by Marko Domazet
Since his first outing in Wes Craven’s 1984 flick ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, Freddie Krueger has become a piece of pop culture iconography. 7 sequels worth of imaginative teen slashings, cameos by the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor, introduction of Johnny Depp and above all one hell of a lead actor have all contributed to a sensational franchise. After all, there is a reason New Line Cinema is called ‘The House That Freddy Built’.
Sadly, that was all in the past, and in my eyes the past few years have seen Hollywood gently fucking the horror lovers with a chainsaw. We’ve all seen how the God-awful remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween have stripped away any intelligence (and intelligent use of campness!) in the genre and I for one was hoping that the new ‘Nightmare’ would not go the same way. The basic premise of a deranged paedophile that kills teenagers in their dreams is certainly powerful enough stuff to compile a decent story and enough time has passed to bury the original Krueger and recreate one with a new twist.
Instead, we are treated to a rehash of the original ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ where a number of teens are plagued by nightmares in which they are chased by a man with a burnt face and claws for fingers. One by one, the kids are killed off and it’s down to the heroine to get to the bottom of it and confront the killer. Nothing wrong with that basic setup (after all, it’s worked for so many other ‘nightmares’, but the difference is that the new one has missed some key points.
First of all, we never establish any sort of sense of the teenage characters before the slashings begin. Are they friends? Lovers? Smart? Slutty? These are all important traits that need to be established before the story actually gets going and the film fails miserably in doing so.
Secondly, the struggle that the main characters go though when unearthing the truth about Krueger is never really touched upon. For example, the original heroine Nancy is more or less treated like a lunatic and locked up in her room, with bars put up across her window, making it impossible for any of her friends to physically help. In the remake, Nancy simple leaves the parental home at God knows what hour to drive around and look for the clues.
Finally, and this is the biggest mistake of them all, the new Krueger is devoid of all personality. Underusing a great thesp like Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy Krueger is a shame in itself, but rendering a man with such interesting features to an unrecognizable state and drowning him underneath layers of latex that result in an inability to move any facial muscles is unforgivable. Add to that a rather bad growling voice that’s been through far too much mixing and the result is anything but frightening. Instead, it becomes a case of too much going on for any genuine emotion to actually shine through. This becomes even more apparent in the few scenes where Jackie Earl Haley portrays the human Krueger and is given the opportunity to use his face and normal voice to portray a sick individual.
Granted, the film does have sections that look stunning visually and some scenes provide a few good tense moments, but this glossy Michael Bay production is devoid of any soul. Damn shame, because working with new writers, new directors and a new male lead was nothing but a great opportunity to create a new take on an iconic series. Instead, we get a third rate remake that makes drawing parallels to the original impossible. I hate to say it, but rent the original and have yourself a good night in.