Reviewed by Carmen Potts
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz
Directed by Samuel Bayer
At the risk of sounding biased or unfair right out of the gate, I have to ask a question that has been on my mind for the last few years: Why do people continue to hold out any hope for these Platinum Dunes remakes? I know brand names are exciting, but after several of these lame assembly line clones, Michael Bay and his posse have consistently proven that they don’t understand a single thing about telling stories or creating characters. Hell, they couldn’t even provide us with basic bloody entertainment in a Friday the 13th movie. That’s the absolute lowest of hurdles! What made anyone think they would fare better with something as imaginative and smart as A Nightmare on Elm Street?
The short answer is they don’t. At this point all of these remakes are pretty much indistinguishable from each other, and this new Nightmare perfectly fits in with the rest as another over-polished, soulless slice of music video stupidity.
If you know anything about Freddy Krueger (which would be everyone reading this site), you know the premise, which is exactly the same this time around: Several kids in the town of Springwood are being killed in their sleep by a burned maniac and must get to the bottom of his revenge quest. If you die in your sleep, you die for real. Great hook, right? It’s too bad all the depth of Wes Craven’s concept has gone waaaaay over the heads of the remake team.
Where to begin? Director Samuel Bayer embodies all the worst traits of the music video guy turned filmmaker. He over-stylizes every shot without any regard to pace, storytelling, characters, or performances. Bayer has even taken jabs at Craven’s original in the press, and many have commented on how he only took the gig to break out of music videos and into features. That complete lack of passion and understanding comes across in spades. But since this is exactly like every other Platinum Dunes movie, maybe we shouldn’t blame him. Maybe we should just level the blame at the producers, who always seem to be the real directors of these movies anyway.
Regardless, for a “creative team” that has displayed a complete indifference to Wes Craven, they sure love imitating him. Most of the original’s classic setpieces have been repeated – this time with a lot of bad CGI. It’s amazing to see all these iconic sequences sucked of all life, and the whole thing further hammers home why the horror genre loses its charm as filmmakers continue to get lazier with technology. The few nightmare sequences or gags they’re able to come up with on their own are largely uninspired. Even with an unlimited concept at their disposal, they do absolutely nothing new or interesting with the dream universe aside from your typical stalk-n-slash. Epic fail, guys.
The casting of the great Jackie Earl Haley was the one token of good faith and the sole reason many have held out hope for the remake. I hate to say it, but his Freddy Krueger is about as intimidating as a burned Martin Short. You can’t blame the man, though. He tries really hard. Had the character been re-envisioned from the ground up, Haley could have really sunk his teeth in and made it his own. But since he’s dressed in the familiar garb and forced to perform the same ol’ song and dance (albeit with the early darker iteration of Freddy), he comes off as a poor man’s Robert Englund. The new make-up (a mixture of prosthetics and CGI) doesn’t help either: The FX department pushes it so far towards the real that Freddy doesn’t look scary in the slightest. How terrified would you be if the scrawniest patient in a burn ward slapped on a razor glove and came at you?
And let’s talk about the glove, shall we? Remember the complete non-moment in the Friday the 13th remake when Jason randomly finds his hockey mask sitting on some guy’s floor? Well, that same lack of care has been put into Freddy’s origins. Moments that are supposed to be big and signature come off as under-played and limp. I’m still unsure where Freddy’s signature glove came from (he just “has” it in the finished film) aside from one limp visual connection. A lot of this has to do with the big third act twist that re-invents Freddy’s past crimes in a way that is both bold and utterly preposterous.
But what really kills this movie are the characters. There isn’t a single solitary person here to care about. The original Nightmare may be dated in many respects, but it was the intense character dynamics and relationships that kept you on edge just as much as when Freddy Krueger was onscreen. In the remake there’s no sense that anyone knows each other at all. The kids here are as stock as they come, and as a result nothing in this movie carries any weight. Every character is boring and completely one-dimensional, particularly Rooney Mara (who takes on Heather Langenkamp’s iconic role of Nancy). She is quite literally one of the blandest heroines to ever hit the screen, and I could feel myself nod off with each of her line deliveries. Sure, the original wasn’t exactly praised for its acting, but even Ronee Blakley comes off like a master thespian by comparison. Call me crazy, but when a Nightmare movie lulls you to sleep, that’s not a good thing.
While it may not reach Freddy’s Dead levels of suck, this new Nightmare commits a far worse offense: It’s mediocre to the point where it leaves absolutely no impression on you whatsoever. I know Platinum Dunes has been DC’s whipping boy for a long time, and most people will think this review no surprise, but let’s get something straight: Nothing would give us more pleasure than to see a PD film that makes us all eat crow. But the reality is their talents are not suited to the horror genre. And certainly not for Elm Street.
No one’s gonna lose sleep over this one.
2 out of 5
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