her everyday life. Kris suspects there's something that connects her with the others; she even confronts her mother about it, but no one's talking."
Dekker portrays Jesse, Kris's ex-boyfriend. According to Dekker, "Jesse kind of knows what's going on but refuses to believe it." Dekker explained that Jesse spends so much time trying to convince himself that Freddy is not real, that by the time he does meet Freddy face-to-face, "he's just a mess.. [...] There's no bravado about it. His terror is very real." Lutz plays Dean, Kris's current boyfriend and "a well-liked, well-off high school jock". Connie Britton and Clancy Brown also star. Gallner and Mara explained that the teenagers in the remake are "a little more aware" of Freddy and their situation, whereas in the original Gallner and Mara characterized Nancy and her friends as "more mellow" and "nonchalant" about their situation until they were finally killed.
Discussing his physical appearance, Form and Fuller explained that Freddy would be more similar to a real burn victim. Form later clarified that there was a fine line they did not want to cross when it came to making Freddy look like a true burn victim. According to the producer, the crew had many reference photos of actual victims, which detailed how white the skin would appear after healing. Form did not want the audience to turn away in disgust every time Freddy was on the screen, so they opted to hold back on some of the realism. Fuller noted how horrific the images were, and how difficult they were to look at. The special effects crew that worked on The Dark Knight, creating the computer-generated images (CGI) for Two-Face's face, were brought in to work on the minimal CGI used for Freddy's face. The CGI is used in conjunction with the special effects make-up that Haley wears. The prosthetics used to create Freddy's physical look were designed by Andrew Clement. Haley described the experience of wearing all of the prosthetics and make-up as "pretty encumbering".
When production first started, Clement and his crew would spend six hours applying Haley's make-up; eventually, the crew was able to streamline their process. According to Haley, the make-up crew would apply individual prosthetics to him, from his head all the way down his back, which were glued to his body. The appliances were then blended together to create a seamless appearance. Haley spent approximately three hours and twenty minutes in the make-up chair to apply the prosthetics, each day; on occasion, it would take almost four and a half hours when the crew needed to apply the prosthetic skull cap, which Haley did not need to worry about most days as he was able to wear the fedora hat on top of his head. Haley also had to wear contact lenses, one that was bloody and another that was cloudy, with the latter one making it difficult for the actor to see out of. Haley also had to work on developing Freddy's "voice" for the film. According to Haley, the process of coming up with the perfect voice for Freddy is "this organic process of embodying the character", and not about just "sitting around the table and going, 'Let me try this voice and this voice'". Haley and Bayer admitted that some of the voice would be digitally enhanced in the end to give it a "supernatural quality" and get it away from the voice Haley used as Rorschach in Watchmen.
With a budget of $35 million, principal photography began on May 5, 2009 and officially wrapped on July 10, 2009. Platinum Dunes chose to film in Illinois because of pleasurable filming experiences in the state when the company produced The Amityville Horror and The Unborn. Platinum Dunes also received a thirty percent tax break for filming in the state. For a representation of human version of Krueger, the producers were looking for locations that were "old and decaying". They settled on the Ryerson Steel warehouse on the West Side of Chicago. The warehouse became the central location for the scenes involving the townspeople burning Krueger alive.
New Line contracted with two high schools in Illinois, Elk Grove High School and John Hersey High School, to use their location for scenes in the remake. According to Principal Nancy Holman, of Elk Grove High, the studio contacted schools across the nation looking for one that had a swimming pool. Although filming took place at both schools, neither was identified by name. The studio also cast 200 extras for various school scenes, including one in the pool, but required that all auditioning students be at least 16 years old. School board President Lenore Gonzales Bragaw was initially apprehensive about the deal, as she disliked the idea of the studio filming "scenes of violence" at the schools; Bragaw agreed to the filming after being assured that no one would be killed during the swimming scenes.
On May 22, 2009, the Nightmare on Elm Street film crew went on location to the city of Gary, Indiana to film scenes at a Methodist church. The studio negotiated with the city for months before finally settling on a deal. According to Ben Clement, the executive director of the Gary Office of Film and Television, the studio was looking for "an architectural style that would fit the storyline of the film". The film crew returned to Gary in June to film a dream sequence that takes place on Elm Street in one of the local streets, and in December some new scenes were shot in a diner, with new characters.
According to Fuller and Form, Warner Bros. suggested A Nightmare on Elm Street be released in 3-D, with the recent surge in 3-D films showing increased box office revenue. In the opinion of the Platinum Dunes producers, if a film is not initially conceived as 3-D then it should not be converted to 3-D. In other words, given that the original Nightmare on Elm Street was not a 3-D film, Fuller and Form fought with the studio to keep the remake from being converted to 3-D. The producers note that at the end of the day, Warner Bros. and Platinum Dunes came to the agreement that presenting the film in 3-D would not be presenting "the best version of the movie".
The score to A Nightmare on Elm Street was composed by Steve Jablonsky, whom he produced with Steve Durkee and recorded the film's music with a 60-piece string ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage. Jablonsky's musical score was released by WaterTower Music on April 27, 2010.
