Director Samuel Bayer has achieved, despite a few shortcomings in its execution, a magnificent remake, very well crafted, with surprisingly strong performances and with a constant feeling of doom and darkness.
Though the quality of those remakes has been mixed, with A Nightmare on Elm Etreet, it seems, the studio wanted a fresh, new, and improved direction.
Debuting at the director's chair on film Samuel Bayer it's known for directing TV commercials and music videos, among them the famous Nirvana's "Smell Like Teen Spirit".
Freddy Krueger is one of the most recognizable horror characters, and so far Robert Englund was the only person to portray him on both good Nightmare films, and disasters going so far as the Freddy vs. Jason crossover. Not to mention the fact that this was the most famous work of director Wes Craven, and the films in the series, specially the first is very well loved. So remake of this classic was very risky thing to do.
The premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street is of course very well known but interesting nonetheless. Years ago a man working on a kids pre-school called Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) was burned alive by angry parents who thought he was molesting their children.
In present day those kids, now in high school are suffering from nightmares, and more than one is refusing to sleep. After the first one is killed in his sleep, right in front of a girl named Kris (Katie Cassidy), things get a lot more serious. Kriss tries to seek help because she is increasingly having worst nightmares. Jesse (Thomas Dekker), her ex-boyfriend dismiss such dreams even though he is having them too. Nancy (Rooney Mara) suspects something horrible is happening to all of his friends but only after of couple of deaths she confirms, with the help of Quentin (Kyle Gallner) that in fact, Freddy has been hunting the dreams of every teenager that has had some sort of connection in that old pre-school.
But a person can only stay awake for so long and she and Quentin must not only find the truth behind all this, but try to defeat Freddy before they fall sleep and never wake up.
One of the most interesting things in this remake are surprisingly the performances. Usually when dealing with teenagers and a powerful killer, teenagers tend to be one dimensional stereotypes that follow two patterns, either they like drinking and having sex, and eventually get killed, or behave like saints and defeat the killer, or at least they live.
Nightmare's teenagers however don't follow that rule and are very well played by an uniform cast. They clearly have grown to be disturbed by the events in their dreams.
Rooney Mara obviously takes the center stage as Nancy. Her character is a lonely one, who usually paints and draws strange things that seem to be in her dreams. Kyle Gallner tough doesn't follow short and his chemistry with Rooney makes for a truly engaging bond.
Katie Cassidy also plays skillfully a very disturbed and scared girl and Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) also gives a nice portrayal of a character that originally was played by Johnny Depp.
The thing about this nightmare is that, in the end, you care about the characters and that itself is an achievement, specially in a remake.
But what most people is probably expecting is the new Freddy. Played by Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) he's been a fan favorite fir the part, though lately some people complained about the new look of the character. Obviously not only we have a new face, but new makeup was required to give this Freddy a fresh start. Though I found myself reluctant to the new look, it is very possible that I, like many, was already to used to the old Robert Englund makeup.
But once you see Jackie, there's no doubt he has made the character his own. This Freddy is no more the wise cracker killer, but a lot darker and deadly serious. He likes to play with his victims, keep them alive for as long as he can before killing them in horrible ways. Of course there are still a few jokes here and there, but that doesn't hurt the overall film of the film.
The production has done a very god job to help keep the atmosphere where you don't know if you're watching a dream or not, and when you know it's a dream, everything feels surreal and beautifully done.
I'm not too crazy about the CGI though, and although not that often, I felt it distracted sometimes from the plot. The in-your-face gore was also on of the things I didn't liked. I know that nowadays you can get very graphic with the violence, but sometimes, not showing something and instead giving you the idea about what happened is a lot more effective. Because of this some of the killings felt too fake.
The music score by Platinun Dunes regular and Michael Bay favorite, Steve Jablonsky makes wonders to create the mood and accompanying the characters in this journey. Integrating the original Nightmare theme into his own style he made a powerful and scary new score.
Overall director Samuel Bayer has achieved, despite a few shortcomings in its execution, a magnificent remake, very well crafted, with surprisingly strong performances and with a constant feeling of doom and darkness.