Review

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Director    Samuel Bayer
Starring    Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz
Release    30 APR (US) 07 MAY (UK)    Certificate 18
2 stars

Matt

7th May 2010

Ok, I'll admit it: I was kidding myself. Blinded by a love of 80s horror, I argued vehemently that this was one franchise that would benefit from, nay, deserved a remake. "Krueger can still be relevant to modern audiences," I said. "The dreamscape terrors would look awesome when rendered with CGI". And yet, for all the heavy-handed jumps and unnecessary gore on display, the biggest shock of the film turned out to be my own disappointment in it.

With all the stylised popcorn makeovers carried out on Krueger's equally-iconic bedfellows, it should have been easy to predict that this would end up as another vacuous slasher flick for the iPod generation. And the evidence is all there: flashy mobile phones, Red Bull and, my own personal last straw, internet research via a faux-Google search engine called 'Gigablast'. It seems that, in this version of the film, Elm Street falls squarely in the 90210 zip code.

Even the basic plot has been pimped-up, as the movie opens with Dean (Lutz), a typical high-school meathead complaining of nightmares and falling foul to Freddy's fingers within the first 10 minutes. At his funeral, stroppy teenagers Nancy (Mara), Kris (Cassidy), Quentin (Gallner) and Jesse (Dekker) all show signs of suffering from similar nightmares and, when another among them meets a particularly violent, supernatural death, it's not long before the rest realise that the Simon Weston lookalike in their dreams is preying on them while they sleep. Cue horror dream sequences interlaced with kids frantically Gigablasting the name 'Krueger'.

[gallery]The good news is that this isn't the direct rehash of the original that was feared after seeing the homage-heavy trailers. The bad news is it's just not that scary. That is, unless you are completely uninitiated in every horror clichÚ to have graced a battered copy of a grainy VHS. The set up to each jumpy moment is so laboured that you can see the shocks coming from a mile off. And worse, when they do happen, they are accompanied by a deafening bass note, just to increase the odds of getting you to leap out of your seat. Sorry, Freddy, but you're just trying too hard.

It's not all bad, though - as expected, the dream sequences have a glossy sheen that actually suits the premise perfectly. Despite one early use of Scorpion King-bad CGI, the film settles into some neat effect shots, including one scene where a whole class of kids explode into dust, and, in an interesting addition to the story, the depiction of micro-naps, which sees the setting for one teenager's torment switch between a supermarket aisle to a nightmarish boiler room corridor every other second.

It's this kind of imaginative expression that first-time film director Samuel Bayer excels at, even if the overall look of the film still resembles his early Smell Like Teen Spirit video. It's a shame then that he is let down by the star of his debut. While Jackie Earle Haley does an upstanding job making Freddy his own, rightfully losing the cheese while still maintaining a wicked sense of humour, there's just no getting past the fact that he looks like a deformed Kermit the Frog. Even in this new age of horror, Robert Englund looked more realistic and, consequently, more terrifying.

In the same way, some of the practical effects of the original still compare favourably to Bayer's new vision. Craven's calculated shot of a teenage girl getting dragged up a wall and onto the ceiling is far more effective than this film's equivalent: the same girl just flailing around the room by some invisible force.

So, for all of my hopes and expectations, we are left with a remake that really hasn't advanced on its template, despite the original not aging well at all. It seems that my vision of a worthy reboot for my favourite 80s horror icon has been irreparably sullied - maybe it's time I let go of that dream.

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