Not Your Father's Nightmare
[Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara]
I need to pose a question. Why is it a necessity to vocalize every obvious plot point at a horror film? Don't get me wrong, I love the hoots of appreciation when a teenager get killed in an especially enjoyable way. I just can't understand when someone behind me, all the while kicking my seat, has to point out that the mother is lying to her daughter and hiding a crucial bit of information. These actors are not going to get an Academy Award for powerful performances... come on!
SYNOPSIS: A group of teenagers realize that the death of their friend is far more than a suicide when they realize that they are all dreaming of the same bogeyman with a gloved hand of blades, Freddy Krueger.
The real point of discussion for the new "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is whether it can hold up to Wes Craven's original. There has been obvious comparisons between Robert Englund and Jackie Earle Haley, the differences in Krueger's practical make-up, and the similarities and differences in the script and execution. 25 years may have past between Craven's original film and Samuel Bayer's reboot, but only 7 years have past since the last "Nightmare" and Bayer has to work against a mythology of 8 previous Krueger films.
I watched the new film on Saturday, then followed it with the original that afternoon on DVD. Let get to the Tale of the Tape!
Freddy Krueger - Robert Englund brought a witchy hook nose and sarcasm to a horror villain and made Krueger an industry icon. Jackie Earle Haley brings a more realistic burned-up bogeyman with more malice. Englund's Krueger was a caricature from the beginning, Haley's Krueger more malevolence and focused.
Winner: Jackie Earle Haley
Execution (not that way!): Wes Craven wrote and directed a film that revitalized the genre in the early 80s. Bayer takes a script from Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer and gives the reboot a new millennium sensibility. The plot is a little darker than the original, the dream sequences slicker, the origin story better executed and tighter, the use of "micro naps" as a plot device more inspired. The cast selection for the 2010 version is more appropriate to the market, definitely not cheesy like the original. The new version does use a couple of ideas from its predecessor - Freddy through the wallpaper, the blades on the pipes, teen girl dragged through the school hall in a body bag - but shakes up the rest.
Execution (yes, that way!): Both have a glove of blades coming up in the bubble bath. Both have the girl flying up around the ceiling that ends with 4 slices through the belly. In the latter, Bayer amps up the ceiling crashing tenfold. The boiler dream scenes in the reboot are grittier and more decayed, especially with previous victims strung up like slabs of beef. The original has Freddy slicing off his own fingers, cutting open his belly to show he's made of maggots and goo, and coming up with great one-liners to go with his kills. The reboot has Freddy more driven and methodical, his one-liners simply a product of his twisted mentality. In terms of originality, you simply need to view the first kill in the diner and a steak knife (Clue!, anyone?) to find the clear "cut" winner.
Growing up with the "Elm Street" franchise, I loved Freddy Krueger and his antics. As the original series wore on though, it eventually became a perpetuating parody of itself. As much as I respect what the original brought back to the genre, the new "Nightmare..." breathes new life into a dying man, even though he lives only in our dreams.
Worth: Matinee and DVD