Movie review: A Nightmare on Elm Street

I’m not foolish enough to suggest a low-budget slasher flick from the ’80s should be held as some sort of sacred cow, but if you’re going to tackle remaking one of the icons of the horror genre, how about putting a little effort into it?

Instead, the folks behind the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot seem to have done the bare minimum to get the film into theaters and earn the inevitable first-week financial windfall ($32 million). The finished product is a rote, tedious affair that brings absolutely nothing new to the table – “pointless” is the best way to describe it.

Worst of all, it’s not remotely scary, and frankly, it looks cheap – from the tacky CGI blood to Freddy’s shoddy makeup to the awful, low-rent cast. This screams cash-in job to take advantage of today’s stupid teens. And you know what? That’s fine, but don’t pretend like you’re reinventing the horror genre and this is all you come back with.

At least the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th” reboots tried to inject either an expansion of the story (TCM) or an over-the-top homage to the series in general (Friday). Here, mega-producer Michael Bay and his cohorts don’t seem to know what to do with Freddy, and so they wind up doing nothing.

Think of all the ways you could update Freddy Krueger for today’s youth – a modern-day boogeyman gone viral. Yes, I understand this remake wanted to get away from the “comedian” Freddy of later films and return him to the dark, creepy killer of the original, but it feels like something was lost in the translation.

After the now-cliche “shocker” opening that has been milked to death since “Scream” killed off Drew Barrymore, we get to the meat of the film, which is that a group of teens have all been having strange nightmares featuring a burned man with long knives for fingers.

Curiously, for the first 30 minutes, the film follows Kris (Katie Cassidy) as she tries to figure out why she is having these dreams. Those of you who are aficionados of the original know that it was Nancy who was the heroine. There is a Nancy in this film, but at first, she is almost treated as a minor character.

She doesn’t really get introduced until halfway through the movie, an odd choice, but an unfortunate one, considering that Nancy is the worst part of the movie. In the original, Nancy’s just a normal girl who we wind up caring about as her friends and family are picked off one by one by Freddy.

Here, Nancy is played as a straight-up loser, and the actress who portrays her, Rooney Mara, can best be described as a wet blanket. It also doesn’t help that she winds up teaming with another sad sack, Quentin (Kyle Gallner), to take on Freddy for the remainder of the film.

Why Bay, a man known for his tendency to pick, ahem, hot actresses (Megan Fox, anyone?) would anchor this remake with two of the most bland, unattractive and unengaging actors is beyond me, but it’s a major mistake.

The rest of the plot is almost a straight lift from the original – preschool handyman Fred Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) did unspeakable things to our group of teens as youths and their vengeful parents enacted revenge by burning him alive. Now, Freddy’s back and killing the now teens through their dreams.

This is fine, except the beginning of the story is supposed to take place in 1996. You remember 1996, don’t you? It wasn’t all that different from today. Except in this movie, 1996 looks more like 1976 – the cars, clothes and settings all give off a distinct anachronistic feel, which adds to the lack of imagination in the script.

This is one of those movies, where the allegedly horrible preschool that was the lair of Freddy Krueger would still be standing 13 years later, complete with lessons on the chalkboard? And even though Elm Street is portrayed to be in some tiny Ohio burg, said school requires an arduous drive, complete with an “We’re almost there” quote?

I can’t even get fired up about the kills, because they were either completely CGI or unimaginative slashes to the chest. They tried to take a crack at Johnny Depp’s infamous bed scene a couple of times, but neither one stood out. I guess Haley was somewhat creepy as Freddy, but in no way does he compare to Robert Englund’s portrayal.

I’m generally forgiving of these remakes, as for the most part, they are a way for today’s audiences to be introduced to these iconic characters of my youth, and to delve back into the original movies. But “A Nightmare on Elm Street” feels like a total failure – a movie that can’t even meet the low expectations of the slasher genre and one that will be quickly (and rightfully) forgotten.


~ by Elliott on May 5, 2010.

One Response to “Movie review: A Nightmare on Elm Street”

  1. key words “Michael Bay”

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