Platinum Dunes continues with the assembly line approach to horror movie production with the reboot of A Nightmare On Elm Street, bringing to mind the words of assembly line pioneer Henry Ford, “You can have any horror movie you want, so long as it’s a fairly faithful yet altogether uninspiring regurgitation of something you’ve already seen.” I’m paraphrasing.
It’s unfortunate that this film hinges on characters struggling to stay awake, consequently yawning excessively and periodically dozing off, because in an ill-timed instance of life imitating “art,” I found myself similarly afflicted. Never in the history of the Elm Street canon have I seen a film quite as boring as this latest re-imagining. While many of the Elm Street films have their faults, be it extreme campiness, dreadful acting, ridiculously over the top deaths, and the like, they were always fairly engaging. Even Freddy’s Dead, in my humble opinion the worst of the series, was more entertaining than the latest installment.
Not only is the reboot boring, it’s also a consistently unsatisfying reminder of Wes Craven’s far superior original. I almost would have rather it been a sort of Gus Van Sant-ified remake a la 1998’s Psycho (which in and of itself was a superfluous endeavor), at least that way I would have seen 21st Century updates of my favorite scenes from the original Nightmare: Freddy-Long-Arms, man-eating bed, reach out and lick someone. Instead, all we get is the same old claw in the bathtub and a ridiculous revision of nocturnal levitation, with a few of Freddy’s previous one-liners thrown in. Thanks, but no thanks.
Which brings me to the plot, after the mysterious death of one of their own, a group of teens in Springwood are haunted by all-to-real nightmares involving a burned, claw-wielding maniac. As they begin to question why they’re all having nightmares featuring the same shadowy figure, they’re confronted by an even bigger problem, if he kills them in their dreams they die in reality. After learning the mysterious spectre’s name, budding young couple Nancy and Quentin race to solve the mystery of Freddy Krueger before they become his next victims, with little help from their parents or the police, who seem to vacillate between oddly absent and awkwardly about. Most notably absent, Nancy’s police lieutenant father, played by John Saxon in the original and one of the best characters in the series, is completely left out of the reboot. On the plus side, Jackie Earl Haley’s Freddy is an interesting, subdued departure from Robert Englund’s larger-than-life original, much more menacing than mocking, with his subtle, guttural growl that occasionally crescendos to a roar.
Director Samuel Bayer offers a watered-down rehash of a horror classic that is mildly entertaining at times. But ultimately, much like the teens in the film, it is haunted by the past, hinting at but never living up to the original, instead serving as a constant reminder of what once was. After the truly dreadful 2009 reboot of Friday the 13th, also helmed by Platinum Dunes, it comes as no surprise that Nightmare falls short. However, while these latest lackluster reboots are disappointing, they’re nowhere near as awful as the “original” material Platinum Dunes has put out. I’d gladly sit through the dull dissatisfaction of any of their reboots, if only to avoid suffering through the painfully abysmal Horsemen and The Unborn. As for Nightmare, do yourself a favor, stick with the original.