A Nightmare On Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

News of a remake of a film as popular as Wes Craven's seminal A Nightmare On Elm Street always leaves fans nervous. Should they look forward to another version of an old favourite, or fear a travesty? It makes perfect sense to revisit this film now, when attitudes to child abuse have changed so much, and writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer have made some changes to the story to reflect this, but still the overall feeling is of a missed opportunity. The plot unfolds at breakneck speed but all the extra space this leaves is used for rather ordinary gore rather than an exploration of or expansion upon the film's powerful themes.

Just in case you're not already familiar with the premise, here it is: a mysterious figure once accused of child abuse is stalking teenagers through their dreams. As long as they stay awake, they're safe, but if they sleep, and dream, and are killed in their nightmares, they die in real life too. Can they discover the truth about this man and successfully challenge him before it's too late?

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Wes Craven's film hinged on the figure of killer Freddy Krueger himself, with Robert Englund's charismatic performance bringing depth and a curious kind of skewed heroism to the role. Filling Englund's shoes here is Jacke Earle Hayley, so suffice to say that the focus has changed. Using the same Batman voice that marred his performance in Watchmen, Hayley blunders along with little personality, scary only because of his knife-fingered glove, not because of what he represents. The film is saved by Rooney Mara as heroine Nancy, turning in the sort of grounded, moody performance that fantasy horror often depends on. She's young and naive enough to believe in what she's doing and this lends the film a conviction it doesn't really deserve.

The worst thing about this film is the dialogue. There's crude exposition in almost every early line, read as if in a high school play rehearsal. At least the older actors have the decency to look embarrassed. But most viewers won't care about this - they'll be there for the scares, for the violence and gore, and in this area the film delivers at least averagely well. There's no messing about as we're plunged straight into the action in the very first scene. These are more sophisticated teenagers than in the original story and they have new tricks at their disposal, but still they can do little to defend themselves on Freddy's territory. Unfortunately there are clunkily scripted moments here too, especially in a climatic scene far too obviously structured - never mind the tacky ending. I'm sorry, I must have forgotten... did I order this with extra cheese?

As a tribute to the original, this Nightmare will satisfy some fans, but it's still much weaker than its predecessor. The real pity is that without that legacy it wouldn't amount to much at all.

Reviewed on: 06 May 2010
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A Nightmare On Elm Street packshot
A dead child molester pursues teenagers through their dreams in this remake of the 1984 hit.
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Director: Samuel Bayer

Writer: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer

Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Connie Britton

Year: 2010

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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