This absence of invention turns this tired remake into a tedious waiting game.
'If we fall asleep a madman with a burned face will attack and kill us in our dreams.' The kids in Elm Street figure this out remarkably quickly, which is good because there’s really not much more for them to do – or the audience for that matter, in this monotonous and unimaginative remake.
In this incarnation, Freddy is pegged as a child molester by concerned parents, who subsequently burn him alive as he protests his innocence. Why it takes approximately 16 years for him to come back from the dead to terrorise the children in their dreams is never established, or, for that matter, how he managed it in the first place. The only important thing is that he’s here now and looking for trouble.
Without ever being asked to do anything new with the character, Jackie Earle Haley is pitch-perfect as Freddy. He’s sleazy and creepy and revels in Freddy’s evil in every scene he’s in – and that’s a lot. Even in the first few frames, he’s there – taunting, chasing, and murdering with frivolous abandon, which makes a degree of sense – he’s the star after all, but also makes it difficult for any tension to be created.
It’s often said that Jaws is at its most terrifying until the moment you really see the shark – and that’s about 70 minutes in. A Nightmare on Elm Street plays its trump card in the first few seconds and continues to do so every in almost every scene.
This absence of invention turns Nightmare into a tedious waiting game. You can count down (in your head, or aloud if you like) as the teenagers steal round the house in the middle of the night, as they enter the abandoned building, as they try to stay awake in school: 'Freddy appears in three, two, one...' and as sure as night follows day, there he is.
Without the B-movie allure of films like The Devil’s Rejects or the self-referential fun of the Scream franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street is the epitome of a cash-in remake. Which is a shame: horror films rely on finding new ways to scare audiences and a remake like this provides numerous opportunities to confound expectation in a fun and frightening way.
But they’re not taken; instead we get twentysomethings pretending to be teenagers going through the same motions we’ve seen a hundred times before. Freddy Kruger deserves better and so do we.
Horror remakes are easy money, but cinematic poison.
“In three, two, one...”
Elm Street is not worth revisiting.