Director: Samuel Bayer
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Music video director Samuel Bayer turned down the offer to direct this film, but after receiving a long email from producer Michael Bay explaining how it could further his career, he reluctantly accepted the job. This isn't exactly the position you want the director to be in when he is tasked with recreating one of the most personal and iconic horror masterpieces of the 1980's.
Aside from making Google searches for Freddy Krueger needlessly frustrating, this film had little to no impact on society because, let's face it, Freddy Krueger is still alive. He didn't need to be reborn. The last film starring Robert Englund as the villainous dream demon came out in 2003, a mere seven years before this remake. And before that came a full two decades of playing that same character with gusto, making him an international icon.
We haven't forgotten Freddy Krueger. He's still a Halloween icon and will be that way until some new director, perhaps with the initials B. K., can come up with a new villain even half as inspired and clever. Despite Jackie Earle Haley's multiple talents, trying to impose this new icon on us so soon is just a slap in the face.
A slap in the face with sharp razor claws.
A Nightmare on Elm Street tells the story of a group of teens in Springwood who begin to have strange nightmares about being stalked by a man in a dirty red and green sweater with CGI burns on his face. Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara) is the protagonist because her name is Nancy, although we don't even get to see any of her dreams until near the finale of the film.
Meat friends are Dean (Kellan Lutz), a pretty blonde with no personality; Kris (Katie Cassidy), a pretty blonde with no personality who is smart enough to set her burglar alarm but dumb enough to leave the door unlocked and the window open; Jesse (Thomas Dekker) a pretty brunette douchebag; and Quentin (Kyle Gallner), who refuses to take off his stupid beanie and has a crush on Nancy.
Do I need to tell you the rest? You die in the dreams, you die in real life. Whatever you do, don't fall asleep. Freddy Krueger is getting revenge on the people who killed him. We've been through this. Many scenes are just shot for shot remakes of classic scenes in the original, only more boring and perfunctory.
Where Wes Craven is a master at building tension in a tactile world full of living, breathing human beings, Bayer & Co. quote his best visuals without an ounce of the craftsmanship in a world populated by characters that are essentially just pretty mannequins. The tense scene in the bathtub where Freddy's claw slowly reaches toward his unwary prey is replaced with a casual and brief flick of the wrist, like he just popped in to say hi.
It's harder for Michael Bay to not make a bathtub scene feel sleazy.
My favorite death in the original, where Tina is pulled to the ceiling against her will and rent apart in a staggeringly beautiful display of bloodletting gets a meager substitute when Kris is pinballed around her room and slashed without prelude. The elegant and simple scene where Freddy stretches through the plaster ceiling above a sleeping Nancy is replaced with this rough hewn CGI monstrosity.
Honey, I can hear orcs running around in the walls again.
All of this serves to take away the elegance and tactility and tension and everything I've ever cared about. And most (perhaps least) importantly, it's just no fun. Craven's film can be dark at times but there's always a sense of giddy horror pulsing beneath the surface. Here it's just grimy, loud, and angry.
Not that I would expect Michael Bay and his posse to understand subtlety, but the entire film operates under the philosophy that louder and faster means better, which is patently untrue. If it were, I'd be writing this essay on the Fast and Furious movies.
The film artlessly transitions from place to place, sometimes just slamming the lights off and on to transport a character into the dream world. Freddy is full of misplaced malice that jars the audience considering the extensive flashbacks that try to humanize him or at least make him mildly sympathetic. And when he drags his claws along the metal machinery of the boiler room, it lets out a Disneyland fireworks finale level of sparks.
With less Julie Andrews.
Even the little girls jump roping are fast! It's like they're training for the Playground Olympics.
Jackie Earle Haley tries his best, but his Freddy voice sounds like he spent the last week gargling with thumbtacks and he laughs like Roz the slug from Monsters Inc. Speaking of slugs, his makeup is a horrendous abomination that makes his mouth nearly impossible to dub. And his palpable anger is so far from the character as we know him, only serving to make this "gritty" remake more unnecessarily grim.
Although it's not like he's the worst performer on set. The teen actors put even Ronnee Blakley (the mother from the original) to shame with only Rooney Mara escaping with some semblance of dignity. She does a fairly good job of anchoring Nancy in a human register despite the fact that her character is just a meat puppet who is arbitrarily pulled to each new stage of the plot with no motivation whatsoever.
The remake does have a couple good ideas, like the introduction of micronaps where Nancy's tired brain shuts off for several seconds at a time, during which Freddy can appear. The film has some fun with these, and it also took the leap to make Freddy quite clearly a former child molester, something the original film only implied. Whether this is ballsy or tactless is your decision to make.
So no. It's not the worst movie ever made with a fairly strong female lead and one or two fresh ideas. But it's bogged down by its redundancy as a narrative, the embarrassingly uniconic performance of its villain, and the watering down of Craven's masterwork into a bland pop-processed piece of garbage. It's just too boring to have a leg to stand on.
The best I can say about this film is that is did make me afraid of the dark. As I walked across my ill-lit apartment floor, I felt a cold shiver of fear down my spine with the chilling dread that my TV might spontaneously turn back on and force me to watch this piece of crap again.
Killer: Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley)
Final Girl: Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara)
Best Kill: (SPOILERS - if you're into that sort of thing. I wouldn't be.) The one that closes out the film because it is so unexpectedly gory after a grim and dull hour and a half.
Sign of the Times: All the extras in the classroom scene sport Justin Bieber haircuts.
Weirdest Moment: Despite all the scenes that were remade shot for shot, nobody saw fit to include the classic "Fountain of Blood" sequence.
Scariest Moment: The characters drive by a gas station where a gallon cost $2.91
Champion Dialogue: "And then it says that after that, your brain will shut down, inducing a coma. Which is permanent sleep."
Body Count: 4
- Dean's throat is slit by a steak knife.
- Kristen is slashed and lifted into the air.
- Jesse is disembowled with the glove.
- [Gwen is stabbed through the eyes from the back of her head.]
TL;DR: A Nightmare on Elm Street is a pointless and rotten remake of an 80's classic.
Word Count: 1363
Reviews In This Series
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (Sholder, 1985)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Russell, 1987)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Harlin, 1988)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (Hopkins, 1989)
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (Talalay, 1991)
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (Craven, 1994)
Freddy vs. Jason (Yu, 2003)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Bayer, 2010)