The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t particularly scary or tense, definitely not original, and almost completely absent of character depth and plot; but it looks pretty good, doesn’t dilly dally , and gets a fun (outside a couple of eye rolling one liners) turn by Jackie Earl Haley as Krueger.
The film opens with a dozing high school student, Dean, in a diner and he begins seeing Freddy Krueger in his dreams and has apparently been avoiding him by staying awake for three days. When his girlfriend Kris shows up he dozes off again and ends up on the wrong side of Freddy’s madness. Soon Kris and a couple other of loosely connected friends begin dreaming of Freddy as well and they must rush to get to the bottom of these dreams before they fall asleep and become the next victim in Freddy’s games.
Now, I know that isn’t a lot of plot details but there isn’t much more to say about the film. It is a vaguely constructed cat and mouse game, plus an investigative mystery, and occasionally a horror film/psychological thriller, but none of them really excels nor fails. Actually the biggest issue I have with the film is the fact that it doesn’t nearly take advantage of its main basis, the dream world. The film executes the dream world well when it plays with it; except for a horrible CGI Freddy pushing through a bedroom wall that was done just as good or even better 15 years ago in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, but it never aims high or does anything remotely cool. From snow in a bedroom, shifting into an industrial park, or flashing back to a nursery school it does nothing special and stays rather simple. There are a couple cool ideas here or there and the transitions in and out of the real world are done quite well but I felt like the film missed a big opportunity. The film really lacked any really good humor or original ideas when it came to the horror or the investigation and every twist you can see coming from a mile away.
There were a few things to write home about though. Director Samuel Bayer does a fine job at crafting a good looking film that is technically impressive and visually worthwhile. His editing and pacing is very solid and the film never lets up, dulls, or bores. It might not be an excellent film, not even a pretty good one, but it doesn’t suck or make you wish you were somewhere else; for whatever that’s worth. The film doesn’t shy away from killing anyone at anytime either, so Kudos for that. I wish they would have toned down the cheesy lines a bit and the Freddy makeup looks a bit odd from certain angles but overall it could have been a lot worse in both arenas.
Cast wise, Haley is obviously the standout and he doesn’t go too over the top and gets what he is supposed to be doing quite well. Haley actually does his best work in a couple of the flashback scenes as the awkward and squeaky school janitor. The rest of the cast is never really good nor bad but they aren’t given a lot to work with as they are all supposed to be playing sleep deprived the whole time. Kyle Gallner was my favorite of the group and I wish Rooney Mara had a bit more life in her but the rest of the cast doesn’t get a whole lot of time to prove themselves one way or another.
In the end, A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t anything special but isn’t awful either. If you are a fan of the original series I don’t know what this is going to do for you but it isn’t all that scary for newbs to the series as well. Since this is supposed to be a horror film I guess it should be docked some points for not being all that scary but maybe because horror movies aren’t really my thing. One won’t be able to complain about the films pacing though and it looks better than it probably should but it could have been something more with Haley on board and an apparently adequate director in Bayer. Oh well, not that memorable but fans of the genre will probably not have too much to complain about.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a C-