Movie News & Reviews

'Nightmare on Elm Street' plays out as killjoy

Because I can, I'm going to complain about the "dream sequence fake-out"some more.

I've hated the "it was all just a dream" ending ever since some foolin my sixth-grade class used the convention to end a shared-storyproject. Way to render all the rest of our work meaningless, guy.Considering focus groups are essentially a classroom of 12-year-olds,it's not too surprising that so many movies, especially from thehorror genre, persist in using the technique of "Oh no! The maincharacter just DIED! No wait, they just woke up panting on a bed fullof Pound Purries." It's just like how you put yourself throughcollege: a quick thrill that ends up making you feel cheap and used.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

The colossal exception to this is the original A Nightmare on ElmStreet. That movie turns the dream thing on its head. It's thereal world where you're safe; set foot in slumberland, and you mightnever come back. But we all have to sleep sometime, so what the hellare you supposed to do? It's an awesome, paranoid concept which thenew remake utterly fails to exploit.

Before Kellan Lutz kills himself, he's haunted by violent dreams of aman named Freddy (now played by Jackie Earle Haley). At Lutz's funeral,his friends discover they've been having the same dreams.

Together, they explore their shared connection to Freddy Krueger, asecret their parents have kept for more than a decade. They have to stayawake and find a way to fight back before they all end updead — because if Freddy kills you in a nightmare, you're killed inreal life, too.

Clumsily sequencing is partly to blame for A Nightmare on ElmStreet's overall crudditude. Here's a clue on who's about to die:it's whatever character the movie's been following for the past fiveminutes. For the first half hour, the real leads are cunninglydisguised as side characters, guaranteeing that by the time theyfinally show up we'll be no more invested in their struggles than inthose of the laundry service that has to wash their blood-soakedsheets.

Really though, you could have an epic TV miniseries on thesecharacters and it wouldn't make a difference. They have lesspersonality than the brick I wanted to bash my skull in with whilewatching them. One's a swimmer, I think. Beyond that, their onlydefining characteristic is a shared interest in dying in incrediblydull ways.

You know how the kids died in the original? Doing a blood-basedimpression of Old Faithful. Too risque in this day and age,apparently. Freddy's had more than a decade to figure out how to exact hisrevenge on them. In dreamworld, he has all the power of a god. Yet howdoes he kill them? By slashing them. With the knives on his hand.Until they stop moving.

That's either a cutting commentary on how having a wish is alwaysbetter than seeing it fulfilled, or a sign director Samuel Bayer hasno idea what he's doing.

The dreams are equally bankrupt. The steamy, grimy factory whereFreddy does his dirty work is such an old cliche that Victorianflipbooks about Jack the Ripper were already tired of factories. Youknow how when someone tells you about a dream they had, and it'sboring no matter how many armies of monkeys are battling thespider-centaurs of Trebulon V? Well, A Nightmare on ElmStreet's nightmares are like that, except instead of the monkeysand spider-men, it has preschools.

I don't normally mind remakes, but this is as paint-by-numbers as itgets. Haley is a pretty good Freddy, so it's got that going for it.Otherwise, A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn't even have thecommon courtesy to flash us any boobs. That right there tells you whata killjoy it is.

Grade: D+