New Line Cinema brings Freddy Krueger back to theaters tonight at midnight and it looks as if thus far things aren’t looking so hot (see RT) for A Nightmare on Elm Street. David Harley writes, “Despite a cool scene or three and the fact that it’s infinitely less frustrating than FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET never reaches the plateau that it so earnestly tries to reach. It’s chock-full of interesting ideas and it looks nice thanks to Samuel Bayer’s grunge aesthetic, but a worthy trip to Slumberland this is not.” You can read Harley’s full review by clicking the link above or see what Jeff Otto had to say about the redo by reading below. Don’t forget to write your own review this weekend after you’d seen the flick.
Where do I begin? Well, to preface my review, I must admit that I am a longtime Elm Street lover and a pretty big fan of the entire series. Sure, I know the sequels aren’t great, but I truly believe the first film is a masterpiece of the genre and Part 3: Dream Warriors, Part 4: Dream Master and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare have their merits. Heck, I even enjoy Freddy Vs. Jason for what it is. Still, I’ve always wondered what might happen if the series were to return to its roots, less of the game show host Freddy and more of the dark, mysterious, demonic boogeyman that had audiences on the edge of their seats in 1984.
I was understandably skeptical of the inconsistent Platinum Dunes’ involvement, but I liked their original Texas Chainsaw and thought last year’s Friday the 13th was, at the very least, silly good fun. I was extremely impressed by the casting of Jackie Earle Haley. He was my choice in a Bloody-Disgusting article a while back and seemed like a natural for the part. The script wasn’t bad and the rest of the cast seemed generally solid. Samuel Bayer’s music videos have always had inventive visuals, which would at the very least make for some eye-popping dream sequences.
As I sat in the darkening theater at last night’s screening, eager with anticipation and careful to avoid early reviews or the reactions of fellow critics, I returned to the giddy little boy of years past, popcorn and Wild Cherry Icee in hand ready for a good time at the movies. I tried and tried to go with the images that were unraveling before my eyes. I tried to ignore the terrible opening, the lack of character development or the undeniable fact that Jackie Earle Haley just isn’t that frightening as Freddy. I tried to like something, anything, about this new Nightmare. But as the credits rolled, I only sat in my seat in a bit of a daze, trying to come to terms with the fact that 2010’s Nightmare isn’t just flawed, but without any merit whatsoever, amongst the worst of Platinum Dunes’ cinematic abortions (Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning, Amityville Horror) and as bad, if not worse, than the truly terrible Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and part six, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
The film opens with all the subtlety of a frying pan to the face. Where the original slowly and effectively built to Freddy’s first on-screen kill, the classic and unforgettable death of Tina (Amanda Wyss), blood is shed only moments into Nightmare 2010. In the original, the characters and audience alike sweated through the subtle reveals, learning little by little just what atrocities Krueger was capable of unleashing on his victims in the helplessness of sleep. Here, one scene in, you know Freddy can kill you if you sleep. Characters have already stopped sleeping and Freddy is picking off victims at a breakneck pace. Character development? Nah, we’ll pass. Here’s a bunch of sleep-deprived kids wearing dark clothing and looking like drug addicts. Mr. Krueger, here’s your buffet. Enjoy!
Samuel Bayer should go back to music videos and never look back. With few exceptions, the visuals aren’t terribly impressive and far less compelling than the original film, shot 25 years ago with the budget that this new film probably spent on Craft Services. The pacing is a mess, the acting is wooden and any sense of drama or character dimensionality is noticeably absent. Instead of the goodie two shoes Nancy Heather Langenkamp perfected, we get Rooney Mara’s brooding Nancy, an outsider who sits in her room listening to her iPod and staring into space or painting pictures that belong on the covers of ’80s heavy metal albums. How do you know Quentin (Kyle Gallner in the Johnny Depp role) is troubled and dark? By his Joy Division t-shirt, of course.
And Jackie Earle Haley? Well, he tries. Many of the reasons Freddy isn’t so scary this time around aren’t really his fault. First, he’s in the light almost from the beginning. While Dunes was ridiculously careful to avoid revealing Krueger’s new look prior to release, in the actual movie he’s practically in a spotlight from his first appearance. Haley’s height is quickly and inexplicably apparent. I mean, no one knows Tom Cruise is five feet tall when you see him on screen. Couldn’t they afford platforms or a step stool? The flashbacks only further serve to lessen Freddy’s intimidation factor. He’s less mysterious, less frightening and more pervy and creepy.
In a day and age where we’ve come full circle on the slasher genre, from the early days where Michael Myers, Freddy and Jason were first born to the self-referential fun of the Scream series and back again, Nightmare 2010 is surprisingly humorless. No one’s really having a good time, including the audience and Freddy himself. Scream’s killer mocks his victim saying, “You might as well come outside to investigate a strange noise of something.” In this movie, Kris (the Tina role from the original) actually does just that before a rehash of the levitation ceiling kill, albeit without the flair or brutality or visual stylization Craven pulled off 25 years prior. Scares are cheap and obvious. Loud sounds, screeches and Freddy constantly popping up behind or beside characters in a series of lame peekaboo scares.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) is a disappointing from start to finish. It takes everything that set the Elm Street series apart from the standard slasher and pisses it away. The result is a snooze-inducing, run-of-the-mill remake that furthers the argument that more times than not Hollywood should leave well enough alone.
.5 / 5 Skulls