Jackie Earle Haley Can’t Save This New ‘Nightmare’

Eric Bourse

Wes Craven’s 1984 film “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is considered a classic by horror fans. The movie revived the stale slasher genre in the 1980s by featuring a psychopath wearing gloves with five long steel blades, played by the eccentric Robert Englund, who could enter teenagers’ dreams and kill them.

Fast forward to 2010, first-time feature director Samuel Bayer’s remake of the beloved film is released into theaters starring Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen,” 2009) as the dream demon, Freddy Krueger.

The film is produced by Michael Bay, who is responsible for other lackluster horror remakes such as “Friday the 13th” (2009) and 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

The script by Wesley Strick (“Doom,” 2005) and Eric Heisserer doesn’t stray too far from the original- teenagers struggle to stay awake to avoid being viciously killed by Krueger in their dreams. The biggest aspect of the original that has been lost in the remake is the most important, the horror.

The remake still contains the infamous death scenes from the original, but aren’t even close in achieving the same feelings of suspense. The biggest example of this is the updated version of the iconic bedroom scene in which Krueger appears to be pushing against a wall over an unsuspecting teenager. It’s a shame that the scene from the 1984 film, in which Englund is pressing through a wall made from spandex, looks much more convincing than the 2010 CGI version.

Another example from the original that has been watered down is the bathtub scene in which Krueger’s claw is emerging from the soapy waters and slowly reaching the sleeping protagonists face then retreats when she wakes up. The new version has Krueger’s claw coming out of the water and in a couple of seconds quickly retreats. The new scene looks more comical then the dread inducing scene from the original.

Another aspect missing from the original movie and the sequels (especially the sequels) is the surreal imagery from the nightmare scenes. The surrealism in the remake’s nightmare sequences is minimal to nonexistent.

With today’s technology, the writers could have come up with much more unique and frightening scenes. Instead, the film uses the same settings with the same situations too often. When there is no limit to what can happen in dreams, or nightmares for that matter, how could the writers run out of ideas?

Not all is bad in “Elm Street,” however. The acting is actually better than the original, which isn’t saying much. Rooney Mara (“Youth in Revolt,” 2009) and Kyle Gallner (“Jennifer’s Body,” 2009) portray teenagers Nancy Holbrook and Quentin O’Grady, respectively. The two teens are racing to find a way to stop Krueger as they struggle to stay awake.

The standout performance in the film is clearly by Haley as “Elm Street’s” villain. His performance is different from Englund’s interpretation but is equally effective in creeping out the audience.

Krueger’s past in the remake has been changed to a pedophile that used to molest the main characters when they were in pre-school. The new Freddy is much more sinister in this respect because he is a sexual deviant and this results in some truly creepy scenes with Holbrook.

Overall, the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a disappointment. Similar to the other Bay remakes, the film is uninspired but destined to be a cash grab at the box office. Fans of the 1984 film will be reminded why they love the original series so much in the first place. Those who have never seen the original might become frightened by the film’s many jump scenes but surely won’t have any trouble falling asleep that night.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” runs at 95 minutes and is rated R for strong violence and language.

My rating: 1 and 1/2 Stars out of 5.