After going through months of anticipation for this film, it has finally arrived. I almost did a double-take when I first learned A Nightmare on Elm Streetwas to get a reboot. Produced in part by Michael Bay (who also co-produced the remake of Friday the 13th) and directed by Samuel Bayer, the film joins a growing line of movies that Hollywood feels the need to remake. Now let’s get straight to the point. If you are not sure who plays the infamous Freddy Krueger in this version, I can say it is not Robert Englund. While Englund personified the role over a quarter century ago, I think it’s safe to say the actor had enough of the makeup chair for one lifetime. The devilish maniac is now played by Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Shutter Island).
The story follows the basic plot of the original; teenage kids that used to (or still do) live on Elm Street in the small town of Springwood, Ohio, are mysteriously dying, one by one. Their peers recognize this morbid trend while everyone else seem to dismiss the untimely deaths as depressed kids on the edge. However, while the new version does offer more than one tip of the hat to its predecessor (no Englund cameo unfortunately), it does make a point to stand on its own two legs and develop a slightly different course of events than the original. For those faithful to the founding film, like myself, I can tell you firsthand that these changes are a welcomed application to the way the movie plays out. For instance, Nancy of the original movie had a boyfriend. In the new one? No boyfriend. No boyfriend means no attachment and no attachment means a different way for the character to behave.
Speaking of Nancy, played by Rooney Mara, and the rest of the supporting cast, their acting is about on par with that of the quality of the original film’s supporting cast. Basically a bunch of beautiful, young people were hired to stand in front of the camera and carry the story until Freddy comes along. I will say I much prefer the new Nancy over the old, previously played by Heather Langenkamp. Looking back on the film from 1984, I cringe now when I hear Langenkamp attempt to deliver a line. Ugh. Rooney Mara, while she may not win any awards for this film, did a considerably better job than Langenkamp before her.
As for Jackie Earle Haley, he did what one fellow reviewer in my row at the theater said he would need to do; he made the character his own. Gone are the cheeky one-liners and zippy phrases that Englund became famous for in his role as the clawed killer. While this did subtract from the entertainment factor, Haley looked more like a burn victim should, defined masochism, and allowed viewers to catch a little more of what may be inside his head than we previously knew. In short, he was a darker Freddy than Englund, but less humorous.
The new film did a decent job of filling in the blanks from what we knew about Freddy in previous films. It really went to the roots of Freddy Krueger’s evilness and why he kills who he does in their dreams. Regarding the scare content, a couple scenes did make me jump, and while I didn’t experience the fear factor I was hoping for, some of the kill scenes earned a few dropped jaws from around the packed cinema. The film starts off warm, but the middle, or act II for you screenwriters out there, was sloooooooooow. In the end, it all worked out to one big case of patchiness. Some of the acting was proficient, some was ho-hum, some left me wanting to swallow my fist. Combine that with the way the story dragged in the middle and some clever drifting from the original and you’ve got yourself a C+.