Alan Jones joins us for a guest spot review of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Alan is president of the University of Toronto Cinema Studies Students Union (CINSSU). This review and many others can be read on the official CINSSU blog.
Walking into the new Platinum Dunes horror remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a bit like walking into a cheap brothel; you don’t know what you’re gonna get, but it’s probably gonna suck. But that’s not to say there won’t be any little pleasures. Take, for example, last year’s reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise. The majority of the movie consisted of a bunch of boring teenage characters getting killed by Jason Voorhees in various not-all-that-thrilling manners. But it was buoyed by a 25-minute opening sequence that acted like a typical horror movie, but without all the boring, unnecessary scenes. It cut out all the pointless exposition, all the poorly written attempts at character development, and gave us five inventive murder scenes in succession. The rest of the film had nowhere near the efficiency, and even the kill scenes lacked invention, but it was aided by a generous dose of gratuitous nudity and weird Judd Apatow-inspired humour (especially when dealing the token minority characters).
I’m sad to say that this new incarnation of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a step down. It’s competently shot and edited, but most of the movie is exposition about bland characters in bland houses talking about their bland feelings. The small pleasures come in the performance of the extra creepy Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger, who is given precious little screen time in the first hour of the film. Haley delivers his one-liners with aplomb, making the lamest jokes sound creepy as all hell. He’s not the wisecracking Freddy Krueger that Robert Englund (who played Krueger in eight previous films) created, but he’s a worthy alternative. He even gets a chance to act without the make-up in a series of flashbacks.
Other than that, there is nothing new this film offers. Even two of the kill scenes are stolen wholesale from the original film. The acting is poor, even by slasher film standards, with the exception of Kyle Gallner, who is merely sufficient. Even all the goodwill brought about by a relatively thrilling final act is ruined by one of the most ill-conceived Pulp Fiction homages ever put to film. I’m not really sure what else to say about the film, other than that it’s probably exactly how you expect it to be, but with less nudity and a decent villain. The idea of a serial killer haunting one’s dreams is really quite intriguing, but this film doesn’t utilize the premise’s inherent potential. One could argue that Craven’s film didn’t either, but it’s more acceptable when the film in question works. But in this film, the nature of the nightmares doesn’t even adhere to the logic of the movie, which is always a bad move.