So, keeping in mind that Freddy is a modern icon or modern urban legend/myth and there isn't a single person that doesn't at least know of Freddy Krueger - "he has knives for fingers." It is a lot of pressure for a first time feature length filmmaker to create or recreate something so iconic. Now, the general consensus is: why remakes? And no matter how good a remake is you'll always - I repeat always for emphasis - have to say I liked the original better. This leads to the second part of the why remakes question, why remake something that will never live up to or be as good as its original? The simple Hollywood answer: Money! We are in economic crisis and even though you see studios still making films for 100+ million dollars - they are in control of the output content and the projects they finance need to make money more now than ever. So, why put money into a project with a non-familiar concept: i.e. original, when you can remake/sequalize and be assured an audience. Re-makes are the economic choice. Similar delimas have occurred since cinema's conception as a profitable business, we're reminded of Japanese Pink Films - the concept being that TV would reduce the profits from theaters, so the films created were all sensationalized tittilations to pack the masses. With its structure of sex scenes being placed at every 10 minute mark in the film a lot of filmmakers backed away from these projects and they were given to 2nd unit directors/editors/writers and became their big break. Similarly, these remakes are being made not by known filmmakers (in most cases) they are being helmed by music video directors/fan boys. This being said, I do not condone remakes but I understand their trend. So, keeping this in mind lets look at NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
No matter how the public reacts to a new Nightmare film, after seeing it they sing out in unison Jackie Earle Haley (Jackie Earle) is an awesome Freddy. Jackie has been acting since 1972, but only recently has been given roles/or found his way into roles that allow him to create a fully functional character. The Bad News Bears didn't give him much to go on nor did Maniac Cop 3, but finally in Little Children he found a darkness he could really immerse himself in. Interestingly enough he's really disturbing as a pedophile, which he recreates in Freddy something even darker. It may be too soon to call him the next great 'method man' akin to the likes of Daniel Day Lewis, Willem Dafoe, or Gary Oldman but with his characters Ronnie McGorvey (Little Children), Sugar Boy (All The King's Men), Rorschach (Watchmen) George Noyce (Shutter Island) and Freddy he is well on his way. The tone of this film and Freddy himself are darker than they've been since the beginning - even Robert England's semi-silent Freddy in the original didn't reach Jackie's depths.
The mystery surrounding this film before its theatrical release was the inclusion/exclusion of Freddy as pedophile and child killer. In the original it is only hinted that he molested children, but it is made clear he had killed at least one child. Here he was accused by the children of molestation but no murder - so we have the mystery of whether he did or did not deserve to be burned alive by the parents. This adds an interesting element to the new version, and gives an added meaning to Freddy's revenge. The biggest problem being nothing is left to the grey area of ambiguity - everything is explained, even micronaps. Thanks, for thinking we are a stupid audience. If you look back at the eighties slasher movement we see a lot of absurd and unexplained events within its films, but not anymore. Is this a symptom of the information age, where everything is spoon fed and imaginations diminish? Sorry, that's another diatribe altogether.
With all of this praise given to Jackie its hard to talk about the other cardboard cutout teens that populate Nightmare, while better actors than the original cast - meaning bolder backstories, they do nothing with the horrible childhoods they've had. Each one of them with their own relation to Freddy, should have given them a lot to base their characters on. The problem is we don't really care about them - even Nancy realizing she used to be Freddy's favorite doesn't create in her the rise to final girl status it should. Since we've started the bashing portion of this review its also good to note that the fear provided is mostly in simple jump tactics - no terror is created or if its leading up to a great scare the gallows humor denies us. To provide an example of a piece of dialogue ruining a sequence lets look at the scene in which Nancy runs through the house and her carpet becomes an abattoir of blood and Freddy's line is: "How's this for a wet dream." Of course this isn't as bad as England's "dark meat" line in Freddy Vs. Jason. Sometimes the humor works to invoke more of a scare, which is different than undercutting the sequence as it normally does: "Why are you screaming, I haven't even cut you yet," or the best line of all, "The brain keeps working for seven minutes after the body dies. I still have six minutes left to play with you." When it works, it works which also means that when it fails its horrible.
Overall, this is better than most of the Freddy sequels and does a great job 're-imagining' the original. Some of the CGI is terrible especially Freddy coming out of the wall - which really upset me. But, as far as the Platinum Dunes collection of remakes goes - this is the absolute best the company has put out. Some people have reviewed that Freddy's face is the scariest part of the film - to which I reply: You're an asshole. Freddy's burned face is exactly what a burn victim's face looks like so by saying its the scariest thing in the film you are also saying that just looking at a burn victim is frightening. So your shortsightedness is well noted in the chronicles of American ignorance - thanks for your entry. Go see it, even if Wes Craven disowns it.
RATING: IV/V - all things considered