Every town has an Elm Street, and it appears as though every horror classic will have its remake. You knew it was coming sooner or later, and here it is, the remake of Wes Craven's iconic "A Nightmare on Elm Street." From Platinum Dunes, the production company that brought us the "Friday the 13th" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remakes, this re-boot of the surreal horror franchise finds its anti-hero, Freddy Krueger, being re-casted for the first time after eight films from Robert Englund to Jackie Earle Haley ("Watchmen") under the direction of Samuel Bayer (whose claim to fame is the classic "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video by Nirvana).
Those familiar with Platinum Dunes' track record will not be surprised to find this version of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" coming up short on change. Its biggest crime is that very rarely does it break with the original film, which in turn makes for a stale experience. There is little to no suspense, as many of the death scenes emulate those that were played out in the original, and on top of it, they are achieved with CGI so bad that it makes the effects from 1984 look much superior; case in point, Freddy coming through the wall above Nancy's bed, which is just embarrassing to look at. Bayer, who has a strong visual sense, gives the film a good look, but the film feels hollow, which could be chalked up to an underwhelming script by Wesley Strick.
Aside from Haley, who is criminally under-utilized in the film, the cast appears to be asleep at the wheel, phoning in performances of characters that are wooden to begin with. Here, the heroine of the story, Nancy, is played by Rooney Mara, who perhaps could have been more effective in her role if she were given any personality. All we know about this character is that she doesn't fit in and isn't too happy. Nancy 2010 is, for lack of a better term, emo, and is a far cry from the girl-next-door that was portrayed by Heather Langenkamp. Freddy, on the other hand, is given a bit of a twist to his back-story, in an attempt to make the character more threatening and to set up a twist ending that doesn't quite pan out. To be fair, this little bit of back-story was well-done even if the purist fans won't want to admit it. Haley also brings a few new tricks to the role of Krueger that stand out. The way he grinds the blades on his glove together when stalking his prey is rather effective and his thick, southern drawl adds another layer of creepiness to the character. Robert Englund would be proud.
In the end, though, this new take on the material is just another walk on Elm Street. Just like a hazy dream, you'll forget bits of it quickly upon its finale. What made Wes Craven's film so special is how he did so much with so little. What makes this film so frustrating, however, is that so little is accomplished with so much to work with. Here you have a very well-seasoned and gifted actor in Jackie Earle Haley and a director who excels at strong visuals, but not much is accomplished with these elements. Fans will find it bland, perhaps even surprisingly inoffensive, while newcomers and younger viewers will be left wondering what the big deal is with this Freddy guy anyway. This new "Nightmare" simply isn't strong enough to warrant the kind of franchise that dominated 80's pop-culture and built New Line Cinema from the ground up. Nice try, but the original still reigns supreme.
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