"Nightmare" a sleep-inducing retread
By Michael Rechtshaffen
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "A Nightmare on Elm Street," the 26-year-old New Line franchise that gave grisly new meaning to the phrase "you snooze, you lose," is the latest horror entry to go the reboot route courtesy of Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes.
But, like those "reimaginations" of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "The Amityville Horror" and "Friday the 13th," the back-to-the-beginning approach unimaginatively goes through the motions, offering scant justification for its boring existence, at least from an artistic point of view.
Commercially speaking, there's probably sufficient fan-base curiosity regarding the passing of the Freddy Kruger razor gloves from Robert Englund to Jackie Earle Haley to give this first "Elm Street" outing since 2003's "Freddy Vs. Jason" a decent, if unremarkable, opening weekend for the Warner Bros. release, which bows Friday (April 30).
As with other origins movies, this one goes back seven sequels and a TV series, when a group of teens suddenly seem to sharing the same nightmare -- the one involving a scary guy in a red-and-green striped tattered sweater and a fierce fedora.
When they start to die horrible deaths at the hands of the man later identified as Freddy Kruger, a horrible secret is revealed. They had been molested at the hands of their preschool's caretaker, and their vengeance-seeking parents took the law into their own hands, burning him alive. Now he's seeking his own bloody retribution, and he's doing it whenever one of them nods off.
Given how so much of the new "Nightmare" relies on dutifully duplicating so many visual cues and effects sequences from the 1984 Wes Craven version, it can't help but draw comparisons. But in nearly every case, those once-potent sequences have been replicated to seriously diminished effect.
In the hands of Samuel Bayer, director of the music video for the Nirvana grunge anthem "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and screenwriters Wesley Strick ("Cape Fear") and newcomer Eric Heisserer, everything is pitched at the same monotonous note. The pace never quickens nor slows to a dread-inducing creep, and the performances (the more energetic original introduced one Johnny Depp) are so lethargically lifeless to begin with, they don't seem any different after all that prolonged sleeplessness.
Although there's admittedly something truly unsavory about Haley's portrayal of the relentless dream stalker, even with his electronically deepened voice and a pointless amount of backstory, there's just no replacing Englund.
Even though Englund's performance would grow campier in subsequent installments -- as did the films themselves -- his smirky, menacing boogeyman will always remain the Freddy Kruger of our dreams.
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