A Nightmare on Elm Street * * *
New Line Cinema
1000121780 (UK edition)
`One, two, Freddy's coming for you, three, four, he's at your door' - and so on. Newline brings back one of the cinema's biggest villains in this latest remake. Now, for someone who has seen every one of Mr. Krueger's films over the years, this had to be good. The new cast sounded promising, with Jackie Earle Haley playing Freddy, Kyle Gallner as Quentin Smith, Rooney Mara as Nancy Holbrook, Katie Cassidy as Kris Fowles, Thomas Dekker as Jesse Braun, Kellan Lutz as Dean Russell, Clancy Brown as Headmaster Alan Smith and Connie Britton as Dr. Gwen Holbrook.
The format this time takes us back to the originals roots, with teenagers terrorised in their dreams by Mr Krueger the moment they fall asleep. As anyone who has seen a Freddy film knows, death follows quite sharply afterwards, and indeed in this one after just 10 minutes. With the teenagers deeply troubled and the adults not believing them, Nancy begins to suspect that not all is what it seems. When her mother and the headmaster become evasive about her questioning of past events, it's up to her, Quentin and Jesse to unravel what's happening and to try and save them from Freddy.
As with any Freddy film, the mood is captured perfectly. From the initial diner set up, with a lovely switch in lighting, Dean is about to meet his maker. It's a credit to the director Samuel Bayer and his cinematographer that they convey just the right amount of tension for major shock value, and they deliver in spades.
What is interesting this time is the back-story of Freddy himself, which for most of the previous films they only skated over. This explains in quite graphic detail of whom and how Freddy came into being and what the parents may ultimately be responsible for. This all sounds pretty good so far; however, this film has one big problem.
Jackie Earle Haley is a top name actor and as Rorschach in Watchmen he was utterly spellbinding. However, in this, whilst the acting is there, the makeup on Freddy doesn't seem to work. This is despite it being more accurate for a burns victim! Now, unlike Robert Englund, who had a little humour in his portrayal, Haley plays this dead straight. This is far nastier than some previous versions and takes a different slant on Freddy, which in some ways doesn't work. For the most part, the acting and nastiness win through, however there is something lacking from the performance and this is a problem when it's your main character!
Special mention must go to Kyle Gallner and Rooney Mara as they act their socks off in this, Gallner really evoking someone fighting sleep and not knowing who's after him and Mara portraying a haunted Nancy who does seem to know, but can't put a face to the horror.
The music by Steve Jablonski cleverly utilises the original themes from the first Nightmare by Charles Bernstein. Mixing this with his talents, what we have here is a score that has a class touch. From the main titles, we have that theme chilling the soul. Add in the creepiness on the diner, a fast pulsating beat as Jesse makes his run, a fast percussive run as Quentin sees how Freddy was dealt with. A very competent effort.
The special effects are well done and it's nice to see some computer trickery used to frightening effect, especially with the final shot, which wasn't expected at all. The short 13-minute extra basically delves into the re-creation of the Freddy franchise and into his roots, plus talks with the cast and director.
What we have here is a remake that brings new ideas but sadly lacks something in the delivery. If you have never seen a Nightmare, you may quite enjoy it. If like me, on the other hand, who has seen a lot, it's enjoyable but flawed, because the main character isn't quite realised enough.