Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Movie Review: Samuel Bayer's A Nightmare on Elm Street

Lacking the personality of any original, 1980's, slasher film, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street will be forgotten as nonchalantly as it was conceived. Failing to truly scare or titillate, as any film in the genre must in order to make up for its own inherent lack of credibility, the greatest appeal this new Nightmare can claim is its nostalgic ties to Wes Craven's 1984 original, albeit with better film stock.

The plot is very similar to the original story. Teens in a quiet, suburb-heavy American town begin dying, but no one can explain why. First, Dean (Kellan Lutz) kills himself in public, but not before telling his sort-of girlfriend, Kris (the lovely and hard-to-track-down-in-real-life Katie Cassidy), that his nightmares have been a problem. Kris soon starts to dream about the same man Dean did, Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley), and she discovers that other teens in town are having the same dreams. But when Freddy kills them in their dreams, they die in real life, though Freddy leaves no physical evidence other than gallons of blood. Soon, their friends dropping at a slower rate than one would expect from a 2010 horror film, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner) realize they have to stay awake long enough to figure out how to defeat Freddy on his own turf, or else they're next. Freddy's origin, and link to his victims, is revealed through the investigation.

There's very little I can add to all of the mainstream reviews for Nightmare. No, there is nothing original enough here to warrant a remake, much less the label "reimagining." Yes, some of the special effects are distractingly bad, though the production values, in general, dwarf those of the original, as they have in all three major, spiritless remakes (this one, plus Rob Zombie's Halloween and Marcus Nispel's Friday the 13th).

And, much like those other films, the major downfall of A Nightmare on Elm Street is its lack of imagination. The kills, which are conventionally the orgasmic payoff at the end of minutes upon minutes of teen misbehavior and asking-for-it decadence, are generally plain and forgettable. Perplexingly, the gorgeous young students of this film are the only slasher teens ever to have no interest in partying, having sex, or abusing substances, making one wonder why director Samuel Bayer bothers killing them off at all. They do, however, bathe while nude.

Haley, whom I absolutely love, is cardboard as Freddy Krueger, whose iconic status will continue to be defined by Robert Englund's painfully stupid, pun-dropping incarnation in the original films. The rest of the cast does a fine job looking pretty and acting scared, though the lighting by Jeff Cutter (Orphan) is probably the loveliest thing in this movie, besides Cassidy.

People in their mid-twenties and up will probably keep going to see this movie because of its iconic name. When younger audiences come to realize that the film doesn't even do its job as a slasher, they'll stop going and forget it the way the kids of Elm Street need to forget Freddy.

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