I'm a fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street. No, the original 1984 Wes Craven creation, not this new monstrosity they call a remake. Yep, it's pretty clear already how many stars I'm going to give it, isn't it?
Here's the deal: A Nightmare on Elm Street didn't need to be remade. Not the first one, at least. Yeah, it's been a while, and yeah Freddy isn't as relevant as he used to be, and I can see the appeal of a new incarnation for today's youth, but aside from some cheesy cinematography, a few less-than-realistic looking effects, and a little ham-fisted acting, Wes Craven's original still holds up. And those things I pointed out that may be less-than-stellar in the original work all serve to make it more fun to watch.
Above all else, the original Nightmare has something that the new Nightmare is sorely lacking... no, not Johnny Depp. Wes Craven is called a master of horror because he created something that became a pillar of slasher cinema for over 20 years... that Nightmare tone. Sure, the new Nightmare is nicely disturbing and looks slick, but it never hits the tone that the original instilled or the series carried on. For all intents and purposes, this is something that looks and sounds like a Nightmare, but in the end, it's just an inferior imitation.
Even with the adept skills of Jackie Earle Haley, this new incarnation of dream stalker Freddy Kruger is neither as fun or as defined as the previous versions. While the bad puns and cheesy kills are gone, Freddy's lethality in the new remake is distilled to one of three rather bland methods of attack: lumbering, scraping, and slashing. While we expect nothing less from a man with razor blades on his fingers, it gets old after a while, especially when the majority of his slashings are lame and seemingly ineffective jump scares. Freddy can only jump out of the shadows so many times before it's not scary anymore, and he wastes his turns in the first five minutes of the film.
Freddy's backstory has also been slightly modified in this new version, changing from a child killer to a child molester, whom you're led to believe may be innocent, until a later scene proves what we've all known from the beginning: Jackie Earle Haley played a child molester with more intensity, creepiness, and yes, humanity in Little Children. Even Rorshach has more bite than this Freddy.
The same can be said of the main characters. The original Nancy somehow had more character and familiarity than Rooney Mara's new interpretation. And that's not from lack of trying. There's plenty of character development and backstory peppered into the new Nightmare, not just for Nancy, but for all the main cast. However, surprisingly, none of it ever really makes you care enough for the characters to feel on edge, particularly at the end.
The climax of the new Nightmare also leaves much to be desired, and maybe because we've seen it all before. Not to spoil anything, but it's an all-too-short and easy resolution for such a seemingly long and laborious build up. While it doesn't present anything new to the challenge of killing a dream demon like Freddy, the whole process is approached by the characters with little surprise, and likewise with little innovation by the filmmakers.
And that's another thing, the innovation of CG effects hasn't kept them looking like utter crap in the new Nightmare. if you've seen the original, you'll probably recall the effective creepiness of the iconic scene where Freddy pushes through the wall above Nancy's bed. For some reason, the classic physical effect wasn't realistic or effective enough to be redone practically in the new version. No, this time, the filmmakers decided to use CG instead... the results? Remember the scene in Terminator 2 where the T-1000 morphs from the linoleum floor? Yeah, that looks a million times better!
Basically, Platinum Dunes had one fluke with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which still isn't more entertaining than the original, it just didn't suck) and thought they could reinvent the other major slasher franchises from the 80's by slicking up the iconic villains, ramping up the special effects and casting pretty young things that look good when their mascara runs. Well, after the dismal Friday the 13th and this pointless revision of A Nightmare on Elm Street, it's pretty clear that they were wrong. We didn't need this.
I was hoping it would at least have been fun, but it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, I think A Nightmare on Elm Street could be remade fantastically, but it needs to retain the elements that made the original franchise so popular, namely the charm. That's something Platinum Dunes, director Samuel Bayer and even Jackie Earle Haley mistakenly overlooked. At least Friday the 13th had some awesome boobs.