Judge Daniel Kelly used to stalk the dreams of teenagers, but grew tired of getting beaten up by Robert Pattinson and Megan Fox.
Our reviews of A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) (published October 31st, 2000), A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) (Blu-ray) (published April 12th, 2010), and A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection (Blu-ray) (published March 18th, 2013) are also available.
He knows where you sleep…
Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company hasn't maintained the best of reputations since its birth in 2001, most filmgoers completely associating the outlet as a studio devoted to the butchering of classic horror flicks. I actually haven't got too much beef with Bay on this subject; I was reasonably entertained by the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, whilst their retread of The Hitcher was mediocre rather than awful. In fact, I was substantially more appalled by Platinum Dune's original 2009 property The Unborn than any remake they've thus far attempted.
This year the company released debatably their highest profile reboot yet, tackling Wes Craven's 1984 genre classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. The casting of Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) as Freddy Krueger was generally met with approval, but when it debuted in theatres last April, the overwhelming response to the project was one of disappointment. That said the picture turned a healthy profit at the worldwide box-office, and sequel plans have already begun to manifest. Ultimately A Nightmare on Elm Street circa 2010 falls into the camp of remake that's watchable but completely disposable and unnecessary. It's an unremarkable venture that pales in comparison to Wes Craven's cherished original.
Facts of the Case
The teenagers of Elm Street are experiencing odd nightmares. All of them keep dreaming of a man, clad in a striped sweatshirt, with razor blades on his fingers and a burnt face. The man calls himself Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley), and in the adolescent's dreamscapes he's always trying to catch and kill them. Still, they're just dreams, right? Not quite. Everything that Freddy does to the teenagers in their visions also happens to them in reality, meaning that the kids of Elm Street are being bumped off in gruesome and unexplainable ways. With the parents stuck in a tight lipped (does Freddy have a link to their children's past?) and unbelieving state, an exhausted Nancy (Rooney Mara, The Social Network) and buddy Quentin (Kyle Gallner, Jennifer's Body) decide to uncover who exactly their stalker is, and why he's coming after them.
Replacing Wes Craven in the director's chair is music video maestro Samuel Bayer, a man with a celebrated visual legacy in the worlds of MTV and advertising. As a result, Elm Street 2010 is at least an attractively photographed effort, sprinkled with some interesting imagery. The cinematography is glossy with a good line in eerie atmosphere, and the dream worlds that Bayer concocts would make for very pretty paintings. However one of the strengths the original film possessed was the seamless weaving in and out of dreams, something that this film loses due to the extremely stylized nature of the dreamscapes. It was always difficult to tell in the original picture when Freddy was about to strike, but here through the obvious shifts in lighting and setting, the filmmakers often give too much warning as to when their villain is at large. These sequences definitely deserve applause for their inventive and slick production design, but they're so separated from reality that they actually reduce the overall tension.
The young performers in the film are mostly lame, especially Rooney Mara who is unbelievably boring as the film's heroine. In the original movie Nancy was portrayed by Heather Lagenkamp, in a rough around the edges turn that none the less packed a steely sense of determination and charm. Mara is just a sullen wet blanket from start to finish, the actress depending on the same glazed over expression and monotone delivery for the entirety of the production. Kellan Lutz (Twilight) and Katie Cassidy (now something of a remake veteran, having also been involved with remixes of When a Stranger Calls and Black Christmas) are both dreadful in smallish roles, and each looks far too old to be playing a teenager. Kyle Gallner is modestly tolerable as Mara's potential love interest, balancing humor and horrified desperation quite effectively. Clancy Brown (Highlander) also pops up as Gallner's father, the usually dependable actor doing a reasonable job in a pretty thankless role. Because most of the young cast are so weak, it becomes difficult to care or sympathize with them, hence decreasing the degree of fear the film generates quite heavily.
As Krueger, Haley is perfectly decent, he'll never replace Robert Englund in the fan's eyes, but he easily gives the best performance in this project. The actor generates genuine anger and threat as Elm Street's infamous psycho, dulling slightly the black humor that Englund's interpretation of the character became so famed for. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 lathers on extra stuff concerning the character's possible pedophilic background, a subplot that feels a little icky at times but which provides Haley with an extra layer of disturbing horror to exploit. Unfortunately the redesigned burn make-up renders the actor's face somewhat expressionless; in a bid for added realism the filmmakers have actually removed some of Freddy's personality. As a result Haley has to spend much of the film using his voice to signal mood alterations, whilst Englund had the benefit of utilizing his mischievous eyes and facial contortions. It's a small quibble, but one definitely worth noting.
The second half of the movie is much more satisfactory than the first, primarily because the opening segment is dominated by dreary imitations of scenes from the 1984 film. Attempts at replicating the bloody wall climbing attack and the bathtub scare are particularly toothless; they just come across as vacant and dull copies of classic moments in cinema. The first sequence set inside a diner is badly hampered by Lutz and Cassidy's abysmal acting, and the payoff of said instance feels stale. However things pick up greatly later, largely due to the inclusion of "micro naps." The addition of this medical phenomena (micro naps are mini dreams that any sleep deprived human can endure, even when awake) means that Freddy can come from anywhere and appear at anytime, this facet adding a much needed jolt of urgency and terror into proceedings. Samuel Bayer's A Nightmare on Elm Street is probably too dependent on insubstantial boo moments, but at least due to the addition of micro naps these scares become almost impossible to predict.
The Blu-Ray looks stunning; the film's picturesque visuals well represented by this nicely balanced transfer which is also loaded with detail. The colors are clear and the shifts in atmosphere vibrantly registered by this reference quality disc, I honestly could spot no proper flaws in this hi-def video offering. The audio is also excellent, the disc handling both the booming soundtrack and quieter eerie moments very well. The sound of Freddy Krueger dragging his blades across a wall is positively shrill, Warner having done almost as good a job with the sound as they did the release's image quality.
In terms of extra content this Blu-Ray is pretty good, the best feature being a Maniacal movie mode, a picture in picture extra that generates tons of interesting content and filmmaking opinions. All the main figures are represented here, including the key cast, Samuel Bayer and multiple folks from the production team. Michael Bay is absent, but that's usually the way it is with these Platinum Dunes home video releases. Fans of the series or those with a morbid curiosity concerning remakes (as I have) would do well to check this fascinating extra out. An EPK style making off has also been attached on the Blu-Ray, but at 14 minutes it's just a sloppy showcase of the same material found in Maniacal movie mode. The deleted scenes included are surprisingly few, given that in the extra content we are told some fairly prominent completed material didn't make it to the final cut. What's on offer is fine, and in the case of the alternate ending an intriguing counterpart to what was finally put in the theatrical print. Finally a few brief focus point featurettes are included, but these are insanely short and just reheat topics already covered in the other superior features. Also included is the now rudimentary digital copy.
The 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't completely useless, but it is a much lesser telling of this story. There is some cool stuff on show here, and it is intriguing to watch another talented actor portray one of cinema's most notorious villains, but overall it's probably safer to stick with the original. The remake is certainly a sharper endeavour than some of the crappier sequels the 1984 landmark generated, but that alone isn't enough to fully justify its existence. Warner has compiled a very sturdy Blu-Ray release though.
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