This remake of the original 1984 horror classic is a dud. It follows all of the typical cliches you would come to expect from today's horror films rather than spending time getting inside the minds of the character and creating a frightening antagonist.
Wes Craven's original 1984 classic was an innovative breakthrough in the horror genre. The slashers were invading the local multiplexes and with the release of the original Nightmare on Elm Street came along and changed the game. For the better of course. Its way of toying between reality and fantasy was unseen and made way for the so called "horror" flicks of today's era and along with that came seven sequels. In 1984 they were fresh but now they're nothing more than cliches, thrown around to give a couple of frights and make a qucick buck. Which is exactly what happened with this "remake". Rather than introducing a new kind of energy or way to tell the tale of the badly burned stalker, the filmmakers decided to go with the overused route. Using dark lighting, first time-director Samuel Bayer attempts to re-create the same frightening moments from the firs film when, in all reality, he's more like spoofing them.
Rob Zombie's "Halloween" remake, which I didn't particularly enjoy, used the film as a basis for both a prequel and sequel. It failed at both if you ask me. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" follows suit. Wasting a ridiculous amount of time giving Freddy Kruger a back story. Screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer gave a pretty crappy origin story to this horror icon. Which was piece together by bits and pieces of all of them other films. It basically c*mulates to you, the viewer, falling half-way asleep before the film even begins. Freddy is more interesting, like just about every horror character, when they're mysterious and strange. Dark and ominous. Obviously crack-pot producer Michael Bay didn't feel that way. He felt the film would be better off using a ridiculous amount of screen time to play homage to various horror classics. Several scenes are taken from the original: the creepy, jump-roping girls, the claw in the bath. While others are taken from the various sequels.
The film's storyline, if you could call it that, takes a similar approach that the original did but with several different changes. Five high school students: Nancy (Rooney Mara), Quentin (Kyle Gallner), Jess (Thomas Dekker), Kris (Katie Cassidy), and Dean (Kellan Lutz) are all suffering from disturbing and frightening nightmares that all feature, in some form or another, a badly burned man with a red and green sweater. He also happens to be armed with some razor-sharp finger blades which he uses to slaughter the teens in their sleep. The catch is that when they die in their dream, they die in real life as well. Slowly, the kids are all picked off until there are only two, remember those cliches I was talking about, Nancy and Quentin. The rest of the film becomes a race against time to find Freddy and stop them before they fall victim.
Bayer, a rather smart music-video director, spends more time on the way exterior rather than on the interior. He spends a huge inordinate amount of time focusing on the lighting and slightly creepy nuances rather than focusing on the characters and their psyche. Which, by the way, are played pretty poorly by the group of five hoo-has. I doubt we'll find another Johnny Deep with this group of kids. Referring back to the set design, most of it is top-notch. Set design and atmosphere are well done, probably the only thing in the entire film that is. But the various locations that the film takes place in, both in reality and in the dreams, look like re-hashes of other horror movie sets. The girl next door feeling of the original Nancy is lost here since the film quickly begins killing off people and raises he body count higher than you would expect all within the first act.
The original Nightmare on Elm Street worked so well because of the fact that it focused more on Nancy, the protagonist, and not Freddy, the antagonist. Freddy was always in the background; lurking and searching. But now he's featured more prominently than he's needed. The constant exposure to this menacing sadist diminishes the effect that he has on not only the viewer but also the film in general. Because if there one thing that set Freddy apart from the rest, it was his personality. And the one-liners. Robert Englund's Freddy Krueger was menacing and scary, this one is ugly and boring. Jackie Earl Haley, a tremendous character actor, is given the iconic character to bring to life, and he does the best he can, but the simple fact is that everything else isn't enough to even work with. The raspy voice takes away any sick humor from the one-liners, which there aren't really any in the first place. Englund's latex face was more frightening, Haley's looks like the reptile man. It works from far away distances but once the close up comes along, its done.
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is an overall waste of time. There nothing in this horror re-has that sets it apart from the rest. Zombie screwed up Michael, the filmmakers behind "Friday the 13th" didn't really have to try hard to miss that target, and now this horror gem joins the likes of those other horror remakes. But worst part isn't even that the movie is so bad, it was almost expected, but rather that we'll probably be forced to endure an equally horrific sequel. Which is scarier than any nightmare.