It’s always highly debatable whether a cinematic classic should ever be remade. Why mess with the original? It’s very rare to add any value to the original story and if anything just loses out on comparison, often due to the nostalgia of longstanding fans.
So could Samuel Bayer’s re-imagining of A Nightmare On Elm Street even begin to capture that terror I experienced the first time I saw Wes Craven’s 1984 film? True, I may be a little less easy to scare these days and watching the original now does seem somewhat dated but Craven’s original story has such cinematic potential; the tale of Freddy Krueger, a child murderer burnt alive by vengeful parents in the fictional town of Springwood, wreaking his revenge on the children of his executioner’s by tormenting and slaying them in a dream world where if they die, they die for real….
Bayer’s film is definitely darker than the original. I came away feeling slightly disturbed by the 21st century Krueger, here played by Jackie Earle Haley with cruel and sinister aplomb. Writer Wesley Strick has placed more focus on Fred Krueger as a depraved man who molested young children, his particular favourite being Nancy (Rooney Mara) and who continues on in his depravity even after death. The children in question, Nancy, Quentin, Kris, Jesse and Dean – now teenagers, must fight to learn the truth of their past from their parents and find a way to survive Krueger’s attacks.
Unfortunately this remake lacks the chilling effect of the original film despite the recreation of Craven’s iconic scenes, including Freddy pushing through the wall above Nancy’s bed (done here with poor CGI), Kris’s body being dragged up the walls of her bedroom (minus Tina’s blood-curdling screams from the 1984 film) and the bladed hand between Nancy’s legs in the bathtub, which sounded a round of tittering from the audience. The few scares there are come from cheap jump-in-your-seat moments and the atmosphere suffers from the indifference you feel towards to teenagers who do not engage the viewer.
Interesting though is the idea that deprived of sleep long enough, the body falls into a micro-sleep state meaning even though the body remains conscious, part of the brain is asleep, allowing Freddy to get to his victims even while awake. Further, the direct connection between Krueger and the teens when aged five and Nancy’s discovery of her particular history with Krueger magnifies the human monster that Fred Krueger was before being burned alive.
There’s no getting away from the fact that I’m a big fan of Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, it began my love of horror movies after all. I have perhaps judged this more harshly than someone ignorant of the original and therefore it’s worth noting that I went to see the new version with my cousin who’s in his early twenties and could not recall the 1984 version. His verdict was that while not especially scary it was a sound story with a few interesting twists and well acted by the young stars, most notably Katie Cassidy (Kris). What we both agreed on was that this remake is a cut above recent others such as Friday the 13th.
Despite the negative reviews received, I think it’s worth a watch if you’re not a die-hard fan of the long-standing Freddy Krueger franchise; chances are you’ll rather enjoy the film.
A Nightmare On Elm Street is released 7th May 2010.