It’s a little known fact that I have a longstanding fascination with scary movies. Somewhere around middle school my friends and I discovered the horror section at our local video rental spot. One summer we ran through everything they had – from the campiest masked madmen to ghosts and vampires. The first movie that really scared me was Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
I thought the premise was creepy and brilliant. A child murderer named Freddy Kruger was torched to death by the town’s parents, and returns to haunt their teenagers as they sleep. If he slices you with his glove knives, chances are you’ll never wake up.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is the latest horror movie on the remake train. It opens in area theaters today. My initial reaction? I wasn’t sure a remake was necessary. From its shocking death scenes to its eerie boiler room, the original still holds up in my mind.
As it stands, the modernized remake might as well be another movie entirely. Yes, Kruger returns. Jackie Earle Haley gives him a darker edge. Freddy has a more believably deformed appearance now but he’s still wearing ratty striped sweater and spitting out one-liners. We’re led to believe he molested children at a preschool, was burned to death, and is out to avenge himself by torturing the teenagers in town.
Opening scenes begin with scrawled names, children playing and ABC blocks. Director Samuel Bayer created a highly stylized version – cast with actors who didn’t quite make the cut for Gossip Girl. He paid homage to a few key original scenes – the roaming body bag, the bathtub, the “revolving room” – but he ramped them up for visual effect.
I was most impressed by the way Bayer altered scenes to signal a subtle difference between waking hours and nightmares. When Kris falls asleep in class, her surroundings abruptly vanish into thin air. When Nancy attempts to out-run Freddie, she sinks into a bloody hallway, rather than a swampy staircase.
For all its sleek camera tricks though, A Nightmare on Elm Street, delivers very few scares. It’s heavier on story, but the characters themselves are less interesting. Nancy still aims to lure Freddy out of the dream world to defeat him. This time, Rooney Mara plays her as a lost, damaged, withdrawn girl. The defiant qualities that characterized Heather Langenkamp’s more heroic Nancy are only a dream.
Those who remember Johnny Depp’s film debut as Glen, Nancy’s boyfriend, may be disappointed to meet Quentin. Nancy and Quentin’s almost-romance and tag-team approach to finding the truth is far less convincing, even if makeup artists did a fantastic job making everyone appear sleep-deprived.
The characters and storyline are such a serious departure from the 1984 film that made Robert Englund famous, it deserves a title all it’s own. A Nightmare on Elm Street surpasses other recent horror films and remakes in quality. But it’s not the movie horror audiences expect to see. This may be Elm Street but it’s a far cry from the neighborhood I remembered.
Do you plan to check out the re-imagined A Nightmare on Elm Street this weekend? Let us know – what’s your take on the movie? Did it give you a good fright?
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