A Nightmare on Elm Street



Laura Clifford 
A Nightmare on Elm Street

Robin Clifford 

    One, two, Freddy's coming for you.  Three, four, better lock your door.
    Five, six, grab your crucifix.  Seven, eight, better stay up late.
                            Nine, ten, never sleep again

Laura:
In a late night diner, Dean Russell ("Twilight's" Kellan Lutz) is struggling to stay awake with cup after cup of coffee, but he keeps nodding out into a dream world where the diner's kitchen becomes a charnel house and a man with a burned face and razors on his fingers threatens.  Dean's new girlfriend Kris Fowles (Katie Cassidy, "Taken") joins him and reassures him that these things are not real just in time to see him cut his own throat.  For Kris, this is just the beginning of "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

Beware any 1980's era horror film produced by Michael Bay as he hasn't turned out a good one yet.  One wonders why the original films aren't repackaged for a roadshow instead, saving everyone involved a lot of time and money.  Jackie Earle Haley, playing his second child molester since his 2006 comeback in "Little Children," doesn't put enough spin on Freddy to make anyone forget Robert Englund, partially because his burn makeup so obscures his features he looks more like Lord Voldemort than Krueger.

Kris begins to be haunted at Dean's funeral when she sees herself at five in a clawed dress pulled into the grave by an arm wearing a red and green striped sweater.  Her ex, Jesse (Thomas Dekker, "My Sister's Keeper"), seems to understand what's going on, but later, her mom (Lia Mortensen) acts evasive when Kris questions the absence of photos in the old album where she is looking for clues.  Meanwhile, Jesse's shy buddy Quentin (Kyle Gallner, "The Haunting in Connecticut," "Jennifer's Body") is getting up the nerve to talk to Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara, "Youth in Revolt"), a classmate who works at the diner and stays up all night making eerie drawings.  It's these two who begin to really put the pieces of the puzzle together, spurred on when both Kris and Jesse also end up dead.  Nancy's mom (Connie Britton, "Friday Night Lights") denies that the kids had no connection in their earlier years, but Nancy and Quentin find the old preschool photo that proves they did.  While one of Quentin's dreams shows him Freddy's demise and their parents role in it, Nancy comes back from her latest with a scrap of Freddy's sweater and a plan.

Screenwriters Wesley Strick ("Doom) and Eric Heisserer revamp Wes Craven's original by goosing Freddy's back story as a sexual child molester with a secret cave in the basement of the preschool where he worked as a gardener. As in the original, Freddy can kill in dreams, but is limited in the real world and no one who comes back from a dream with evidence against him (like a slashed hand or lock of hair chopped off during a high school class complete with tens of witnesses) ever thinks to use it.  Computers are more prominent, but where a message declaring one is going into sleep mode is witty, a videoblog from a victim begs questions and has a shock end lifted from "Paranormal Activity."

In fact, the filmmakers lift several of their set pieces from other films.  The first set piece to get a rise out of the screening audience involves Nancy in her bathtub and is a steal from the film "Slither" and Nancy hiding behind a louvered closet door immediately recalls "Halloween."  Music vid director Samuel Bayer hasn't shaped the material well, either, as the stories feel disjointed until the film's midpoint. The production isn't nearly as creepy as the original and the new invention of Freddy's secret cave is an opportunity for psychological horror squandered.  Bayer also makes the obvious decision to highlight every scare with a loud noise.

Jackie Earle Haley really only executes two lines memorably, the second of which gets a laugh and then makes you disturbed for laughing when his implication really sets in, and not in a good way.  The parents all act too suspiciously and of the kids, only Gallner really elicits sympathy.

The film's ending isn't anything new, but it is well executed, at least sending this 'new' "Nightmare" out with an entertaining jolt.  Still, this "Nightmare" reboot doesn't bode well for an extended series.  Even Englund's Freddy ran out of gas pretty quickly.

C-

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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