Saturday, May 1, 2010
A Nightmare on Elm Street very nearly put me to sleep. I doubt that is what Samuel Bayer, in his first feature film effort, had in mind. I must confess that I am not a huge fan of Wes Craven's 1984 original. That film, like this reboot, did nothing to frighten me, but at least Craven was able to form some type of entertainment. Bayer's version, on the other hand, feels much longer than it should, and when you realize by the end that it only ran for 90 minutes, that is really saying something.
The essential point of this reboot, like most, is to combine the use of CGI and updated visual effects to do things that Craven couldn't with his film. This is why I find the lack of visual creativity here to be so disappointing. Bayer does nothing to truly distinguish each dream sequence from the next. The only true variable between each of these scenes is who Freddy Krueger happens to be chasing.
Jackie Earle Haley is an excellent character actor, and this role is right up his alley. He was surely considered for this film because of his freakishly-good turn in Little Children, but no matter how appealing the thought of seeing Haley play Krueger is, the surrounding elements in this film weigh him down far too much. His digitally enhanced voice does him no favors either. Rather than the raw fascination of his performance in Watchmen, he comes off as mechanical and one-note, thanks in no small part to the ridiculous lines the writers have given him.
The film does delve into the origins of Freddy's disfiguration, but it goes by far too quick and easy to think that the filmmakers ever had any real intention of presenting character and story before the cheap thrills. And boy, are they cheap. Not twenty minutes into the film, it becomes quite clear that each dream sequence boils down to a prolonged game of hide and seek. Freddy does nothing more than hide behind walls and pop out when he either has a spooky line to say or some metal bars to screech his claws against.
The only parts of this film that are remotely interesting are a few scenes between Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara). The two of them, particularly Mara, are interesting actors, and perhaps it is because they aren't killed off right away that they are actually given a chance to create characters. But make no mistake: when I say interesting scenes, I more accurately mean interesting moments, because there are always only a handful of precious seconds before they fall asleep into Freddy's world.
Haley is supposedly signed on to act in another two sequels. If this turns out to be the case, I feel awfully bad for him, and for the younger actors as well if the material continues to be this poor. With such a spot-on casting choice, there has to be a single writer out there willing to create something interesting and scary for Haley. Or at least make it entertaining, which I understand is easier said than done. But there are few things worse than sitting through a slasher film that is both not scary and slow.
I am not familiar with most of the slasher remakes of the past few years, and to be honest, I am not quite sure why I even went out to see this one. I think, despite the reviews, I still had some internal desire to see Haley's interpretation. But the elements that are out of his control are flat-out dreadful, and I just hope that this Nightmare film is part of the lower tier of these remakes. It just might be one of the year's great paradoxes. It is a film that is supposed to frighten us of the world of dreams. Instead, depending on where you see the film, it ends up being a sub-$10 sleeping pill.