30 April 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Jackie Earle Haley portrays Freddy Krueger in New Line Cinema's horror film "A Nightmare On Elm Street."
After Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company made new versions of "Friday the 13th" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," along with lesser known horror flicks like "The Amityville Horror" and "The Hitcher," and Rob Zombie tackled "Halloween," it was inevitable that Bay and friends would take a walk down Elm Street.

In many ways, remaking Freddy Krueger is a much more difficult task than Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers or Leatherface. Freddy is a character with a personality, with a single  actor (Robert Englund) associated with the role. The others are unspeaking, masked psycopaths portrayed, in many cases, by stuntmen.

So for the 2010 version of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," the producers found themselves an Oscar nominee in Jackie Earle Haley ("Little Children," 2006; he's also known as Rorschach from last year's "Watchmen").

Over the course of many sequels, including a showdown with Mr. Voorhees ("Freddy vs. Jason," 2003), Freddy lost the fright factor. He became a clown, spitting out corny one-liners with a face that looked like a pepperoni pizza.

Haley offers a darker, meaner take on the iconic character. Some ambiguity regarding Freddy's past creates a mystery that wasn't present the first time around.

Purists might miss the humor, but you don't hire an actor of Haley's caliber to make him do a Robert Englund impression.

Haley easily is the best thing the movie has going for it. The problem is that, by his nature (he exists only in his victims dreams), Freddy doesn't get a lot of screen time. So we're left with a group of personality-lacking teenagers, most of whom you know will end up dead. You just have to hope the correct characters survive and that those who die do so in creative fashion.

The movie, directed by Samuel Bayer, who comes from the world of music videos, kind of gets it right, though the most interesting death scene is straight out of the original film.

The young cast does the best it can, I suppose. Kyle Gallner, for reasons not quite apparent, has become a go-to guy for horror movies, previously appearing in "A Haunting in Connecticut" and "Jennifer's Body" (which is actually more unintentional comedy than horror).

One wonders if this movie will become the answer to a trivia question for any of its actors like the first one is for Johnny Depp.

Greg's Grade: C

(Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language. 95 minutes.)

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