A Nightmare on Elm St (18, 95 mins)
Director: Samuel Bayer
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
With seemingly no end in sight to the cycle of horror remakes, A Nightmare on Elm St is the latest refried mess gifted to a new generation of moviegoers who don’t really know any better.
The problem is, most of the films being remade are genuine classics, so by taking on a 1984 original that was ferocious and primal, blessed with some exceptional imagery and the hallucinatory power of a bad dream, the makers of A Nightmare On Elm St have nowhere to go but down.
All this lazy retread manages to carry over is the admittedly ingenious premise of a bogeyman who invades your dreams and kills you in your sleep. That killer is Freddy Krueger, possibly the most iconic horror figure of the 80s, and the only way to avoid being slaughtered by him is to stay awake. That’s the task facing Nancy and her friends, who have all been having the same dream, of a man with a burned and scarred face and knives on his fingers.
Plot-wise it follows the original reasonably faithfully, going so far as to recreate some of the gags, only nowhere near as effectively. So we get Freddy’s face and hands coming through the wall above Nancy’s bed and a botched version of the scene where Johnny Depp is eaten by his bed and turns into a geyser of blood.
To give it its due, it doesn’t overdose on the CGI, but that’s perhaps more an indication of the lack of money that needs to be spent to fleece modern audiences into seeing any old tat than any great taste or restraint on the part of the director.
Making his feature debut, Samuel Bayer aims for loud and jumpy over creepy and unsettling but ends up with tame and lacklustre, a slick product utterly lacking the nightmarish quality of the original. Early flashes of Freddy are too brief to matter and Bayer is never able to bluff the audience on when the action is real and when it’s someone’s dream.
Explanation and back-story is given precedence over taking things forward in any interesting way, especially when it comes to Freddy’s origin story which is introduced in a completely arbitrary fashion.
Jackie Earl Haley, who made such an impression last year with his performance as Rorschach in Watchmen, replaces Robert Englund as Freddy and he does as well as can be expected in the circumstances, but eventually it’s reduced to a generic teen stalker where really bland actors spout trite dialogue. Don’t be afraid to fall asleep.