Ol’ Cusinart Hand is back in A Nightmare on Elm Street, a pointless, unimaginative “re-imagining” of Wes Craven’s cleverly conceived slasher movie. In eight films between 1984 and 2003, Freddy Krueger serial-killed, always sporting a bladed glove and an unfashionable red-and-green-striped sweater, and always played by Robert Englund. Now Oscar-nominated actor Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, Watchmen) has taken on the iconic role, which requires him to spend most of his screen time unrecognizable due to burn makeup and a heavily processed voice.
What always gave the Nightmare films a bit of added cachet was how Craven bridged the slasher genre with supernatural horror. Having once been hunted and murdered, Freddy takes revenge from beyond the grave, haunting the dreams of his victims, typically teenage and conspicuously nubile (Johnny Depp was among the first batch). What happens in dreams doesn’t stay in dreams. As Thomas Dekker’s Jesse succinctly puts it, “If you die in your dreams, you die for real.” Samuel Bayer’s reboot adds one scientific innovation in the threat of involuntary “micro-naps,” which allow for mini-nightmare shocks between more elaborate dream sequences.
Where Craven’s original deliberately sidestepped making Freddy a child molester (not wanting to exploit then-recent cases), the new film explores that possibility, and what little suspense there is the screenplay by Wesley Strick (Cape Fear) and Eric Heisserer concerns whether or not Freddy is innocent of the crimes that ultimately got him killed in a fire. In backpedaling from the camp of all those sequels, Bayer’s version winds up dour and draggy, seeming longer than its ninety-five minutes. The teens in this go-around—including Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars), Katie Cassidy, and Kellan Lutz (from that Midas-touched Twilight)—don’t have much personality, and Bayer’s direction lacks compensatory verve. Worse, the picture blatantly repeats all of the most memorable visuals from the original film instead of inventing fresh ones.
There’s a bit of tweaker humor as the kids scramble for pharmaceutical aid, and though reigned in, Freddy still has a sick sense of humor (his best line here is cribbed directly from the original). But the boogeyman from the boiler room simply isn’t very scary this time. The burn makeup has the appearance of a stiff rubber Halloween mask (with space-alien eyes), which hobbles Haley more than necessary. The narrative play with the idea of Krueger as a predatory Pied Piper, the sins of the parents, and repressed memories might have worked—especially with more Freudian dream imagery—but this latest in Michael Bay-produced horror remakes takes a mostly anti-creative approach. As such, it’s conceivable this Nightmare might put audiences to sleep.
[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]
Warner gives Freddy the deluxe treatment on Blu-ray in its Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy special edition of the new A Nightmare on Elm Street. This spanking new film looks as good as one would expect, with a pristine source rendered in a transfer that's as sharp as Freddy's glove. This is a frequently dark, frequently shadowy film, so key to the presentation is a rock-solid black level, which this image delivers. Color is delivered as intended (mostly muted), and detail and texture are outstanding, right down to the thread count on Freddy's sweater. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix can be considered definitive, adding to the scares with a full catalog of creepy sounds coming from every channel.
The Blu-exclusive WB Maniacal Movie Mode (HD) features interviews and behind the scenes footage, while also branching out to seven Focus Points: "Makeup Makes the Character" (3:34, HD), "Micronaps" (2:38, HD), "The Hat" (2:31, HD), "Practical Fire" (2:32, HD), "The Sweater" (2:20, HD), "The Glove" (2:24, HD) and "The Victims" (3:51, HD). For ease of use, the Focus Points are available through the menu and not only as a part of the MMM. For this feature, all of the key cast and crew members participate in the interviews and are seen on the job.
The same can be said of "Freddy Krueger Reborn" (13:54, HD), a featurette including comments from director Samuel Bayer, screenwriter Eric Heisserer, Thomas Dekker, Rooney Mara, producer Brad Fuller, co-producer John Rickard, executive producer Mike Drake, Kyle Gallner, produer Andrew Form, Jackie Earle Haley, Kellan Lutz, special make-up effects man Andrew Clement and cinematographer Jeff Cutter.
Next up is a suite of Blu-exclusive Additional Footage that includes "Hospital Opening" (1:10, HD), "Nightmare Street" (:57, HD) and "Alternate Ending" (6:12, HD), the latter an especially intriguing alternative—offering more of an unmasked Haley—to what's in the finished film.
And, of course, the disc is BD-Live enabled for additional exclusive features. (Plus, for now, the disc is available with a nifty lenticular slip-cover.)
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