A Nightmare on Elm Street -- Film Review
Samuel Bayer on helming his first feature
"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 "re-imaginations" 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 Krueger razor gloves from Robert Englund to Jackie Earle Haley to give this first "Nightmare" outing since 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason" a decent, if unremarkable, opening weekend.
As with other origins movies, this one goes back seven sequels and a TV series, when a group of teens suddenly seem to share the same nightmare -- the one involving a scary guy in a red-and-green-striped tattered sweater and a fierce fedora.
When they begin to die horrible deaths at the hands of the man later identified as Freddy Krueger, 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 Krueger of our dreams.
Opens: Friday, April 30 (Warner Bros.)
Production: Platinum Dunes
Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Kellan Lutz
Director: Samuel Bayer
Screenwriters: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer
Executive producers: Mike Drake, Robert Shaye, Michael Lynne, Richard Brener, Walter Hamada, Dave Neustadter Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Director of photography: Jeff Cutter
Production designer: Patrick Lumb
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Costume designer: Mari-An Ceo
Editor: Glen Scantlebury
Rated R, 95 minutes