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Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (18)

Directed by: Samuel Bayer
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara

Twenty-six years and seven sequels later, Wes Craven‘s most recognisable horror creation is re-booted. This re-imagining of the classic horror tale has been on my radar for some time now as I was a huge fan of the 1984 original starring Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. When I heard that Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from Watchmen) was set to play Krueger in the reboot I was even more excited to see what could be done with Craven’s over-worked baby.

Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy

What we have here is pretty much a straight re-make. Very little in the way of artistic licence has been utilised. I guess the makers didn’t want to stray too far from the source material in fear of a backlash from the die-hard fans (Odd, seeing as most of these die-hard fans were against any form of re-make from the outset.) The major changes are seen in Freddy’s back-story, something that was only touched on in the 1984 film. Instead of a child killer, Krueger is now portrayed as a paedophile with a penchant for knives and cutting who is outed by his young, victims; pupils at the pre-school where Krueger worked as a gardener. I’d seen some reviews complaining about this deviation but I thought it was handled very well. It brought the subject matter very much into the 21st century and added to Freddy’s malevolence in a way that would have probably been hard to do back in the 80’s.

As for Freddy’s character; Haley pretty much nailed it. Gone are the days of Robert Englund’s over-exaggerated campness. Haley’s Krueger is darker, nuanced and infinitely more threatening. This is only enhanced by the new look to the makeup. OTT pizza-face is out and gaunt, hollow realistic burns victim is in. Black emotionless eyes coupled with Haley’s deep growl make for a more than successful re-imagining of a horror icon.

Unfortunately this is where the good points stop. Aside from Freddy there is not one memorable character; at least none that you’d want to remember. Langenkamp’s strong yet vulnerable Nancy is replaced with an under-developed, awfully acted character who, if it wasn’t for the amount of screen time, you’d mistake for a third tier supporting character, not the lead. Her troubled kinda love interest type person, Quentin (Gallner), feels like a character we’ve seen a hundred times and wish would just fuck off. Oh yeah, and Nancy’s dad (you remember; the town Sheriff)… nowhere to be seen! What, did the money run out?

But at least there’s some sick gore and memorable kills right? WRONG! Even with all the very expensive special effects in this movie, the kills in the 1984 version were a hundred fold better. The one where the girl is thrown around the room by an invisible Freddy sucked in this version! The scene where Nancy’s boyfriend is pulled into his bed before being ejected in liquid form all over the cieling wasn’t even in this one! And it’s not just the kills that are replaced with cheap knock-offs. Marshmallow stairs are replaced with poorly lit, crude oil hallway and booby-trapped house gives way to generic dingy school basement. Gay!

On the whole, the movie was watchable. However this was only because Jackie Earle Haley carried the fucking thing, single handedly, from start to finish. I hope we see him for a sequel because his version of Freddy is something I want to see more of but for the love of god; hire some better writers and a director with half a  fucking clue!

Verdict: 2/5

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