The idea of the remake was an intriguing one. I recall it originally being conceived as a prequel with Robert Englund to reprise the role of Freddy in his unburned, non-dreamy, child-killer form. That idea fizzled and was replaced by the straight up remake idea. Of course Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay's production company) is behind it, just as it has been for so many recent horror remakes, including Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, and The Hitcher. Now, I could go on about the worthiness or lack thereof of remakes, but why bother? Everyone has an opinion on them and regardless of what we think they are here to stay, besides they have been a part of the industry for as long as there has been an industry.
Directed by music video director Samuel Bayer from a screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer does a good job of paying homage to the original while also trying to bring something new to the franchise. That being said, I did walk out thinking that I was going to be in the minority of those who enjoy the film. It is far from perfect, but it works for me. Can it be nit-picked to death? Sure. I just don't want to. I liked seeing this new take on a beloved horror icon. I liked the changes they made to the base story and how it seems to even work a little bit better this time around.
The basic story should be very similar to anyone familiar with the Elm Street story. Teens begin having similar nightmares about a horrifically burned man in a sweater with knives for fingers who is trying to kill them. The nightmares become more and more real and the danger becomes infinitely greater until people begin to die. The survivors band together to try and figure out who this killer is and why he is after them. This leads to a discovery that none of them could have imagined.
Yes, I realize how much that reads like a promotional blurb, but what else is there to say? You know what this movie is about and you know if you want to see it or not. The problem is that I do not want to give away the new things that happen. There are interesting new things to discover and some nice homages to the series.
I did say this wasn't a perfect movie, right? I meant it. Certain stretches seem to drag a little bit and the various characters stories don't overlap in a meaningful manner, it is much more about going from character to character and this lessens the tension somewhat. There is some questionable use of CGI, there is one particular sequence that looks particularly awful, you'll know it when you see it. Some of the dialogue is a little corny, particularly early on. It definitely has its share of groaners. Also, Rooney Mara, who plays Nancy, seems to mumble a lot. I think it was a character thing she was trying, but it really did not work all that well. In addition to that you could go deeper and pick apart story details and character motivations. If you want to, have at it.
Fortunately the positives outweigh the negatives. Samuel Bayer does a fine job in his big screen debut. There is a look that feels like old school Freddy but still has a modern sheen to it. I like the way he goes about revealing Freddy. Early on he is kept to the shadows, presenting a menacing silhouette. Then the reveal comes and we get to see the new look of the nightmare slasher. A lot of effort was made to make him seem like a real burn victim, the make up really does the trick. The screenplay, while corny at times, presents the story as a mystery. It works. I also like the rewritten back story for Freddy and his relationship to the Elm Street families. Finally, there is a story element I will not give up that, while only considered for a moment, adds something to the Freddy character. It is a concept I never thought of before that almost makes the killer more sympathetic, but not. Nicely done.
The acting is generally decent. The cast of teens, including Rooney Mara, Thomas Dekker, Kyle Gallner, and Katie Cassidy do all right work. I was convinced of their convictions, even while disliking Mara's mumbling. However, the highlight of the night has to be Jackie Earl Haley. You have to admit, recasting the iconic role had to be a daunting task, what with the indelible stamp he has been given by Robert Englund. Haley was up tot he task and brought a darkly comic, foreboding, and menacing pesent that felt like Freddy while not duplicating what Englund had done. Not to mention, Haley did some really cool things with the glove.
Bottomline. An interesting new addition to the franchise. It toned done the flurry of one-liners that had afflicted the series later entries. There was some dread and fear to be had here. The mystery elements worked very well and Haley was fantastic as the gloved one. Forget the naysayers, give this a shot.
This article was first published at Blogcritics.