A Nightmare on Elm Street
Running Time: 95 minutes
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz
Directed By: Samuel Bayer
Rating: 3.5 out of 10
A group of teens are terrorized by a man with finger blades and who can kill you in your dreams.
The first Nightmare on Elm Street scared the living bejesus out of me when I was a kid. Looking at that version now it is more comical than scary. However it is too bad they couldn’t just touch up a few things from the first like Freddy’s extended arms to make it more viable. Instead we are offered up a whole new film or retelling in this movie and it falls flat. A Nightmare on Elm Street (I will use NOES going forward) is the story of a group of high school kids that are being plagued by bad dreams. They are stalked while sleeping by a hideously burned man named Freddy. If Freddy kills you in your dream you are dead in real life. The kids must find away to stay awake and fight this evil man.
Out of the big three horror icons of the 1980’s (Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy) I was always the toughest on Freddy and the NOES franchise. I hated/hate the premise that he stalks you in your dreams. Sure Michael Myers and Jason can’t die but at least you can run from them. Freddy has complete control and overlooking the fact he can kill you in his dreams, (which they don’t even remotely try to explain, thank god) he should never fail at killing his targets so the story is flawed from the get go. An opening scene finds a bunch of teens hanging out in a late night diner. If I was to ever shoot a movie of this genre I would make sure to include a diner as they are a trippy venue for horror. I was pleasantly surprised that the first scene is surprisingly tension filled and shockingly violent. From there the film quickly falls apart with a disjointed story and some pretty tame kills and final body count. I like that the film pays homage to the original movie but it offered a sorry attempt to recreate some of the more shocking kill scenes. Not only do they repeat a lot of the material, it isn’t even as good as the first movie which is puzzling. There is too much story of the teens trying to figure out why Freddy is killing them all off. Too much story and not enough killing make for a lopsided horror. Freddy is supposed to make you fear his blades on his fingers and make you dread falling asleep. What Freddy actually will do is make you welcome sleep as the film has huge lulls in it.
The acting is not the greatest but the group of kids is trying and that is all you can ask for in the horror genre. They convey fear and stress from not being able to sleep so they actually add to some of the fright inducing scenarios. The burned skinned, dream killer Freddy was played by Jackie Earle Haley and he had some enormous shoes to fill. He took on a legendary role that Robert Englund perfected and he was less than stellar. It had more to do with the fact that he looked almost alien in design than burnt. The lack of facial definition lost his visual power of dread. He had an okay voice but didn’t capture the essence of the character which is the most disappointing thing about the film.
The film just throws way too much at the viewer. Guessing if the teens are dreaming, or in a dream with in a dream, or wake up from a dream only to be in another dream, was interesting at first but they do it to death. All the frights coming from the are they or aren’t they dreaming angle loses its power quite quickly. Freddy kills a teen with little ingenuity or thought. He slashes at random and for no reason taunts his victims. Trying to puzzle out why Freddy is doing this is a journey no one but the most ardent of fans will want to take. He is a man killing people in their dreams for pity sake we don’t need to know why just get to the cool killing. The surviving teens bounce from venue to venue from sleep to awake all in an attempt to stop Freddy killing and most viewers won’t get into this film after the opening scene.
Director Samuel Bayer makes his feature film debut with this movie and it was very hit or miss. He comes from the music video world and most would say he should have stayed there after watching this. I disagree with that though. The opening scene shows he has some modicum of talent for shooting horror. He just never recaptured that element of surprise. He lacks imagination in most of the kills and the film follows a pretty lame story. The camera work is decent and the casting is not the worst but when you are recreating a legend in Freddy you need to be on your game. His lack of vision hampered this film but I still think he could shoot a good film he just needs another chance.
I cannot recommend this film and while Freddy haunted my dreams as a kid he doesn’t cause a second of insomnia as an adult.
T Factor + If you are a fan of the original films this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you are a fan of the original films than this could also score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Halloween (Zombie), Friday the 13th (Remake)