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Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street
04.29.2010by: Eric Walkuski
6 10

YOU CAN ALSO READ CHRIS BUMBRAY'S REVIEW OF THE FILM HERE
Expect Arrow's review to pop up over the weekend...

PLOT:The peculiar and violent death of a classmate prompts a group of teenagers to investigate their suddenly terrifying dreams, all of which contain the same ominous figure: A scarred man with a fedora, striped sweater and the world's most f*cked up gardening glove. They soon discover that these troubling nightmares can cause more damage than just sleep deprivation.

REVIEW: Let's cut to the chase: The new NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is neither as bad as you might have feared, nor as good as you might have hoped. It's a workmanlike effort, never diverging too far from its source material and made with some skill and not much heart. The fact that a horror movie about a ghostly serial killer who mercilessly slashes teens doesn't have heart could be construed as beneficial to its dark spirit, but to me it's that lack of heart that pins this ELM STREET down as a cold product, not the movie brimming with energy that it should be (and the original was). Of course coming from Platinum Dunes this is no surprise, as all of the company's remakes have the glossy, too-clean tinge of Hollywood that the gritty, crafty originals do not.

To be fair, Sam Bayer's NIGHTMARE doesn't shame the title, nor does it shit on the 1984 classic; in fact, it's one of Platinum Dunes' best films. (Not saying much, but still...) It's more reminiscent of the company's versions of THE HITCHER and AMITYVILLE HORROR, which were straight-up remakes, as opposed to FRIDAY THE 13TH and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which took pages from the books of their precursors but basically told their own stories. This is much, much better than the dumb, tedious FRIDAY remake that we received last year, but it lacks the admirable "anything goes" nastiness of the first TEXAS CHAINSAW that Michael Bay and Co. have not been able to replicate since.

To contrast and compare it to the original plotwise would be redundant (they're essentially the same movie on that score), so lets just talk aesthetics. To judge it on its own terms is to immediately confront the new ELM STREET's most glaring weakness: a lack of imagination and surprise. Something the best films in the series did (NEW NIGHTMARE included) was lull you, as it does its characters, into a false reality. The most unsettling dreams began when we didn't realize they were dreams - the characters would continue on with their normal routines until subtle, unnerving hints of something amiss made themselves known. And then we'd go full blast into a bizarro dream world. This ELM STREET telegraphs every dream sequence from the get-go, hence you're aware right away - via creepy music, hazy lighting, weird noises, etc - that you're in a character's nightmare. No fun... Furthermore, Bayer does very little new with these dreams. We're still in boiler rooms, eerie classrooms, musty basements and the like. No envelope is pushed, visually or conceptually; a visionary retelling of the tale this is not. We get exactly what we expect. Not to mention, a couple of sequences play out almost identically to the way they do in the original.

For his part, Jackie Earle Haley is probably the most enjoyable aspect of the film. His Freddy Krueger comes as advertised: a grim, sour, sinewy creep who murmurs with an angry drawl and doesn't have much time for jokes. (He does get a few in, mostly later in the film, but they're of the glib and bitter variety as opposed to Robert Englund's pun-heavy backslappers.) Making him even more grotesque, this Freddy has an added layer of sexual deviance (he was burned because he was allegedly a child molester) that is fairly off-putting, for better or worse. Haley makes Freddy his own, no doubt, but original ELM STREET purists have nothing to worry about; Englund's grinning, demonic bully won't be forgotten anytime soon - just as Rooney Mara's humdrum Nancy isn't even in the same ballpark as Heather Langenkamp's endearing take on the character. The other young actors barely strike a chord, although there's some reliable veteran work from Clancy Brown and Connie Britton as two of the children's' parents (and perpetrators of Freddy's death).

So is this visit to ELM STREET worth taking? No, if you're already prepared to hate it. If you're open to it being an adequately faithful retelling with the caveat that almost nothing fresh brought forth, then you might find yourself reasonably, if not pleasantly, entertained. Still, those of you who have been moaning "I'll be better off staying home and watching the original" will not get a forceful argument from me...

6/10

Extra Tidbit: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET opens on APRIL 30th.

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