A Nightmare on Elm Street was released on April 30, 2010 to 3,332 theaters and approximately 4700 screens, making it the twelfth widest opening for an R-rated film in the United States. Comparatively, the original Nightmare on Elm Street was only released to 165 theaters on its opening, November 9, 1984; its widest release by the end of its box office run was 380 theaters. The 2010 remake holds the record for widest Nightmare on Elm Street release, beating out Freddy vs. Jason by 318 theaters. A Nightmare on Elm Street was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 5, 2010. The DVD's only feature is a featurette, "Freddy Krueger Reborn". The Blu-ray special features include the DVD's featurette along with a deleted scene, an alternate opening and ending, and the "Maniacle Movie Mode".
Early estimates put Nightmare on Elm Street's opening day gross at approximately $15 million, with a projected opening weekend of $35 million. Included in the $15 million is the $1.6 million the film made from midnight showings on Thursday night from 1,000 theaters. As a result, Nightmare on Elm Street broke the record for midnight openings for a horror film, which was previously held by the Friday the 13th remake in 2009 that grossed $1 million. Ultimately, the film finished its opening with $32,902,299, placing first for the weekend ahead of How to Train Your Dragon (6th week in release), Date Night, (4th week in release) The Back-up Plan (2nd week in release), and Furry Vengeance; the latter film was also in its opening weekend. A Nightmare on Elm Street dropped 72 percent in its second weekend, earning $9,119,389; dropping to second place for the weekend behind Iron Man 2. The film dropped an additional 54 percent in its third week, bringing in $1.5 million, though it remained in the Top 10 rankings for the weekend, placing sixth overall. The film remained in the top ten for the fourth weekend in a row, grossing approximately $2,285,000 and finishing eighth for the week. In its fifth weekend, the 2010 remake fell out of the box office top ten, finishing eleventh with an estimated $910,000.
As of July 6, 2010, A Nightmare on Elm Street has earned $63,071,122 at the domestic box office. With its $63 million in domestic box office, A Nightmare On Elm Street is the second highest-grossing film among the recent slasher remakes, like When a Stranger Calls (2006), Black Christmas (2006), Halloween (2007), Prom Night (2008), and My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) but behind Friday The 13th with $65 million. The film was officially released overseas on May 8, 2010. In its opening weekend, it took in approximately $6.5 million throughout ten foreign territories. It also secured first place for the weekend at the Russian box office, with $3 million. Since its opening, the film has taken in approximately $52,332,285 in the overseas box office, giving it a worldwide total gross of $115,407,296.
The 2010 remake's opening weekend puts it ahead of the box office grosses for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge ($29,999,213), A Nightmare on Elm Street ($25,504,513), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child ($22,168,359), and Wes Craven's New Nightmare ($18,090,181). When adjusting the opening weekend for the 1984 original for the 2010 inflation, the remake out grossed Wes Craven's film $32,902,299 to $2,736,653. When breaking the grosses down by per theater capita, the 1984 film averaged $16,585 per cinema compared to the remake's $9,874. Comparing the film to other Platinum Dunes remakes, A Nightmare on Elm Street is second in opening weekend gross, only behind Friday the 13th with $40,570,365. The film sits ahead of the other Platinum Dunes remakes, which includes 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ($28,094,014), 2005's The Amityville Horror ($23,507,007), and 2007's The Hitcher ($7,818,239). A Nightmare on Elm Street currently sits as the sixth highest opening for an April weekend.
The remake is currently the eighth all-time highest grossing slasher film in unadjusted dollars. It is also ninth all-time among horror remakes, dating back to 1982, in unadjusted dollars. When comparing its opening weekends to other slasher films and horror remakes, A Nightmare on Elm Street sits in fifth spots for both categories. The 2010 remake currently sits as the second highest grossing Nightmare on Elm Street film in the franchise in North America, just behind Freddy vs. Jason ($82,622,655), in unadjusted dollars.
The film was panned by critics overall. Based on 171 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, A Nightmare on Elm Street holds a 15% overall approval rating from critics, with an average score of 3.7 out of 10. The consensus at Rotten Tomatoes was that the film was "visually faithful but lacking the depth and subversive twists that made the original so memorable, the Nightmare on Elm Street remake lives up to its title in the worst possible way." By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 35, based on 25 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade cinemagoers gave the film was a "C+" on an A+ to F scale, with exit polls showing that audiences were evenly divided between males and females, with 40% between 18–24 years of age and 20% under 18. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it a "B–" and concluded that, "I did jump a few times, and I liked Haley's dour malevolence, but overall, the new Nightmare on Elm Street is a by-the-numbers bad dream that plays a little too much like a corporately ordered rerun. One, two, Freddy's coming for you. Three, four, we've been there before". Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter criticized the acting calling it "lethargically lifeless" and criticized Haley's portrayal of Krueger, saying, "Even with his electronically deepened voice and a pointless amount of backstory, there's just no replacing Englund". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 1 star out of 4, writing in his review, "I stared at A Nightmare on Elm Street with weary resignation. The movie consists of a series of teenagers who are introduced, haunted by nightmares and then slashed to death by Freddy. So what? Are we supposed to be scared? Is the sudden clanging chord supposed to evoke a fearful Pavlovian response?".
On January 5, 2011, the film won the People's Choice Award for "Best Horror Film".
In March 2010, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) released two new Freddy Krueger action figures; one pre-burned Freddy with Jackie Earle Haley's likeness, and one based on the new burn design from the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. In addition, NECA also released a replica of Freddy's clawed glove. In conjunction with the film, an online game was released where the user attempted to keep a young girl awake—through the use of coffee, cold showers, self-mutilation, and other various means—so as to keep her safe from Freddy.