I grudgingly went out and saw the new A Nightmare on Elm Street film recently, bracing myself for a major letdown. And as usually happens with low expectations, I found myself pleasantly surprised.
Overall, I really liked the remake of the 1984 classic slasher flick.
True, there’s something about Robert Englund‘s performance that just can’t be beat. Actor Jackie Earle Haley, probably best known from his portrayal of Rorschach in the movie Watchmen, didn’t stand a chance of comparing to the Freddy Krueger many of us grew up watching. And yes, the voice was a little too Christian-Bale-as-Batman for my tastes, but overall he was okay.
The teenagers on Freddy’s hit list were fine, for the most part. Only two performances from this group really stood out to me… Thomas Dekker was one, mostly because I adored him in the first season of Heroes and more importantly as young John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, was one. His portrayal was good, though not necessarily outstanding… But I was pleasantly surprised when he appeared onscreen at the beginning, and looked forward to seeing what would happen with his character. (It helps that I hadn’t seen the original in more than a decade, so I wasn’t immediately drawing conclusions about each person’s fate.)
The other is the young Asian man who plays one of Freddie’s victims, seen only by webcam on his video blog. He did a great job in a bit role, showing his confusion and growing terror as he confronts the reality of Freddie without a group of friends to support him. (After more than 30 minutes of hunting I can’t find the actor’s name anywhere. Bonus points to whomever finds it for me.)
Ultimately, what I liked about this movie is that it seemed like more of a horror film than most of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Like many recent remakes of classic slasher flicks, there was a lot more blood and guts, a much more grim feel to the movie, and more actual HORROR than cheesy moments. Yes, towards the end, Freddie had a couple of lame one-liners I could’ve done without… But outside of those, this film actually SCARED me, unlike the absurd cheesiness of the final few NOEM movies from the original series.
Purists will complain about the computer-generated scenes that lacked the charm of the older special effects. The infamous scene where Freddie looks in through the bedroom wall is a classic example: in the 1984 version, there’s a latex wall that Englund has to literally push himself against to make the effect — in the 2010 version, it’s very obviously CGI and not the least bit creepy or frightening. This didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment, though.
Another modern twist is much more compelling: they add in some science to the whole don’t-fall-asleep-or-he’ll-get-you theme. You come to realize that there’s a silent ticking clock as these kids struggle to stay awake, because the brain will eventually refuse to function without sleep (no matter how much Red Bull and ADD medicine you try to drown it in.) This definitely adds a nice bit of suspense, as you realize the question isn’t if they will fall asleep, but when and where they will fall asleep.
My advice: forget what you know about the Nightmare on Elm Street movies from yesteryear. Go into the film expecting some blood ‘n guts, a modern horror movie, and some good gruesome murders.