After eight films and a television series that brought in boffo box office for the studio, New Line turned its lucrative NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise over to uber-producer Michael Bay (TRANSFORMERS) and a music video director, Samuel Bayer, making his first feature film. Sounds like a terrible idea, and though this 2010 remake isn’t a good movie, it made back its bucks and more, and that’s all that counts in Hollywood.
I don’t think the filmmakers even understand horror movies. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET looks as though they watched other horror movies to see how they worked, but they didn’t watch any good ones—just the pallid remakes of them. Full of loud music stings, yellow-brown cinematography, and unimaginative setpieces, the remake even wastes what looks like a sound idea on paper: the casting of intense Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN) as child killer-turned-dream invader Freddy Krueger.
Like the rest of the movie, Haley tries to get by on appearance alone, but doesn’t quite cut it. He lacks the energy and black humor that Robert Englund brought to the role. It’s true that Freddy became less scary in the later sequels when New Line started playing up the comedy to make him a more family-friendly serial killer, but in the original NIGHTMARE, Englund played the perfect balance of menace and joker—a psychopath who enjoyed his job. Haley has the look down and appears to be trying, but the script and direction are just going through the motions.
The story and even some of the setpieces are familiar. The teenagers on Elm Street are having trouble sleeping, because their nightmares are being invaded by a horribly mutilated madman in a slouch hat and striped sweater who threatens to murder them. When some of the kids die in apparent suicides, only Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara, star of the American remake of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) understands they’re being murdered in their dreams by Freddy Krueger.
While technically accomplished in many ways, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET suffers from a lack of imagination, humor, and verve. Its gloomy protagonists played by Mara and the equally somber Kyle Gallner fail to make us care about them, and Bayer and his writers aren’t good at making us care about anything else.