Not Ready for Freddy
Leave it to Freddy Krueger to really foul up a guy's night. Coming at the end of one lousy day at the office, I wasn't looking forward much to seeing Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street remade to begin with. Studios can champion reboots til the cows come home, but that doesn't change how well Craven nailed his seminal slasher right off the bat. It's a superior work in a genre that often gets a bad rap, thanks to mean-spirited crud like this update. I can see the logic of wanting to make Freddy scary again, but this return trip to Elm Street will leave you fearful of having to see more movies like it in the future instead of being sliced up yourself.
Though it slathers itself in a rich coat of grime, Nightmare redux sticks close to Craven's original premise. Not only have high schooler Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her pals started to suffer particularly nasty dreams, they've all been the same dream. When bedtime hits, a sinister man bearing a razor-tipped glove comes a-calling, and when her friends begin dropping like flies Nancy suspects the supernatural. A little research and some eerie visions reveal that years ago, handyman Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) was pegged for a horrible crime and burned to death by a local posse. But Freddy's come back for his revenge, leaving Nancy with the task of putting an end to his rampage before she too falls victim to the most fatal forty winks in film history.
Let us survey for a moment the reasoning behind a new Nightmare on Elm Street. When we last left Freddy, he was harmless enough to deserve his own Hostess pudding pie, let alone commence striking fear in the hearts of moviegoers. To that extent, overhauling an icon like Freddy is understandable, granted there be some constructive revisions in mind. Then again, we are dealing with Michael Bay's production company, which saw fit to turn Jason Voorhees into a beefy survivalist in 2009's Friday the 13th. But A Nightmare on Elm Street hasn't the brains to back up its own reinvention tag. Barring a couple of different death scenes and character names, it's the same flick as before, just with a more repulsive visual scheme. Freddy fans are in for double the disappointment, for they are presented not only with another useless remake -- but one that's not even aesthetically pleasing.
Should viewers avert their eyes during A Nightmare on Elm Street, it'll be due more to the unbearable editing than Freddy's bloodletting. Since when did horror films decide to hide themselves and zoom so close to the action that we can't tell what we're supposed to be scared of? Just about every cut is signaled with a bright flash to the eyes and a kaboom to the ears, fixing our attention not so much on the screen as on fishing out the Advil. Also, say what you will about the original Elm Street's visuals, I'll take those corny effects over a CG Freddy lurking in the wallpaper any day. Speaking of Freddy, it's rare to see an actor as tremendous as Haley done such a disservice in a famous role like this one. With his dodgy burn victim make-up and the voice of a chain-smoking Forrest Gump, Haley is lost in the woods and slashes through countless Teen Beat rejects trying to escape.
Like Rob Zombie's Halloween II before it, A Nightmare on Elm Street depressed me to no end. There's always DVD, but it's sad to think that the Freddy whose dark humor and inventively silly slaughters earned him a thriving fanbase is gone for good. Elm Street has taken a turn for the mean, and if this indicates where the slasher may follow, it might be best if fans packed up and moved to a new genre.
MY RATING: * 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated "R" for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.)