Freddy is dead
Remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street more sleeper than true nightmare
When Hollywood started remaking the classic ’70s and ’80s slasher flicks a few years back, I was thrilled. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was masterfully done. Friday the 13th was fun and surprisingly different from its predecessor. Next up: A remake of my all-time fave, A Nightmare on Elm Street. I couldn’t wait.
My first clue that the new Nightmare might be a disappointment was when I learned that Jackie Earle Haley (The Watchmen), not the original’s star Robert Englund, had been cast as Freddy. That instinct would turn out to be spot on.
The film takes place in the small town of Springwood, Ohio, with a handful of teenagers experiencing horrifying nightmares that leave them maimed or dead. Those who are able to stave off sleep get together to try to solve the mystery of who this burned, red-and-green-sweater-wearing, finger-knives-scraping creepazoid is who’s haunting their dreams.
It’s Freddy, duh, right?
Well, it’s not exactly that easy. One of the pros of the recent spat of horror remakes is that the storylines have been revamped. So, if you’re a fan of the original, this is not strictly a remake, rather more a re-imagining. Unfortunately, what worked well for Friday the 13th does not here. A drastic change in the back story to Nightmare takes the film into dark, disturbing, and ultimately nonsensical territory. It’s here the film dwells a bit too much, rather than exploring the simple terror of a monster overtaking your dreams. It feels almost as if the writers just wanted to add something perverted instead of creating a plot that makes sense.
Haley makes for a decent villain. He’s weird looking, and has a gruff, deep voice. So, as Freddy Krueger, he’s fairly frightening. There’s something about him, though, that feels more like a comic-book character than Englund ever did in the role. Maybe it’s the makeup. Maybe it’s the voice. Whatever the cause, he just doesn’t quite fit.
As for the teens, they loosely resemble the characters from Wes Craven’s 1984 film. Nancy (Rooney Mara) is the protagonist, although the film concentrates almost equally on her classmates who are having similar nightmares, particularly Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Kris (Katie Cassidy). None of the relative no-names show much depth.
This ninth film featuring Freddy Krueger is directed by a relative no-name as well, Sam Bayer, whose previous works have largely been music videos. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that while stylistically the film generally looks good, it relies heavily on recycled scenes from the original.
The new A Nightmare on Elm Street is suitably scary for the uninitiated. For the rest of us, a trip to the video store for a nostalgic horror night starring Englund and Johnny Depp might be more satisfying.