The trick to reinvigorating an older franchise is taking the old concept and adding boatloads of new stuff. Batman Begins (2005) and Star Trek (2009) ideas, and approaches. There's no sense in making the same films over again since video allows them to be watched by new generations. (Yes, being an avid fan of horror sequels, I am completely aware of the irony of that). To be successful, one has to reboot rather than remake. Thus, while Sam Bayer's 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street tries to add some new ideas, it relies too much on the original film and does not improve upon it.
Nancy Holbrook's (Rooney Mara) been having terrible....wait, no. Dean Russell's (Kellan Lutz) been having terrible nightmares about a burned man in a red and green sweater named Freddy (Jackie Earle Haley); well, at least until Freddy kills him in the pre-title sequence. Then, Kris Fowles (Katie Cassidy) is having nightmares for the next half hour until, well...you know. Finally, halfway through the film, our real protagonist is revealed to be Nancy after all.
Nancy and would-be love interest Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner) soon discover the history they share with Freddy Krueger's other victims: they attended the preschool where Freddy was custodian, and accused of gettin' touchy with the kids; prompting their parents to do the only sensible thing: hunt him down and burn him alive. Feeling somewhat wronged, Freddy's brutally murdering all of these children in their dreams unless Nancy and Quentin can determine what really happened at the preschool.
As a horror movie this isn't a bad picture. Sure, the characters are fairly generic; if you've seen the earlier recent horror remakes of Friday the 13th (2009) or One Missed Call (2008) , then you are familiar with all the stereotypes. Of course, this makes it difficult for the audience when the narrative wanders aimlessly for the first 45 minutes. Granted, horror movies aren't known for their character depth, but this series has always made the effort to make their cannon fodder just a wee bit more identifiable... before they're summarily eviscerated. or
An interesting addition is the conceit of insomnia causing spontaneous “mirco-naps,” Freddy is no longer bound to normal sleep patterns, he can now seemingly appear anytime, anywhere-provided the teenager has been up for 3 days straight. Staying up any longer can lead to irreversible comas., tying into the larger mystery plot, which doesn't really work as the audience already knows that the killer is Freddy Krueger.
While stylish, the remake doesn't hold a candle to the original, which was genuinely creepy and before it got fucking scary. Wes Craven created tension and mood before delivering the horrific violence. This film adheres to the “new school” of horror: quiet, quiet, quiet, LOUD NOISE! It doesn't really work after the audience recognizes the pattern. Bayer attempts to recreate certain death scenes, but fails to even match the Tina (Amanda Wyss) death from the original, let alone improve upon it.
But the unforgivable sin here is the handling of Nancy.
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) was possibly the greatest final girl ever. After being stalked and victimized, she hunts Freddy (Robert Englund) down and takes the fight to him. Conversely, Rooney Mara's Nancy looks like a stiff wind would knock her over, and she has to rely on Quentin throughout. Nancy's trademark inner-strength is nowhere to be found, which is a shame since these teens need all the help they can get against Jackie Earle Haley's malevolent and spiteful Freddy. Haley, by the bye, knocks it out of the park, mixing in the traditional gallows humor, though played down. Haley brings an anger not seen in the previous films, which is an interesting perspective.
Here's is the one legitimate complaint about Haley's turn as Freddy: he's really short.
Overall, the film is not as disappointing as I thought it would be. While not as memorably disturbing as Wes Craven's original, it does set the stage for future, to which I look forward. The series just needs to move into more original territory and create new nightmares.