- HERE BE SPOILERS#
So this is my first ever movie critique that I've taken from my head and put onto anything other than a notepad, and I felt it fitting seeing as it's a critique on a re-imagining of one of the first ever horror movies from my childhood, and it's a damn good one at that (The movie, not my childhood...no, I jest, my momma loves me)
So anyway, going in to see this movie brought up a lot of flashbacks of the surge of horror movie remakes in the past decade - The predictability of Friday the 13th... the repetitiveness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre... and, frankly, the less said about Amityville Horror the better. It seems remakes really are just a cash in of old movies and slapped with a new, glossy sheen in the form of teenage heartthrob actors, and computer generated special effects. And in that sense, believe me, A Nightmare on Elm Street does not dissapoint.
To start, lets look at the plot: A group of Teens living in the fictional town of Springwood are being tormented and killed in their sleep by a man with knives for fingers who has some link to the towns dark past. So nothing has changed in terms of storyline, it's only been tweaked a little to shine more of a light on Freddy Krueger's past and how it links with the kids, which actually, I quite liked. One thing I do want to point out is that in remakes, I do tend to like the fleshed-out backstories in contrast to the less-is-more of the originals, simply because it can work as a stand alone movie without the need for further sequels to explain things, and when it's done successfully, it can really immerse you in the mythos of the character.
The atmosphere of the film was very bland, I didn't find many moments where I was cowering in my seat or chewing the sides of my mouth in anticipation, in fact it all felt a little rushed, things happening very quickly and very half-heartedly. The revelation of seeing Freddy for the first time killing his first victim was, for lack of a better word, a nightmare. 15 minutes into the film and already I've seen what the killer looks like in a well-lit environment. What happened to a build up? Sure we all know from the trailers and previous films what he's supposed to look like, but why be so blatant about it? I remember thinking back to Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and remembering that through the entire film there is no clear, well-lit shot of Freddy where you see in detail what he looks like which added to how scary he already was. I guess subtlety was not an option here. It was like watching a puppy being liberated from his leash for the first time, bounding around, tongue wagging wildly and causing as much noise and anarchy as possible.
Now we move onto Freddy; as a character, he's changed quite considerably. He's not as animated as the original Robert Englund which, after Nightmare on Elm Street 2, became more comedic as time went on. This time around he looks like an actual burn victim, with scarring and disfigurement to match, so his movements seem more clunky and a lot less agile. That's not to say you seem him moving a lot, as he always just appears behind people 90% of the time. And this happens a lot. It seemed that every 10 minutes or so, Freddy would show up accompanied with a loud shrill noise to wake up the braindead half of the audience who didn't come to see this movie for a plot line. You really get into the routine of it all after a while, by the fifth jump you've given up hope of any idea of the film building suspense and you're just praying the girl screaming behind you gets blinded by a rogue popcorn kernel.
Freddy's tactics are noticeably a little weak and boring; but what do you expect from a guy who's only repetoire is a glove with knives? Oh wait a second, and he can CONTROL YOUR DREAMS! So the sky is this killers limit. In the original series Freddy almost devoured someone as a giant worm, crushed a girl who turned into a cockroach, and turned someones muscles into puppet strings. So why the lack of imagination? Well maybe they were taking a more realistic, dark tone than the preceding series, fair enough. But then why does everyone just get killed with a slash on the chest or a knives-through-stomach action? What used to scare me about Freddy was his inventiveness, even Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake killed someone with a chainsaw to the groin. This lack of imagination just became predictable and really dissapointing. If you are going to come out of the wall and turn the floor into liquid, then be a little bit creative with those knives please.
Robert Englund's Freddy was well known for his sadistic witticisms and menacing humour, and Jackie Earle Hayley's version actually had some good lines, though by the end I felt he said a little bit too much. It took Freddy several movies to jump from one-liners to full blown conversations, and get away with keeping his character scary, but there were too many shots of Hayley just talking, which stripped away too much of the fear factor. However, Hayley's Freddy did have some qualities that Englund's didn't. Small things can say a lot, like Hayley's hand twitch as he quickly motioned his fingers making the blades on his glove scrape past one another was brilliant. It said to me that he is a serial killer with real, human quirks that you'd expect a serial killer to have.
As for the rest of the cast, I wont say too much as there isn't much to say, yet again another set of characters you just don't empathise with enough to see survive. The acting was completely ham-handed and dialogue was droll. Once the kids start dying and the parents are confronted about their past with Freddy, you would think some of the parents would shoulder some genuine guilt, remorse or at least some sadness and try to aid their children, but their apathy towards the situation make it seem like they could have easily replaced some of the actors with sleeping animals and the audience would be none the wiser.
I felt I spent far too much of my time looking for redeeming qualities for this film and coming back with my hands empty, mostly due to my love for the originals.
In summary, I feel in order for someone to enjoy this film, take everything you know and loved about the originals, set it on fire, and hope it doesn't come back to haunt your kids when the sequel comes out.