A Zzzzzzzz on Elm Street
There's a lot more to like in director Samuel Bayer's remake of
A Nightmare on Elm Street than most people would expect. It's moody, surprisingly low on the gore
meter and it's got a few nice scares.
But despite the best efforts of Bayer and cinematographer Jeff Cutter, it's just plain boring. These ideas have been beaten over 100 times and there's nothing particularly fresh or new here. Maybe Freddy Krueger just isn't as scary as he once was? Maybe, like the original Nightmare's many sequels, you just can't replicate the (occasional) genius of Wes Craven? Maybe we, as filmgoers, have been spoiled with better horror in the last 25 years and, in turn, the standards for great horror - not the lame ducks that get released every three weeks - have been raised?
Whatever the reason, all I know is that Krueger was terrifying when I was 10 and was not scary at all last weekend. It's not any fault of Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), who brings new ideas to the role made so iconic by Robert Englund. The new make-up effects look extremely creepy, and Haley finds his own unique delivery for Krueger's many zingers. My biggest complaint would probably be the film's obsession with Krueger grinding his finger blades on anything that might create a stream of sparks, from concrete walls to metal pipes.
The plot is very similar to the original Nightmare: Years after being murdered, Krueger begins to seek revenge on his murderers by terrorizing and killing their children in their dreams. Soon, after realizing that his dream attacks lead to their real-life deaths, Krueger's young targets fear falling asleep, try to stay awake all the time and figure out a way to fight back.
The cast is better than usual for a horror film, as most of the actors deliver sincere performances and feel like real people, not horror cliches. Still, most of these actors look much older than the high schoolers they are supposed to be playing.
This Nightmare follows a slew of recent remakes of 1980s horror movies, as just about every good or popular old horror has gotten the 21st century treatment - from 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre to 2009's Friday the 13th to Rob Zombie's two Halloween films. Nightmare is probably better than any of the other remakes, but that's kind of like saying that a Dunkin' Donut is healthier for you than a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
Many of those titles, such as Chainsaw and Zombie's Halloween II, also took gore to all new levels and proved yet again that gore is not scary, just gross. Despite the boredom, I liked that Bayer keeps the vile images to a minimum and attempts to create the scares through ominous music and the "Boo!" philosophy (things jumping out of the dark at unexpected moments). Although most of the scare attempts are predictable and not scary, I applaud the effort to actually scare people instead of just ordering more fake blood.
In the end, however, the film is more likely to put the audience to sleep than it is to inspire nightmares.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.