As a kid, my older sister tormented me with her video rentals, most of which were horror movies. And of all the movies we watched, the one that was etched into my memory more than any other was A Nightmare on Elm Street (and its many sequels).
So of course, I was very excited about this new “reboot” of the franchise, especially with one of my favourite actors, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children, Shutter Island) playing Freddy Krueger. Haley, while maybe not a physically imposing guy, has the uncanny ability to unsettle audiences with his creepiness, and I was sure he’d make a terrific Freddy.
The verdict? Not great — one of those remakes that could have been a lot better, but on the bright side, could have also been far worse.
A Nightmare on Elm Street follows a familiar plot line to just about every other movie in the original franchise — a bunch of kids being terrified in their dreams by the horribly burnt, knife-fingered Freddy Krueger, except that if you die in your dream, you die in real life.
There is some attempt to make the story more compelling by inserting Freddy’s origins into the plot, and tying that to the central characters in the film to create a “mystery” that needs to be solved. Not to say it worked, but at least they tried to give the characters an additional motivation to just simply staying alive.
The intention this time was to make Freddy more frightening as opposed to the wise-cracking, almost comical Freddy that he evolved into during the latter part of the original franchise. This new Freddy is all malevolence and anger, though there is still a part of him that likes to toy with his victims. For the most part, I think this is a welcoming aspect of the film, especially because Haley is so magnificently frightening, even without his make-up!
Speaking of Haley, I must say that he only half-worked as Freddy. He did whatever he could with the character, but maybe it’s because I’m so used to the Robert Englund version that Haley’s version just didn’t quite feel right — like it was a poor man’s rip-off version of the real Freddy or something. Englund’s prominent nose and impressive frame is replaced by Haley’s flatter nose and smaller frame, and even though they wore the same outfit and had the same burns (though Haley’s were more “realistic” thanks to improved prosthetics and CGI), it still took me a while to adjust.
I’m not sure if it would have been a good idea, but I would have liked to have seen them give Freddy a slightly new look — perhaps keep the burns and knives on the fingers but do something else with the rest of his outfit. It would be destroying an iconic look but I felt like seeing something fresh rather than recycled.
What I liked about the film was that you didn’t really get a sense of who the main character(s) were right from the start, so you had a sense that anyone could die at any moment, or that perhaps this or that character may escape death for a while.
On the other hand, I do have two main gripes about the film (in addition to all the smaller gripes about the lack in logic I can forgive). First, I hated how they telegraphed when a character was in a dream. Almost every single time, it was bleeding obvious. Doesn’t all the fun stem from the audience’s uncertainty as to whether a character is dreaming or not and their inability to tell the difference between the dream world and the real world? Instead, we are basically told “he/she is dreaming now!” and we prepare ourselves for a Freddy’s appearance and/or a gruesome death.
Secondly, there was little innovation and originality in the deaths. I think they simply recycled some of the better deaths from the original franchise and stuffed them in. However, I wanted to see something new and creative, something unexpected and more shocking than just Freddy doing his thing with those fingers.
As for the young cast (ie apart from Haley), I actually don’t think they did too terrible of a job. Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body) is a veteran of these types of films now and he brings an uneasy presence to the screen — the clear stand out. The others, Rooney Mara (Youth in Revolt), Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Twilight hunk Kellan Lutz were all solid — but Katie Cassidy delivered one of the most irritating performances of the year as Kris. Nothing against her personally but she just tried too hard.
Apparently, A Nightmare on Elm Street has done well enough at the box-office for talks of sequels to be in the works. I just hope that if they do continue this franchise, they be a little more innovative and creative next time, and not just try and cash in on the popularity of the original.
2.5 stars out of 5!