Movie Review for A Nightmare on Elm Street

Preparing for the Surprise

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller | R-13 | 1 hr 50 min
Warner Bros. Pictures
One thing that’s immediately apparent about this remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is that it’s a whole lot louder. Every scare is accompanied by a sound cue designed to shake the seats in the cinema, the movie basically punching audiences in the gut with bass notes and stabbing their ears with the high stinger tones. Louder doesn’t mean better, of course, and this aggressive wall of sound can’t really hide the fact that this horror remake still feels unbearably generic.

A group of teens in Springwood are being haunted in their dreams. All of their nightmares involve a mysterious burned figure with blades on his fingers. Their nightmares get progressively worse, and they quickly discover that whatever happens to them in the dream world has consequences in the real world, with several of the teens dying horrible deaths in their sleep. A couple of the teens try to figure out the mystery of their nightmares, leading them to discover an event buried deep in their memories.

This movie expands on Freddy Krueger’s origin in a fairly compelling way, adding another creepy dimension to the character. But while the mystery of Krueger’s past is the primary concern of the main characters, much of it feels glossed over as the film simply seeks to recreate many of the original film’s most memorable images. Everything is slicked up as the film goes through the full catalogue of the original film’s deaths, but little value is actually added. At most, the film can lay claim to adding plenty of modern sound touches, with the aggressive sound design that’s become a prerequisite in modern blockbuster filmmaker. The movie makes much of the sound of metal hitting metal, often lingering on the scratching of Krueger’s blade-fingers. The effect is somewhat diminished when the same metal-on-metal sound is used as Krueger’s claws tear through human flesh.

Meanwhile, the plot moves mechanically forward, the characters pushing the story forward through long stretches of spoken exposition. The mystery structure doesn’t quite work out, the answers obvious early on, the movie not overly concerned with asking difficult questions. The plot wouldn’t be such a concern if the movie were scary, or at least inventive in its scares. But once again, fear is reduced to jolts of surprise. The rhythm has become so familiar that audiences will begin tittering as the all-too-familiar cues pop up on screen, contradictorily preparing themselves for a surprise.

Jackie Earle Haley steps into Robert Englund’s legendary role. Haley has cornered the market on playing creeps, and he does a fairly good job of representing the menace of Freddy Krueger. The problem is that his performance is hidden behind a voice effect that adds a sense of posturing to his portrayal. At points, the unstoppable, murderous supernatural force can feel curiously runty, his constant growling wearing out the effect. The teenagers, led primarily by Kyle Gallner and Rooney Mara, are okay as far as screaming horror kids go. Some of them look way too old to be playing teenagers, but that’s hardly out of the ordinary.

Apart from the Michael Bay sized loudness, A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t really stand out from the hundreds of cheaply made horror films made every year. It just has a far more familiar monster at its core, and that might actually weaken the film’s ability to scare. The rhythms are already familiar, recognizable visual and audio cues prefacing the typical modern horror movie scare. A villain from cinema past only adds to the predictability of the supposed horror. The movie simply repeats itself, and this time, we are all too prepared, leaving our dreams free of any lasting fear.

My Rating:



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