Nightmare on Elm Street

I never saw the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I know, what kind of movie critic does that make me, right? It's considered something of a classic of the genre, and here's me, not watching it. It isn't because I thought it was bad, though; it's because I'm such a complete coward about scary movies. But I gathered up my courage, thought of you, my 49 loyal fans, and headed out to the theatre, fully prepared to have to cover my eyes for at least 30 of the film's 95 minutes.

And after all that, it really wasn't scary. It makes you jump in your seat a lot, and makes you feel guilty for throwing Skittles all over the floor the first time Freddy leaps out at you, but that isn't the kind of scary that bothers me. Okay, the talking corpse did freak me out, I admit that. But mostly, I was expecting a slasher movie with an extra, deeper level of spooky, where you honestly couldn't be sure whether the characters were awake, dreaming, or some weird mix of the two. Maybe the original is like that, but not this one.

If you've seen the version from 1984, Tina and Rod are now (I think) Kris (Kate Cassidy, Taken) and Jesse (Thomas Dekker, Zach from Heroes); and Glen and Nancy are now Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara). They're among the survivors of a terrible tragedy that happened at a preschool that none of them quite remember attending, but which they keep seeing in their dreams, along with the mysterious (not to mention sharp and pointy) Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley, aka Rorschach).

Freddy is very bitter. Partly because of the highly unattractive sweater he's stuck wearing through all eternity, and I can see where it would be aggravating to have so many people looking you right in the eyes and telling you that you're not real; but he has some serious anger management issues. One character claims that he "wants me to find something," but that's all part of the toying. He likes to make everyone think he has a motive besides just enjoying killing, so that they start to hope for a way to bargain with him or otherwise avoid being slashed.

The kids -- and I use the term loosely, since the actors are all around 25 and we're supposed to pretend they're high school kids. Never mind people dying horribly from their dreams; this is where you really have to suspend your disbelief. Quentin almost looks the right age, though. Anyway, the kids are just confused. They don't remember much from when they were five, unsurprisingly, and their moms and dads don't exactly encourage walks down memory lane. But with Freddy poking around in their subconscious minds, of course memories are starting to shake loose, and they're about as pleasant as Freddy himself.

Then there's the investigating, the fighting to stay awake, and the usual horror movie stupidity. I mean, a movie like this is the perfect chance to have the characters be sensible. If they find themselves outside in the middle of the night, without proper clothes, shoes, or flashlight, investigating that odd noise, well, that's because they're dreaming and they had no choice. But they still do silly things. Who takes a hot bath when they know they might die gruesomely if they nod off, even for a moment?

The filmmakers clearly had fun messing with the viewers' heads, with dreams within dreams and all that, but you can still see everything coming, really, even if it does make you jump when it actually happens. And if it doesn't make even me have nightmares, it can't possibly really be a horror movie. So two idols out of five. The acting was solid -- Freddy was way over the top, of course, but he's supposed to be -- but considering that at one point I started amusing myself by trying to figure out the cost per minute of the movie, I really can't go any higher than that.

Jackie Earle Haley as the new and not really improved Freddy Krueger.


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