Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz
Directed by Samuel Bayer
Released by Warner Home Video
By now, nobody is expecting anything save for soulless garbage from the production company that is Platinum Dunes. What is fascinating about these company men, however, is just how severely they continue to miss the mark. It didn’t take a clairvoyant to realize A Nightmare on Elm Street was doomed to fail miserably – these guys couldn’t even resurrect Jason Voorhees for a simple round of murder and mayhem – but the mind-numbing banality of this film continues to baffle and depress. Rest assured, it doesn’t get any better on a second viewing.
It opens well enough, distancing itself from the iconic Wes Craven film in favor of introducing Freddy Krueger in a completely different fashion. Here, it’s a stalk and slash in the Springwood Diner as one of Elm Street’s kids starves off the throes of sleep by gulping down cups of coffee. We’re subsequently introduced to the rest of Freddy’s eventual fodder as another table of patrons, and director Samuel Bayer does a nice job of capturing the unease of the situation. We know Freddy’s waiting behind the proverbial curtain and it’s just a question of waiting for it to happen.
Instead of forging ahead with its own take on established material as the opening suggests, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 quickly becomes a schizophrenic mish-mash of its own misguided script (which turns Freddy into an accused child molester) and a petty replay of all the greatest bits from the 1984 original. Everything from Tina’s murder, the tub scene and the bedroom wall bit have been dusted off and reused without any of the visceral thrill that accompanied them under Wes Craven’s direction. It’s been suggested to try and take this remake on its own terms without comparing it to the original version, but how in the hell can anyone be expected to do that when Samuel Bayer, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and the rest of Platinum Dunes shackle themselves to the source material?
And when this mess isn’t recycling setpieces, it’s floundering with an over-complicated script that explores material that didn’t need exploration in the first place. True to modern genre filmmaking, the approach here was to go back and explore Freddy’s past, only he’s no longer the Springwood Slasher. Instead, Freddy Krueger was a pre-school gardener who may or may not have been molesting children in a secret room in the school’s cellar. Of course, this negates his need for a gloveful of knives but the script allocates it to him anyway. And why do our teens keep dreaming of a boiler room when it has no bearing on this story? It was a creepy aspect of the original that worked within that story’s context. Here, it’s proof that this update was cobbled together by a committee without any regard for cohesive storytelling. Even the title, A Nightmare on Elm Street is pointless this time as it’s eventually revealed that Freddy has been killing teenagers all over the country in his convoluted vengeance scheme.
Many of the detractors have tried leveling some praise toward Jackie Earle Haley for his portrayal of Fred Krueger, but such praise isn’t warranted or deserved. The actor does nothing to make the character his own but he’s also failed by the dreadful content of Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer’s script. This Freddy spends the duration of the film nudging Nancy in the direction of uncovering the truth about him. He even goes as far as to pull her boyfriend into a nightmare that reveals his fate at the hands of an angry mob. But why? When Freddy is less a monster and more of a means for convoluted exposition, the movie fails in a way that even the worst sequel had the good sense to avoid (although Freddy Vs. Jason is guilty of this very same thing – only to a lesser extent).
Everyone knows that director Samuel Bayer was reluctant to sign onto this production. His lack of passion is woefully absent in virtually every frame. The nightmares aren’t scary and wreak more of Silent Hill than A Nightmare on Elm Street. The interesting concept of micro-naps might’ve been an innovative addition to the series but Bayer doesn’t use them for anything other than a series of weak jump-scares.
While this doesn’t quite scrape the bottom of the remake barrel alongside Rob Zombie’s Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street is probably the worst film yet in Platinum Dunes’ spectacular array of failures. It’s an incompetent rush job brought to us by businessmen without any real desire to return Freddy Krueger to his former glory. They’ve taken the money and run, yet again, leaving audiences to deal with the aftermath.
Warner Bros. brings A Nightmare on Elm Street to Blu-ray in a fairly disappointing transfer. The VC-1 encode definitely puts this head and shoulders above its muddy DVD peer, but I was still shocked by how soft some of this picture looked. It’s most noticeable in the darkest scenes, where the black levels are largely weak and gray. Grain structure remains prevalent throughout the proceedings and what textures are visible are quite pleasing to the eye. Overall this should please fans of the film, but I was surprised to find some of these problems in a brand new high definition master.
Any problems with the video are more than compensated by a rockin’ DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack. Cranking this in my living room provided a more encompassing experience than the theatrical exhibition. Sound effects hit you over the head as they hang eerily in rear channels to really boost the nightmare ambiance. Dialogue is clear and perfectly separated to ensure maximum enjoyment. One of the best lossless audio tracks I’ve heard lately.
The extras here are plentiful, yet short and lean. We get a quick featurette (Freddy Reborn), several focus point pieces (content you can also access via picture-in-picture mode), an even more lackluster alternate opening and an equally sloppy alternate ending. Aside from more back-patting nothing new is brought to the table in any of this material, and what is here is of precious little value.
Make no mistake, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 is an absolutely terrible film, complete with a laughable script, bland direction and a cast of kids that can’t muster a spark of charisma. Warner Bros. offers decent (if far from exceptional) video and powerful audio. There’s a dismal assortment of extra features if you’re really hard up for some promotional fluff but don’t bother if you’re looking for anything substantial. The most curious among you would do well to rent this disaster as only the staunchest masochists need bother with a purchase.
1 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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