When this movie originally came out there was a lot of people that were vocally trashing it. For me, the original Nightmare on Elm Street movies were my gateway drug into horror. I love those films. Even the ridiculously shitty ones still hold a special place for me. Upon hearing everyone say how awful the remake was, I decided to give it a pass and just not sully one of my favorite franchises by going to see it. Here it is, 9 years later, and I finally sat down to see what all the commotion was about and if it really was as pointless as people said.
If you know anything about the Nightmare series then you know what the plot of the movie is going to be. Freddy Krueger stalks teenagers in their dreams and kills them off with his signature blade-hand and only Nancy can stop him. Not much changed between the original and the remake in that regard except that we get much more backstory on Freddy than we ever did in the other movies. We see flashbacks and dream sequences of exactly what happened to him and the revenge that the parents of these kids took. We see him as a regular person at the school where these kids attended. They also made a few choices on the story that I can see being very much a thing that some people might not like.
Spoilers: I’m just going to get into right off the bat. The story tries to set-up a “What if Freddy was actually innocent and the reason he’s killing these kids is because they lied about abuse and it got him killed?” storyline. While I would almost applaud the audacity of making that huge a change to the story, it was clearly some bullshit and yes Freddy was guilty. The thing about it is, the final two teens that go to uncover what really happen find Freddy’s “secret cave” and a bunch of Polaroid pictures of young Nancy. Yeah. Those kind of pictures. While we don’t actually see anything, it’s at that point that Freddy goes full on rapist/pedophile in the actions of the movie too. Making the call back of the line from the original “I’m your boyfriend now” much more off putting.
While I don’t dislike Jackie Earl Haley’s performance as Freddy, he also just doesn’t have the charisma and sense of manic joy that Robert Englund brought to the role. Now, if they had tried to take the character in a different direction, that would be fine, but they kept trying to shoehorn these quips and moments that would be better suited to the original than the darker, serious version that Haley was giving. They also tried to go in a more realistic burn victim route for the makeup but that meant losing the iconic look and heavily relying on CGI for much of the effects. This leaves him looking sort of plastic and fake and also hinders the range of expression that could be portrayed.
The movie has several homages in various scenes that mirror things from the original like Tina being flung around the room when she dies and her being in a clear body bag in a dream. One of the odd things this movie decided was sidelining Nancy for large portions. It spent a good chunk of the run time following Kris (the Tina of the movie) as she tries to figure out what’s going on. Even after she dies and we shift over more to Nancy, we still end up having a lot of time devoted to her love interest, Quentin. I wouldn’t have a problem with it being more of an ensemble if it actually brought them together in a meaningful way but it felt like just hopping from character to character while they each learned things but didn’t have a lot of interaction.
Score: 3.5 out of 5. If you were to come into this without any baggage of the previous films, it would be a passably decent horror film. If you do have that knowledge, however, the film ends up feeling predictable and kind of safe. There are no big set-piece kills or effects. Freddy might as well be a regular slasher instead of a dream killer since he never does anything but cut people up. Without the humor, charm, or creativity of the first films; you’re left with a slickly produced murder movie with nothing to make it stand out or feel unique.