A Nightmare On Elm Street
Director: Samuel Bayer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown, Kellan Lutz
Why are you screaming? I haven't even cut you yet.
After Michael Myers, then Jason Voorhees, a remake of Freddy Krueger was inevitable. And of course it would be the unfavorable Platinum Dunes who would take the helm. I'm not a hater of Platinum Dunes, I just don't think their "slick polished with no substance" stuff doesn't work near as often as they'd like it to. But, as I said before, a clean slate and modern effects could give Freddy an unlimited sort of lift for his visual landscape. The question would be whether they would have the talent to pull this sort of thing off.
Samuel Bayer was brought in to direct. For some reason, the guy was THE choice for telling this story. It was his feature film directorial debut. He was most known for his music videos including "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Yeah, during this movie you can tell he directed it). Bayer reportedly turned down Platinum Dunes multiple times before agreeing to take the reigns. So basically you have a guy who's like "Fine, I'll f***ing do it, leave me alone already!" as the force behind a reinventing a beloved horror property. And its also his first production. This movie is off to a hot start from the get go.
Casting Freddy Krueger is the biggest deal of any of the big horror icons. He's not just a goon, Krueger is a full on performance. And there's big shoes to fill as Robert England was so synonymous with the villain that many felt he almost should have just laid rest. But, in Hollywood anyone and everyone can be recast. Jackie Earle Haley was the man to take on the role and everyone seemed to think that was a pretty solid choice. I had heard rumblings that Bayer shot some test footage with Kevin Bacon as Krueger prior to fully getting the production moving...and maybe its hindsight, but to me that's a more interesting and better choice.
A Nightmare On Elm Street redux wound up being a pretty troubled production. Taking one look at the trailer, you'll see that there are many scenes that you'll notice aren't in the final product. There looks to be a pool party featuring Kellan Lutz that isn't present in the film. HBO also had one of those "Inside Look" type of specials that ran during promotion of the film that featured some footage as well. If you have the disc, you'll also see there's an alternate take on the climax of the film that had to have been shot and then decided to be redone. While I don't think the film would be much improved, I'm still very curious to see what the original cut of the movie looked like.
This new Elm Street starts out with a pretty solid opening sequence. I really like the whole diner sequence and the way the dream is portrayed. The best part is where you see the conscious world aspect of it and it looks like a crazy man committing suicide. Kellan Lutz death with the knife is also pretty groovy too. With this direction early on in this opening kill, it felt like this might be a decent and new trek down Elm Street. But alas, this would be about the best this movie really would get for its 95 minute runtime.
Bayer's film ends up being mostly an inferior remake to the original and less of an original idea in its own right. Embarrassingly being shown up by the 1984 film in the visual effects department at many points. Seriously, the part where Freddy comes through the wall over Nancy's bed looks absolutely TERRIBLE in this film. Most of the nods and story ventures that go back to the original film feel very forced and awkward when put in this film as if they have no place. Names of characters are changed, and for no reason as most of them are exact replicas of the ones in the original.
What it does bring to the table are some interesting concepts that it doesn't really fully delve into . I like the micro naps concept, making it impossible to avoid Freddy, whereas the original films you just drank coffee and popped some STA-Awake pills...here they're telling you you'll hit a roadblock and dream while you're awake. Also, the notion that the children may have lied about what Freddy did to them and he was wrongfully killed. What an interesting twist on this story that would totally have made for a stronger villain and story conflict in the film, but it chickens out on this idea shortly after its introduced. The film just doesn't have the balls.
Going back to Freddy's background, a lot of people were turned off by the notion that he was a child molester. I always thought that idea was sort of hinted to many times in the original films. It didn't bother me one bit, it just made Freddy that much darker of a villain, and you needed that if you were to revamp him and make him scary again. Many claimed it was hard to root for Freddy knowing this detail...and I hate to break it to you, but you're not supposed to be rooting for Freddy in these movies...he's um..the bad guy...
Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger, isn't bad, but he's very forgettable. His performance is incredibly wooden and stiff. I want to give the script credit, that Freddy is there and totally seems to work on paper, I really like a lot of his lines in this movie. Haley just has no frills in delivering them. Its very flat...almost as if he's having trouble talking through prosthesis on his face. I'm not saying he needs to be as wild as England was, but Haley's Krueger is devoid of any sort of energy. The guy is just way too slow in everything he does. Most of his work is assisted by camera tricks or him popping out. Not helping matters is his make-up. They wanted a "realistic" look on Freddy, and I can see that, it just doesn't make for good cinema. He looks just empty and boring.
Most of this movie just falls flat an uninteresting too. Once Katie Cassidy is off'd, it feels like there is no one interesting or worthwhile to follow. Nancy is a little weird in this movie and Rooney Mara brings such a dull performance to it. I know this movie is about tired kids not sleeping, but damn if it doesn't feel like it. Also, why are all the children in single-parent families? Its sort of a weird detial they say nothing about. Even the adult characters, played by actors I adore (Clancy Brown and Connie Britton) are trying to woo me to sleep. This film is very short, but it sure does drag a whole lot and feels a half hour longer than it is.
You'd think a Freddy film would feature some incredible visual effects, and it does about half the time. However, a lot of it looks like painfully obvious CGI. Connie Britton's death at the end is the cherry on top of all this. Its very reminiscent of the CGI thrown into the Unrated version of Drag Me To Hell that looks really bad. I don't hate all of it here, but there is a lot of it that is just flat out disappointing. Also, you can tell Bayer is a first time as many of the scenes where Freddy is going to pop up or something is going to go for the jump scare are made very obvious by certain camera angles and cuts.
I've seen this movie 3 times now, and its got a few interesting things about it, and brings much more worth to the character and series than Freddy's Dead, but man if this one isn't a kind of chore to watch. Its a slug. These movies have the motto of "Whatever you do, don't fall asleep" and this movie tries its damndest to rock you to bed. Its a shame, as doing Freddy should have been one of the better ones. Instead, this film just feels like people made it because they "had to". And like a lot of these Platinum Dunes movies, it feels like they threw way too much money into something that didn't need a lot. For the time being, this film has effectively killed off Freddy Krueger. It took in some good box office, but was a quick kill. The remake turns out to be a dull, ineffective affair and its a shame.