Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

A Nightmare on Elm Street | rated R | starring Jackie Earl Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton | directed by Samuel Bayer | 1:35 mins

Teenagers plagued with nightmares learn that they are all dreaming about the same thing: a man named Fred Krueger with a face melted by burn scars and razors blades on his fingers who tries to kill them every night when they go to sleep. When a nightmare kills one of their friends, they must stay awake long enough to figure out how to defeat Krueger before their fear makes him strong enough to cross over into the real world.

Unlike last year’s successful Friday the 13th reboot, the latest Platinum Dunes remake of an iconic horror movie steps over sacred horror movie ground. Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t just an effectively scary genre film, it was clever and imaginative on a level few horror films are. It broke ground, suggesting that a horror movie could also tap into psychosomatic territory and toy with a viewers perception of reality. Dunes’ latest music video hire Samuel Bayer follows the numbers fairly closely, making a visually impressive movie, but a souless, scareless, cheesy, empty and forgettable one.

It had promise, on the surface the casting of Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy Krueger is a perfect one. What better guy to play a vicious child-molesting killer than the Little Children/Watchmen breakout star?  It also works to bring Nightmare back for a new generation. This generation of kids doesn’t stay up all night with hidden coffee pots, they’re on ADD pills, depression pills, sleeping pills, anxiety pills. There’s a story about an over-medicated pharmaseutical culture to be told here that Freddy could have taken full advantage of. It’s touched on, but used as a means to an end.

This update also makes a startling and accurate conciet worthy of discussion. There has been a lot of talk of how the 2010 Nightmare reinvents Freddy as a mild-mannered pedophile in life – unleashed as a killer in death. In the movie’s attempt to worm around what we’re dessensitized to into new dark corners of the mind it admits that child killers are no longer scary. Now we’ve decided that the line is drawn at child molestors. By playing up a sexual tone between Freddy and Nancy, Nightmare has found a way to make Freddy Krueger creepy again after years of being a jokester. I have to admire the social consciousness of this. BUT, is creepy scary? Is it why we go to a movie like this? That’s the question each audience member will have to ask themselves. Do we go for fun jump scares or do we go for real-world sleaze? As free of substance as the story is, the movie is almost worth seeing for the issue’s it’s existance brings up.

In that same vein, the new Nightmare favors realism in Freddy’s new look. Haley is unrecognizable as Freddy under makeup that has his face melted and eyes sunken like any real life burn victim. It looks real, but more realistic doesn’t translate to scary. Haley does the best he can to bust through the get-up, his gravely Rorschach voice is perfectly suited to send a shiver up the spine with a twisted take on Hide and Seek.

The script wobbles all over the place. Not shot for shot, but not a re-imagining, instead the movie re-creates memorable scenes from the original movie, reshuffles them and forces them back into the cannon of the “new” storyline. It’s discombobulated for those who may have just re-watched the original to brush up. Most of the redone scenes are for the worse. Freddy’s push through the wall over Nancy’s bed is a cheesy CGI effect out of The Frighteners (but The Frighteners was fun). The memorable wall-dragging death of the first film is another over-edited mess that saps the scare out of the scene. Instead of Heather Langenkamp’s dertermined heroine, we get Rooney Mara’s Nancy who passes for being not bad. Instead of Johnny Depp we get Kyle Galliner as a medicated emo kid. The movie never makes it clear if they are together, as in the first film, or not.

I said the new Nightmare looks good and there is one terrific visual set piece in the third act where Bayer switches back and forth between reality and dreamland while Freddy attempts to stab Nancy at the same time Galliner’s Quintin is making the same motion to hit her with an adrenaline needle. The scene is an inspired bit of business and there should have been more creative takes like it. Manipulating reality is a filmmakers license to go nuts, but the new Nightmare clings to the images of the first film instead of delivering something new and creative.

A Nightmare on Elm Street has a few good ideas behind it that never quite come to the forefront of the film. It isn’t awful per say, but at the end of the day it’s hard to justify it’s existance with the original still kicking about in horror movie relevance.

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