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Monday, October 4, 2010

You Can Walk Safely Down the Scare Free Streets of A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street = 1 and 1/2 out of 5
Freddy Krueger: You have nothing to worry about. This wont hurt one, little, bit.
A pretty bad horror movie. Not in terms of it being a remake, just in terms of it being a bad movie. An overuse of cheap scares, style over substance, and nonsensical characters; all within a film that has a premise that could be put to such better use.


In the spirit of re-imagining well loved horror films of the past, Platinum Dunes (the same studio that brought us other terrible remakes that include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th) recreates the story of Freddy Kreuger (now played by Jackie Earle Haley) and his wish to kill the children of the parents who murdered him.

The film starts off with our lead "high school" age characters suffering from terrible nightmares, all featuring the same spooky image of a man wearing a dirty Mr. Rogers sweater, a hat, and holding onto a glove of razor sharp knives. The film moves into kill mode, as one by one, each character manages to fall asleep (at any time convenient for the film, like a funeral for example) and be injured badly or killed by the mysterious man.

Eventually the main lead "high school" characters - Nancy and Quentin (Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner), learn truths behind this man they may have actually known in their past and must try to find out how to stop him.

Falling asleep truly becomes a big problem for these characters. I've already mentioned someone falling asleep at a funeral, but it also occurs in a crowded classroom and in a pool. Even better is a wonderful screenplay device known as "micronaps," which becomes a wonderful excuse for these characters to fall asleep whenever the audience hasn't suffered a lame jump scare in a while.

Again, rather than having time devoted to developing any sort of interesting characters or even expanding in more creative ways upon the premise, this film has instead made sure to focus on how to get a cheap jump from its audience, along with finding ways to make call backs to the original film, without actually making these elements feel original or even very organic. It's more a checklist really; bathtub claw scene - check. Invisible ceiling fight death - check. Body bag scene - check.

I can say that Jackie Earle Haley doesn't do anything wrong here. He's exactly what he needs to be - even if the makeup department turned him into a non-frightening and instead weird looking lizard creature w/ claws. Haley does a good enough job separating himself from Robert Englund's version, its just a shame that this film didn't want to take advantage of how intriguing this sort of killer dream demon could be.

I can't say the film is poorly made on a visual level, because that's what you get when a studio gives you a budget and hires a music video director working under producer Michael Bay. There is some slick stuff in here. However, that doesn't stop the film from feeling hollow, having to deal with the terrible character dialog and actions, and trying to develop some sort of pathos for a guy who molests children only to try and murder them later on from beyond the grave.

One final thought: The characters realize that Freddy comes after them in their dreams do to angry parents killing him years prior. The solution: Pulling him out of the dream world so they can kill him again. Could there be a problem with this plan?
Freddy Krueger: Why are you screaming? I haven't even cut you yet.

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