Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Samuel Bayer
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Jeff Cutter
WRITERS: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
MUSIC: Steve Jablonsky
Holy shit! A remake that actually works. Unlike last year’s abysmal remake of “Friday the 13th” and other horror remakes, producer Michael Bay and his team of filmmakers have actually gotten one right. The greatest part of the film is the fact that Freddy Krueger is once again a scary force to be reckoned with.
Filmmakers who have made all of these recent remakes like “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” always talk about how they are going to make the monster scary again. More than likely, they fail completely. This time, they deliver on that promise.
The story, at its core, is similar to its 1984 counterpart. A group of teenagers are all having similar nightmares about the same man. Eventually, they realize that the monster is real and that if they die in the dream, they die in real life.
At the heart of the film is Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara) and her wannabe boyfriend Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner). They eventually learn that the man is known as Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley) and that their parents may know a little more than they are letting on. However, this time, there is a twist to the story that makes it a breath of fresh air and puts a different spin on the established mythos.
It opens not unlike the “Friday the 13th” remake. There is a short pre-title scene that occurs before “A Nightmare on Elm Street” slams onto the screen to the familiar theme music from the original film. The scene is only a prelude of things to come instead of a rushed fifteen minute film like the one featured in “Friday the 13th”.
From there, the talented casts of teenagers begin to slowly figure out why Freddy wants to kill them. They also know that the insomnia they are currently experiencing will soon work against them. With this, the chase is on.
The one thing that is inevitable is that people are going to compare Haley to Robert Englund, the man who played Freddy throughout eight films and a television series. In reality, that is unfair to Haley who makes the role his and shows just as much dedication to the part as Englund did. He cuts out the over-the-top humor that was featured in the many sequels to the original film and brings in some genuinely scary moments.
Comparing Haley to Englund is like comparing Jack Nicolson’s Joker with Heath Ledger’s performance in “The Dark Knight”. Both actors give fantastic performances and they make the character their own. Liking the remake or Haley’s performance does not take anything away from what Englund did with the previous series.
There are many tributes to the previous series found throughout the film. A couple of these scenes are very familiar such as Freddy coming out of the wall and his razor-blade hand coming out of the bathtub when Nancy falls asleep while taking a bath. But there are several others that are more subtle and will only be caught by hardcore “Nightmare” fans. Instead of feeling like several of the past films were smashed together, it feels like the story found a delicate balance between staying true to the original series while setting up its own canon.
That being said, there are a few problems. Some of the effects are not that convincing, such as Freddy coming through the wall over Nancy. Most of the effects are carried out flawlessly, but there are just a couple of scenes that the effects team should have paid a little more attention to or done more practically instead of in a computer.
Freddy’s make-up is also an issue. While it is based on what a true burn victim would look like, is not the best seen in the franchise. It’s not that the make-up team did a bad job and it was good to see them attempt something new. It just doesn’t look as good as the original make-up jobs done on Englund.
Finally, Rooney Mara does a decent job as Nancy but the character does not have much to do through most of the movie. It improves towards the end when Nancy finally decides that she has to confront the villain, but it would have been nice to see the character be a little more proactive earlier in the film.
Despite these few problems, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” does prove to be an excellent remake that not only pays tribute to the original but also brings the audience some genuine scares. 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you!