In 1984, Wes Craven introduced children that used to be frightened of monsters under the bed or in the closet to something new and more terrifying than anything known before.
A Nightmare on Elm Street welcomed Freddy Krueger — the world’s most feared boogeyman. The razor sharp knives on the tips of the fingers of his right hand, a wicked tongue providing quips equally as sharp, a badly burned face, demonic eyes and a maniacal laugh made Freddy terrifying.
And Freddy waits until you’re asleep and then kills you in your dreams.
His looks are frightening. However, on film or DVD, Freddy is terrifying for about 15 minutes — one reel tops. After the first couple of appearances and a kill or two, he is ho-hum.
It was true in 1984, and it is true in 2010. Freddy wasn’t worth the sequels, TV show and features that ran through 1991. Last time we saw Freddy was in 2003 when he fought his equally boring horror rival Jason.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is close to the original in concept. Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in Watchmen) steps into the role and takes over from legendary Robert Englund. You do have to give Haley kudos. He’s every bit as creepy as Englund and a better actor. Haley doesn’t get to show off those skills because Freddy doesn’t have much to do but growl a threat or two in a low, very processed voice and then swish the finger knives in the air.
Teenage friends start having the same nightmare. They’re stalked by stripe-sweatered, hat wearing Freddy. The mystery of the connection between the kids, their parents and the psychopathic Freddy goes back to their childhood. You don’t really need to know anything more.
Unknown young actors and bordering-on-anorexic actresses get to be Freddy’s victims. The only known star is Clancy Brown who at one time was a great villain himself. He has a small part.
Director Samuel Bayer — of video music only experience — takes Wesley Strick (Doom) and first timer Eric Hasserer’s script and does the film just like every other chop and slash horror flick. Look down, no Freddy, look up, there’s Freddy. Every movement gets a whoosh or a very loud, sound-effect punctuation. All are designed to unnerve, frighten and make you think you’re really seeing something special.
You’re not. Other than Freddy being fairly original, even the original, with absolutely nowhere to go plot-wise, isn’t all that original. And how do kids worried about going to sleep because Freddy will kill them not fall asleep in a premise this boring.
True confession. The only time I ever fell asleep while doing a screening for a review was at a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I stayed awake through the remake, but only because I took a nap before heading to the theater.
By the way — a trivia factoid. The original film featured a young actor named Johnny Depp.
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated R for violence, mature themes, language. It opens Friday, April 30 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.