Before I begin my dissection of Hollywood’s latest remake of a classic, let me just say how cool it is that A Nightmare on Elm Street was set in Ohio. Even cooler is that there is a scene set in Powell’s Bookstore, which is one of my favorite bookstores. However, I would like to point out that there is no Powell’s Bookstore in Ohio (it is located in Portland, Oregon and Chicago). With that aside, let me just say that as much as I like Jackie Earle Haley, he is not Robert Englund and without Robert Englund, its near impossible buying into the character of Freddy Krueger. I understand this is a remake of the 1984 original and it being a remake, the studio probably felt that it needed to completely revamp everything about the franchise. However, keeping Robert Englund as Freddy would have vastly improved this slow paced, unexciting update of Wes Craven’s classic.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 26 years and you have no idea what A Nightmare on Elm Street is about, all you really need to know is that its about a boogeyman named Freddy Kruger who haunts your dreams. If you fall asleep, you enter Freddy’s dream world where he will kill you. If he kills you in your dream, you die in real life. So you don’t want to fall asleep…ever. Freddy Kruger has always been the more interesting of the 80s horror slashers. Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers don’t talk and all they really have going for them are the cool masks they wear. Freddy, on the other hand, has a dry sense of humor and an awesome bladed glove that he likes to scratch against metal and chalkboards. The Freddy films have also been more fun to watch because you get to see all the creative ways Freddy does away with his victims when they enter his dreams.

I got introduced to Jackie Earle Haley last year when he played the role of Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. I saw him again in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and thus far I’ve been impressed by his level of acting. When it was announced that Haley would play Freddy Kruger in the new remake, I was apprehensive about anyone replacing Robert Englund, but I figured if there’s anyone to do it, Haley would be one of the better choices for casting. So whats my verdict? I didn’t think Haley’s portrayal was bad and I even began warming up to his interpretation. My problem with this version of Freddy had less to do with Haley than it did with the look of the character. This version of Freddy is far less expressionless than the old version. The burnt face is meant to look more realistic this time around, which results in the character giving less expressions. Overall, I don’t like it. I miss the old Freddy’s demonic grin with the sharp teeth and the pointy chin. Yeah it looked less realistic, but c’mon here people…we’re dealing with a dude who lives in your dreams and who can kill you for real by killing you in a dream!! Going back to Haley’s performance, the actor gives the character a much creepier, pedophile interpretation that makes Freddy seem more sinister. I liked the reimagining of the character as a pedophile rather than a child murderer, which the original Freddy was. Again, it makes the character more creepy and sinister.

The biggest problem with A Nightmare on Elm Street is everything else. The plot is as horror-movie cliche as you can possibly get. Once again, teenagers are caught falling asleep, which causes them to enter Freddy’s dream world, where they get killed in imaginative ways. I understand this is the basic premise of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but I would not have been against having the filmmakers truly retool the premise and come up with something dramatically different. Remaking a movie doesn’t necessarily mean rehashing the same old shit. We have seen countless sequels of a Nightmare on Elm Street so giving us a bigger budget version of the same thing isn’t going to work. Even if you were going to stick with teenagers falling asleep and getting killed by Freddy one by one, it would have been nice to see a more intricate plot that perhaps involved the teens finding a way to kill Freddy or reaching some other goal to succeed. Instead, we simply see their futile attempts to stay awake, which we’re told is going to eventually result in them falling asleep in the end via coma. Nice fuckin’ plan!

Even if you’re going to march a parade of teenagers who each fall asleep and die at the hands of Freddy, the filmmakers could have at least provided imaginative death scenes and a wide variety of creative settings in Freddy’s dream world. For example, I think it would have been cool to have each character enter an entirely different kind of dream world. Instead, we get the same factory and a decrepit looking preschool over and over again. I know this was done on purpose because the characters were somehow meant to find the place where Freddy molested them as children, but thats lame. I never understood why the characters had to find this place. It didn’t result in some huge revelation nor did it help to defeat Freddy so what was the point?

To sum this all up, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a boring and forgettable mess that, in the right hands, could have turned into a truly wonderful reimagining of a great premise. The filmmakers and studio were clearly afraid to deviate from the established canon created by Wes Craven (NOTE: He was not consulted for this remake, which came as a surprise and disappointment to him). I wouldn’t have even minded this had the filmmakers been able to present us with something fun (i.e. see Scream for a good example of what I mean). Instead, however, the 1 hour and 35 minute running time feels like a good 2 hours, which is time I will never unfortunately get back.

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