The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


A Nightmare on Elm Street

Can we please - please - put an end to horror "reboots?" This trend has become so annoying that I can barely stand it anymore. I can think of nearly two dozen classic (and, in some cases, not so classic) horror flicks that have been remade in the last six or seven years. What's the point of the reboot anyway? They aren't original, so rarely if ever do they live up to their inspirations. And are horror audiences so undemanding that they'll happily keep accepting poor Xerox copies of movies they used to love?

The trend reaches a low point with A Nightmare on Elm Street. I just re-watched the original about two months ago. It was a film that did not need to be remade. Sure, the acting was a little cheesy and the pacing was a bit slower than what we're accustomed to in today's fright flicks, but the effects were still cool and Robert Englund remains a powerful presence as villain Freddy Kruger. In fact, Englund was nothing less than iconic in the role. Having a different actor play Freddy is like having someone else play the Fonz, or Kramer, or Hannibal Lecter. It's just not the same.

If someone - and in this case that someone is producer Michael Bay - absolutely had to remake Wes Craven's classic, at least Jackie Earle Haley was the best conceivable choice to replace Englund. As the facially-burned, claw-fingered child molester, Haley is the only thing in this reboot that works. He pops up in the dreams of several teens in the town of Springwood, killing them in gruesome ways. Two of the teens, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner), realize that all the victims have a previously-unknown connection to Freddy. The catch is that if they want to stop Freddy from slicing and dicing anyone else, they absolutely must stay awake.

There are two reasons why the original Nightmare on Elm Street worked, and two reasons why the reboot does not. First, the original was, indeed, original. Sure, there had been other teens-getting-slashed movies before, but Wes Craven had the brilliant idea of creating a villain who inhabited dreams. The terror came from knowing that we all have to sleep sometime, so the characters were essentially screwed. The reboot adopts that idea, yet does nothing with it. Instead of playing up the power of dreams, as Craven did, music video director Samuel Bayer just gives us a generic blood-and-gore show.

The other thing about the original was that it looked like nothing else at that time. Craven and his FX team created visuals that were mind-blowing for 1984. And since there was no CGI back then, all the effects were created practically. This Elm Street reboot relies on CGI effects, which are far less effective. The actors don't seem to inhabit the same space as the nightmarish images that surround them. The imaginative quality Craven brought to his dream sequences is also noticeably missing. Craven, as you may know, has a Masters degree in creative writing and philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, as well as a Bachelor's degree in psychology from Wheaton College. He is a very intelligent man. His dream sequences in the original could, if one chose to do so, be interpreted in philosophical and psychological terms; Freud might have loved that picture. Bayer invests his sequences with no such meaning.

Honestly, I was bored by A Nightmare on Elm Street, and not just because I already knew the story. There's no tension or suspense. It feels like a movie running on autopilot, trying to squeeze in everything from the original that it is obligated to recreate. Never once does it find its own path. Haley aside, the acting is flat, the pacing dull, and the kills (which, let's be honest, were always the audience selling point) unimaginative.

Earlier this year, on a whim, I purchased a box set of all the original Elm Street pictures, which I found on Amazon for twenty bucks. I hadn't seen any of them since their original theatrical releases. Working my way through them, I find that the first one was good, the sequels less so. The Nightmare on Elm Street reboot has more in common with the later, lame-ass sequels than with the one it is technically remaking.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

A Nightmare on Elm Street is available on DVD or in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. The most noteworthy of the supplementary material is "Maniacal Movie Mode," a picture-in-picture feature that gives you behind-the-scenes footage and cast/crew interviews while you simultaneously watch the film. This is actually a more entertaining way to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street because, regardless of the movie's quality, the making of it is pretty interesting. For instance, we learn about (and see set footage from) an extended pool party scene that was originally at the beginning of the movie but later cut because it got things off to a decidedly non-spooky start. One has to wonder why that scene isn't presented as one of the bonus features. Still, Maniacal Movie Mode certainly does have some good information.

There are three deleted scenes: an alternate opening, a brief hallucination sequence, and an alternate ending, which has Freddy reverting to human form before his final confrontation with Nancy. I think I actually like this ending better, as it feels different from the more traditional ending that was ultimately used.

"Freddy Kruger Reborn" is a making-of featurette running 13 minutes. The screenwriter, director, and producers discuss the challenges of not only bringing the iconic character back to the screen but also returning the nasty edge he lost as the original series went on. While I didn't think this reboot worked (at all), it is undoubtedly fascinating to hear the thought process the filmmakers went through in making it.

Finally, there are seven Focus Points, brief segments covering how the production recreated Freddy's hat, his glove, and his sweater, etc. These are short (about 2-3 minutes each) and kind of fun.

In short, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a pretty bad remake, but at least the Blu-Ray has decent bonus material that will be of interest to anyone who has followed this series over the years.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.