No, you’re not dreaming. Freddy Krueger is back. Twenty six years after he first started knocking off the sleep deprived kids of Springwood, Ohio the baddie who gets you when you are most vulnerable—when you’re asleep—is using his iconic claw hand to terrorize a new batch of kids.
Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Freddy had a run in with the local townsfolk and is now taking revenge on Springwood’s children. Unlike the Pied Piper, Freddy was a suspected pedophile who was hunted down and burned alive by a mob of angry parents. Now, years later he’s getting even, passing like a virus through the dreams of his murderer’s high school age children, all of whom have the same puffy, darkly circled eyes of people who drink way too much Red Bull. When Mr. Sandman comes bad things happen. The kids soon become daydream believers as one by one the dreamy Freddy becomes a reality and kills them while the doze.
Like the originals—there were eight “Nightmares” in total—the “Nightmare on Elm Street” reboot alternates between reality, scenes of spurting blood and is-it-a-dream-or-not-sequence? sequences. Drowsy teens wander aimlessly doing all the stupid things kids do in these kinds of movies, like go into creepy old attics late at night and, in a technological update, allow their computers to enter Sleep Mode—Oh no! The scariest thing about the movie, however, is the acting.
The actors aren’t aided by a script that has a teacher nonchalantly say, “Are you OK Miss Fowles?” after a student lets loose with a blood curdling scream in class but even though the script is loaded with clunkers it deserves better than it receives here. The acting is classic b-movie horror technique. Each of the teens seems to have talen lessons in how to exchange horrified meaningful looks with wide (although very puffy) eyes while spewing lines like “Just don’t fall asleep! If you die in your dreams you die for real!”
The acting is uniformly cringe worthy, although Jackie Earle Haley, who is making a career playing these kind of unpleasant characters in movies like “Shutter Island” and “Little Children,” is suitably menacing as Freddy. Unfortunately in reinventing Freddy’s back story the film focuses on his nasty er… pastimes with the kids. A scene with Nancy (Rooney Mara) dressed in a little girl’s dress isn’t scary, it’s just creepy. And not creepy in a good b-movie way, I mean creepy in a perverse NSFW way.
By and large the surreal CGI effects—like Freddy emerging from a wall—aren’t as effective as original director Wes Craven’s decidedly lower tech effects. This is a remake, and not a very good one, that rehashes many of the images from the other “Nightmare” films, leaving the new film with a “been there, done that” feel for anyone familiar with the other movies. Of the new set pieces some are ridiculous—like the clawed hand in the bathtub tentatively attacking Nancy—and some are cool—like the indoor snow storm, but none have the oomph of the original.
Ironically without the thrills and chills of the original “The Nightmare on Elm Street” redux is a sleep inducing exercise in how NOT to revitalize a movie franchise.