Film & TV

Remake can’t outdo 1984 classic

“A Nightmare on Elm Street,” like the 1984 original and pretty much every other slasher film, is supposed to make you afraid of going to sleep. I happen to be especially uncomfortable with slasher films, but I had no problem sleeping after finishing Samuel Bayer’s 2010 remake.

Not that the film, the ninth in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, isn’t at all frightening. It does have an awful lot of blood and a deformed, CGI-enhanced Freddy Krueger. Many parts in the film are difficult to watch, not because of the gore, but because the plot and the acting fall flat.

A group of high school students dreams about the knife-fingered, striped-sweatered, scarred Freddy Krueger. As he taunts and kills them one by one in their sleep, the surviving teens figure out their connection with each other and with Freddy. They were in the same pre-school class and were all sexually abused by Freddy, who was then the school’s gardener. Freddy’s burns? They came when he died in a fire set by the children’s vengeful parents.

Why slasher film directors love to show 17-year-olds being killed remains a mystery to me. High school seniors are a vastly overrepresented demographic in movies. In any case, the end of the movie becomes fairly obvious after the first 10 minutes.

In the original “Nightmare on Elm Street,” directed by master of horror Wes Craven, the teen actors brought a sense of gravity to the film, while Freddy was less serious, a sort of quasi-comical killer. Several of the young actors in the 1984 “Nightmare” went on to high-powered acting careers, notably Johnny Depp.

Bayer flips the dynamic in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Nancy, Quentin and the other four victims we meet are rather one-dimensional. They’re all attractive upper-middle-class white kids who, for no apparent reason, are suddenly thrown body and soul into a nightmare.

Freddy is played by a solemn Jackie Earle Haley. He tries to create a manic-happy yet cruel Freddy, a la the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” The problem is that, despite his omnipresence, knife fingers and tendency to jump out of the shadows, Freddy isn’t actually that scary. Sure, he kills teens, but we expect him to do that. That’s kind of the whole point of the movie.

The most frightening parts of the movie are not the blood-soaked deaths but the creepy flashbacks to the preschool where Freddy abused the teens as young children. Of course, the abuse is never shown, but the implications are clear — and disturbing.

The latest remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” has better graphics and a more somber tone than the original, but it’s terribly formulaic and lacks the dark charm of its predecessors. Far from making the audience too afraid to sleep, this film is likely to make the audience fall asleep to the sound of Freddy whispering, “This won’t hurt one little bit.”

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