Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Rooney Mara, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

Director: Samuel Bayer

Writer(s): Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer 

Cinematography: Jeff Cutter

Original Score: Steve Jablonsky

Running Time: 102 Mins.

It was only a matter of time before Platinum Dunes turned there hands to a remake of Wes Craven’s seminal classic from the 80’s, A Nightmare on Elm Street. In fact the only surprise is how long it has taken to get it to our screens, having tackled remakes of Friday 13th, The Hitcher, Amityville Horror and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre there were very few icon’s left as well-known as Freddy Krueger to bring slashing his way into the noughties. One reason for the delay may be due to the character having become something of a comic rather than a scary figure, Robert Englund having drained and frights from his iconic monstrous child killer after the abysmal Freddy vs. Jason, not to mention the ever decreasing in quality sequels to the original Nightmare.

So unsurprisingly bringing Freddy back to life falls on new blood, both in front and behind the camera, music video veteran Samuel Bayer is calling the shots and given his credits include Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, would seem the perfect choice while filling Freddy’s striped jumper and fedora is Rorschach himself, Jackie Earle Haley. A masterstroke in casting given Earle Haley’s, shall we say, creepy and unusual demeanour he appeared the perfect choice when it was announced amidst speculation of Billy Bob Thornton taking the role! Add to this the usual suspects for victims, aka voluptuous girls and jock-like guys and you have the recipe for a potentially creepy if a little by-the-numbers remake.

And that is the one thing this new Nightmare does achieve, potentially creepy, which is a shame because there are flashes of greatness, and as Freddy Earle Haley delivers a memorable take on an iconic character. Essentially a remake of Wes Craven’s first film this adds little to the story, the main thing being the idea of Micro-naps which give Freddy’s appearances a but more of a jump-factor but these are cheap shocks and ones achieved largely post-production simply by nudging the sound up a few decibel.

The real scares should, and threaten to, come from the man himself, stripped of the one-liners and sporting a rather grotesque burn victim look along with no eye-lids that add to the creepiness, Earle Haley makes a jester scary once again. Sadly Bayer seems unaware, or unskilled, enough to know how to build up tension in a scene meaning that jump scares and creepy close ups are the best you get. That said the sound is occasionally used to excellent effect and Freddy’s cackling laugh resonates round the cinema’s sound system in a way that is all too often neglected, the way Freddy toys with his victims is as nasty as you would expect, unfortunateky the kills are a little lacklustre, maybe it’s because we’ve seen them all before (literally) or maybe in the hands of someone a little more accomplished the execution, so to speak, would have been better.

But where Bayer seems unable to build tension he displays enough visual flourishes to keep the film from falling into stale territory, the way in which the film segues into dream territory and back again is expertly handled and the effects are for a change used sparingly and to great effect with a classroom turning to ash proving a standout. Another diversion from the norm sees the teen victims actually look like teenagers and a little less Barbie doll/jock-like with a surprising resistance to have the girls run around naked proving Bayer was aiming for something a little more serious in tone, and that can only be a good thing in this world of My Bloody Valentine and Final Destination’s.

As the film draws to a close Freddy’s secret past is revealed and in a change from his original back-story we find out he wasn’t simply a child killer but a paedophile, whether this is to make the film seem more topical or an attempt to simply shock is unclear, what is clear though is that this revelation does little for the film or the character (is this concept more scary or simple less palatable?) leading to a finale that feels somewhat wanting despite Earle Haley’s best efforts…maybe Bayer can refine his technique for the inevitable sequel…

VERDICT

A Nightmare on Elm Street see’s that Freddy is creepy again thanks to Earle Haley’s predictably sinister performance, though overall the scares are reaped largely from cheap (but effective) jump shocks, something that is a great shame given the concept (dreams) and a believable cast for a change, though the back-story is a little dubious here’s hoping something more satisfying can be achieved in the inevitable sequel.

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