Freddy, Steady, Go
So, I did it. I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street, the remake. I rationalized this decision in 2 ways: A. I've never had very much invested in horror movies leading therefore to B. I was going in to this with as few expectations as possible. As a child I was pretty much banned from horror movies. I clearly remember being very young, not more than 8, and sitting through Child's Play at a sleepover with my face covered, peeping out from my fingers the entire time. When I returned home the next morning, I didn't need the horrified expression on my mother's face to confirm for me the fact that I simply wasn't born a horror person. I have, however, found more of an appreciation for horror as I've gotten older, but am in no way an expert, so you can take the remainder of this review with a grain of salt, if you'd like.
The very fact that this is a remake will get people up in arms. I myself am torn on the subject of remakes. I wish that there would be at least one year where every single film released was absolutely original. However, I've also come to grips with the idea that, maybe, just maybe, we're living in an age where everything is based, in some way, shape or form on something or someone else. There are some movies that are almost a part of me, that I will never, ever, ever, not under any circumstances, not even if I was personally paid millions of dollars to watch, see the remake of, should there, Spielberg forbid, be a remake. A Nightmare on Elm Street was not one of those movies, so I was pretty ok with this.
I just recently saw A Nightmare on Elm Street, all the way through, for the first time a few months ago. Perhaps I'm a little old to be too entranced by it, but it was certainly enjoyable and I can see how the idea of Freddy Kreuger became entrenched enough in everyone's minds to make him iconic. I mean the burns, the knives, the sweater, the fedora, he's probably one of the most stylish boogie men of all time.
And this remake is certainly concerned with style. I have to say that it succeeds quite a bit in that department. It's darker and crisper, with a believable modern update, while still paying homage to some of the really entrenched visuals of the original. While I did miss the montage of Nancy setting up the booby traps around her room, I didn't feel too cheated. There are some really great visuals towards the end, specifically as Freddy is chasing Nancy through her last dream, that I found intriguing.
The plot is exactly as you remember it. Unsuspecting teenagers are getting picked off one by one by a man who haunts their dreams. While the remake doesn't wander too far away from the beaten path, it does do a nice job of explaining how Fred Kreuger became FREDDY. There's a bit more of a mystery woven in through the plot as the 2 remaining teens attempt to discover just how they're connected to that man with knives for fingers, and it's put up with a nice race-against-the-clock scenario as their insomnia moves their bodies closer and closer to coma-town. Every scene is nicely set-up and it steadily builds towards a satisfying final confrontation. It just works, and it doesn't feel like it's trying too hard.
While some people might be disappointed by the amount of gore in comparison to the first one (I mean let's face it, between Tina and Glen, it's very possible that's where the term "buckets of blood originated) I think that there are other things that work in favor for this remake. Jackie Earle Haley as the new incarnation of Freddy is darker and more menacing, to me, than Robert Englund, who always had a bit of twinkle in his eye. Let's face facts, Haley has a unique look about him, and the fact that both of his career comeback roles have been as a child predator, speaks to that. But I think the direction he takes the character fits the atmosphere of this update. I was also hesitant about the new Nancy, Rooney Mara, in the beginning, but as the film went on, both the character and the actress became more engaging. And, I have to be a total girl here, I like the miniscule love story they throw in between Nancy and the adorable Quentin (Kyle Gallner). I bought in to their characters enough to be curious about how the ending would work, and, for me, work it did.
Is this the best move in the world? No. Is it the best remake ever made? I don't know. Is it an entertaining enough re-tread to be worth seeing? I think so. If you're already up in arms about it, you should probably just skip it, because I'm not sure that it's enough to convert the determined haters. But if you're on the fence, or just like the idea of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, it's definitely not a bad way to spend 95 minutes.
3 out of 5 finger-knives.