As someone who owns all eight Freddy Krueger movies, including the good, the bad and the ugly, I was looking forward to the rebooted version of A Nightmare on Elm Street with hesitant anticipation, well aware that while glossy and full of beautiful actors, it would have to get things just right to be a worthy entry in the celebrated series. Unfortunately, this new Nightmare on Elm Street is a nightmare for all the wrong reasons.
The movie is similar in plot to the original Wes Craven classic, which is still one of the best horror movies ever made and, as many people know by now, the film that introduced us to Johnny Depp. Just like in the original, a group of teenagers begin to die in their sleep, having experienced horrible nightmares of a man in a striped shirt named Freddy Krueger. It borrows a few death sequences and invents some new ones, and of course stays true to the history of the serial killer while, in line with other recent horror remakes, giving more insight into "the man behind the mask." Unfortunately, as it turns out, the additional insight is not worth the price of admission.
Director Samuel Bayer has made a very nice looking film, but he completely misses the mark when it comes to A Nightmare on Elm Street. As bad as some of the sequels were, the movies have always featured a sense of originality and cleverness, primarily because in Freddy's dream world, anything is possible. This new version is completely devoid of such cleverness, and, just as importantly, energy. The entire production feels subdued and, as a result, comes off as extremely boring at times.
The death scenes are generally unimaginative, the best being a less inspiring remake of the classic "thrown against the ceiling" murder from the original. There's some gore, but nothing spectacular, and certainly nothing that will excite fans of the franchise. Most inexplicably is that Bayer doesn't know how to handle Freddy on screen; he resorts to what can best be described as modern day tricks of the trade that became popular with the influx of Asian adaptations last decade, such as vanishing hallucinations and other cliché gimmicks. Bayer rarely lets Freddy play around on screen or represent anything more than a nasty ghost.
As good of an actor as Jackie Earle Haley is, he is a terrible Freddy Krueger. His portrayal of the serial killer plays more like a pissed off pedophile (which Freddy is) than a man who doesn't want to just kill his victims but taunt and torture them first. Nothing about his performance improves upon what Robert Englund has mastered over the last three decades, nor even comes close. His voice is boring. His mask and makeup are surprisingly cheesy, and actually detract from Haley's delivery; his lip movements rarely match what is being said, though this most likely is due to post-production dialogue changes. Speaking of dialogue, Freddy isn't very witty or clever save for one comment about a wet dream near the end.
The 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street has a lot of elements that, on their own, work, but suffers greatly when those elements are placed together to form the final product. An underwhelming performance from Jackie Earle Haley and a complete disregard for what made the other Elm Street movies so good by director Samuel Baylor contribute to a truly disappointing reimagining of the storied franchise. Sadly, both Bayer and Haley are signed on for the next film in the series.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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