by Mel Valentin
Twenty-six years, eight films, a television series, and even a comic book series later, Freddy Krueger, the iconic, sweater-wearing, finger-blade equipped, dream-killer/slasher created by Wes Craven ("Red Eye," "Cursed," the "Scream" trilogy, "New Nightmare," "The People Under the Stairs," "Shocker," "The Serpent and the Rainbow,""The Hills Have Eyes," "The Last House on the Left"), returns to multiplexes everywhere thanks (or rather no thanks) to Platinum Dunes, the horror-specialty production company co-founded by Michael Bay (along with Brad Fuller and Andrew Form), not in a sequel, but in a remake with Jackie Earle Haley taking on the role first essayed and perfected by Robert Englund, a classically trained actor. This iteration of "A Night on Elm Street" misses more than Robert Englund. It has next-to-nothing to offer besides a few blood-soaked, gory spills, mechanically directed thrills, and predictable (because they rely heavily on Craven’s original film) thrills.The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street sticks closely to the template Craven established for the original film: introduce four or five generically attractive teenagers (actually actors in their mid-twenties, some definitely looking their advanced age), Dean Russell (Kellan Lutz, one of the lesser Twilight dudes), Kris Fowles (Katie Cassidy, the obligatory blonde, but the stronger actress of the two featured), Jesse Braun (Thomas Dekker, the punk kid from The Sarah Conner Chronicles), Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner, see Haunting in Connecticut), and Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara, sister of Kate, granddaughter of Wellington, owner of the football New York Giants), turn Freddy (Haley, ultra-creepy as expected) loose inside their nightmares to torment, torture, and kill them, until the final girl (or final boy) temporarily banishes him.
"The horror! The horror (of another Platinum Dunes remake)!"
The opening scene establishes the rules of this particular hack-and-slash game for the uninitiated: Freddy, a pedophile (not a child murderer as in the original series, and an alleged pedophile at that), burned to death by the angry parents of his victims, enters the dreams of his victims, turning them into nightmares. The overarching rule is a simple one (see e.g., Dreamscape, The Matrix): die in your dream and you die in the real world, usually by massive exsanguination. The first victim, of course, doesn’t stand a chance. Neither does the second or third (or fourth or fifth, maybe). The survivors try to stay awake (with sporadic success, avoid disbelieving adults, including their parents, and attempt to uncover Freddy’s singular weakness.
In a departure from the original film, the remake casts doubt on Freddy’s guilt, giving the survivors the goal of uncovering the truth about his death. Until the final moments of the film, when the question of Freddy’s guilt is answered definitively, it lingers over the remake, making Freddy a (potentially) more sympathetic character, a (potential) victim and avenger, wreaking pain and torment on the children of those who killed him, rather than the straightforward embodiment of pure evil, an R-rated boogeyman, moviegoers encountered for the first time in 1984. Unfortunately, the question of Freddy’s guilt is the only change that could be described as worthwhile (the others are uniformly superficial).
Given Platinum Dunes’ track record, eight horror-themed films in eight years, including four other remakes (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th), a prequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and only two “original” horror films, The Unborn and last year’s little-seen Horsemen, it’s not surprising that Bay and his production partners played it safe with the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. This Freddy might be meaner, nastier, crueler, and less quip-prone (closer to the original film than the subsequent sequels), but he’s still recognizable as the dream killer who taunts his victims before putting his knife-fingered glove to predictable use.
Other than adding an additional, opening-scene death (for expositional purposes) and a late film change-up that (again potentially) leaves more than just the “final girl” standing, is all co-screenwriters Wesley Strick (Doom, The Glass House, The Saint, Wolf, Final Analysis, Cape Fear, Arachnophobia, True Believer) and Eric Heisserer could add. To be fair, Strick and Heisserer might have diverged from the final result. Strick and Heisserer reportedly wrote multiple drafts that were later combined into the final screenplay.Whether Strick and Heisserer are at fault, whether first-time helmer Samuel Bayer, a longtime music video director following Platinum Dunes’ house style, or more likely, whether Platinum Dunes called the shots, we can only judge what’s on screen. And, minus (or rather plus) a few scattered jump scares, one or, at most, two, inventive kills, the methodical build-up (sometimes too methodical) to Freddy’s lethal attacks, the ultimate result is disappointing, underwhelming, and ultimately forgettable.
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originally posted: 04/30/10 05:21:12