If you think Platinum Dunes new Nightmare on Elm Street remake is simply a trip down memory lane, you’re in for a rude awakening. Director Samuel Bayer has turned Wes Craven’s classic 1984 slasher into a stylish frightener that turns up the creep factor behind child molester/killer Freddy Krueger.
The premise remains true to the original: A group of kids discover they are being stalked in their dreams by the pedophile their parents burned alive in an act of street justice. If he kills them in their sleep, they die in real life.
Many of the original’s most memorable scares (i.e. Krueger reaching out from the wall behind Nancy’s bed, the bladed glove between her legs in the tub) are impressively updated during the first half of the movie.
Especially fun is Katie Cassidy’s bedroom death sequence in which the 23-year-old stunner is bounced off the walls before being ripped to shreds in front of her boyfriend (Thomas Dekker). The scene, which originally starred Amanda Wyss (The Graves), remains one of Freddy’s most brutal kills.
Soon after Cassidy’s character dies, Bayer’s remake settles into its own groove and proceeds to effectively build sphincter-pinching tension as Krueger sets his sight on Nancy (Rooney Mara), his one-time favorite child victim.
The cat-and-mouse games that follow are intense and culminate with Nancy, suddenly strapped to a bed in the little girl dress (oh, yeah) and Mary Jane shoes she wore as a child, attempting to break the crippling memories of her molestation long enough to get free from Krueger’s mental hold and razor claw.
Unlike Robert Englund’s beloved portrayal of the Krueger character, which grew more goofy with each sequel, Jackie Earle Haley’s (Watchmen, Shutter Island) take on the child predator is rooted in pure malice. You never forget for a moment that Krueger enjoyed diddling little children and that he takes perverse pleasure in making them suffer as teens before butchering them.
It’s clear that Bayer and Haley—and writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer—are committed to keeping Krueger a creepy and menacing monster. If these were Bond films, I’d say Englund is now the Roger Moore of Elm Street.
Of course, mainstream critics will shit over Bayer’s film, waxing nostalgic on the original (which was also poorly reviewed during its theatrical release) and asking why a remake was necessary. Trust me. The original—like your mama’s face—needed the make-over.
And, if you’re part of the targeted demographic (kids that weren’t alive during the ’80s), this new Nightmare will knock you out. In fact, that’s my only regret. I wish I could have seen this with new eyes.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is playing now.