Published Apr 29, 2010Released in 1984, A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of horror's more popular franchises. Few film fans wouldn't recognize Freddy Krueger, the series' iconic, striped sweater wearing, knife blade-tipped glove-sporting villain. And even if one is unfamiliar with plot intricacies, we all know creator Wes Craven's basic narrative: some evil guy haunts a group of teens, picking them off in their dreams. And it's up to protagonist Nancy Holbrook to stop him.
At that, one of Elm Street's most compelling aspects is its ability to tell one solitary tale and captivate for the full feature. No sub-plots clog things up and we're glued to the simple saga for its entirety. With such a strong, unforgettable subject and structure, it was only a matter of time before Elm Street was remade.
Surprisingly, Bayer's version is rather strong. Understanding his task, the director balances personal vision, recreation and homage. The plot sticks to Craven's guns, with only slight tweaks (set-up and other unimportant bits), while this film's deeper, darker context explores Krueger's paedophile history more intensely, making portions uncomfortable and creepy for clearly different reasons. Additionally, modest tributes to the original occur via recreation of key scenes that are amusing, as opposed to overkill, or alternately, negating Craven's film entirely.
From an acting standpoint, Jackie Earle Haley imbues Krueger (formerly played by Robert Englund) with a new level of sinister humour, delivering great one-liners and an unnerving brutality. As for Nancy, actress Rooney Mara does as an admirable job replacing Heather Langenkamp, even if she and "boyfriend" Quentin (Kyle Gallner, a pale version of Johnny Depp's Glen Lantz) are somewhat forgettable.
On the downside, the use of CGI over physical effects is a depressing detraction, as is Haley's make-up, which wavers between kind of cool and looking like a stoned lion. Throw in a few unintentionally groan-inducing lines from overzealous writers and Elm Street does have its shortcomings.
But, as a standalone film, thanks to the eerie subject matter and stunning aesthetics, it works well for the new breed of horror fans. In terms of the remake genre, take it or leave it where it sits: smack-dab between the surprising high of Dawn Of The Dead and the disgusting low of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Warner)