HOLLYWOOD —Wes Craven unleashed dream stalker Freddy Krueger in 1984 with his clever “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which terrorized audiences. Fast-forward to 2010, 26 years later, and you have director Samuel Bayer’s reinvention of that horrifying classic with more visual spectacles and darker nightmares. This nightmare unlike its predecessors delves on providing the audiences a more menacing Freddy Krueger and a back story. This time Krueger is portrayed by Oscar-nominee Jackie Earle Haley. His face is visibly reminiscent of an actual burn victim, but of course he stills dons that infamous fedora and red and green sweater.
For anyone who has been under a rock lately, practically any horror film made in the late ’70s or 1980s has been remade or is in the process of being re-booted. This new “Nightmare” does have a few iconic scenes from the original (the glove in the tube, the bedroom sequence, the body bag in the school hallway). My belief is those scenes were included primarily as a tribute to Wes Craven and the original flick. Beyond that there are heightened scares in this flick. There are quite a few moments that will have you jumping out of your seat; exactly what a horror film should do.
The remake does follow a similar storyline to the 1984 classic, but there are a few changes in the film. For starters, Krueger isn’t a child killer, he’s a child molester that is hunted down by a mob of parents who burn him alive; hence, Krueger’s motive to target the parents’ children years later in their dreams. His victims include an array of up-and-coming stars including Rooney Mara taking on the role of Nancy, Krueger’s primary nemesis. Mara’s version of Nancy is a bit of a recluse, not a social butterfly; a bit of a loner, but it works. Kyle Gallner portrays Quentin, Nancy’s supposed boyfriend. Rounding out the cast is “Melrose Place” starlet Katie Cassidy who delivers quite a bit of menacing screams as Kris, Thomas Dekker as Jesse, Kris’s on-and-off boyfriend and “Twilight” star Kellan Lutz as Dean.
The story follows the teens as on-by-one they become Krueger’s prey in their dreams and their desperate quest to find out how they’re all linked to this maniac. I must say the notion of micro-naps in the film is refreshing and fascinating. The pharmacy scene in the film is visually stunning. Having studied psychology and dreams in college I know a little bit about staying awake longer than I should have; anyone who has ever pulled an all-nighter in college may have an idea about this.
That’s what makes the “Nightmare” series and Freddy Krueger so frightening; dreams are a touchy subject and even more important everyone has them. The film plays on that notion and the fact that dreams don’t discriminate. Young, old, black or white, we all have them and differentiating a dream from reality is almost impossible at times. The unconscious mind can be scary. While the film in no way, is better than the 1984 classic, Bayer’s version is pretty effective at doing what it’s supposed to do — scaring audiences and having us question the aspect of falling asleep. That final sequence delivered quite a jolt to me and the rest of audience. The problem with Freddy Krueger was the fact that over time he became too comical, and that element made him less scary. Haley stills presents Krueger’s infamous one-liners in the new film, but it’s his menace that works well. He’s out for blood and if you stand in his way, well things don’t look well for you.
This “Nightmare” along with all the countless remakes (“Halloween,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th,” “Prom Night,” you get my point) today continue to forget the one important rule: if you’re going to remake a “classic” you have to provide the audience with something that hasn’t been seen before. Following a story that has already been done before with fresh faces doesn’t necessarily work because you can just go back and watch the original. I liked this film a lot, I only wish it would have delved deeper into an innovative story that viewers haven’t seen before. Now that’s scary.