Freddy is back, for a new “Nightmare,” or an old one, depending on how you view these things. This latest [movie id=”379974″]”A Nightmare on Elm Street”[/movie] — the ninth of the horror franchise — is a remake of the 1984 original, faithfully recreating gory murders past. But a new Freddy has entered the fray: Doing all that bloody butchery is Jackie Earle Haley, replacing Robert Englund in the role of the scar-faced, scissor-handed, dream-hopping psycho.
Will 2010’s “Nightmare” mark the rebirth of a beloved series that had fallen on hard times (see the abomination that was 2003’s “Freddy vs. Jason”) will it prove to be another misguided effort to breathe life into a franchise that was better left in peace? Well, the flick arrived in theaters Friday (April 30) and the reviews are in. Check ’em out and decide for yourself!
Let’s start with the hard-core fans and, of course, with Freddy himself. How does the new version of the classic killer stack up? “Haley, who has become the master of playing dark characters, takes his Freddy to some wicked and terrible places as he chases down his victims,” writes Heather Wixson of DreadCentral.com. “While he doesn’t have that certain charisma that only comes from being Robert Englund himself, Haley does give the character a cold viciousness that has been lacking in the franchise since 1994’s ’New Nightmare.’ Haley’s Freddy is pissed and disturbed and doesn’t have time for one-liners or sight gags. He’s just here for revenge. And it was nice to see Freddy finally have a little menace back behind the glove.”
That’s a solid endorsement from the horror aficionados, but not everyone agreed. Haley “is betrayed first by the [makeup], which makes him look like a wet alien cat,” writes Drew McWeeny on HitFix.com. “It’s not scary. It’s not memorable. And for most of the film, it’s barely visible. And yet, they hew so closely to his wardrobe that it just strikes me as a redesign for no reason. He’s given way too many one-liners here, and his performance never walks that line of did-he-or-didn’t-he that the script wants to suggest, so the result is pretty much one-note and never manages to bring anything fresh or interesting to our understanding of Krueger as a character.”
It’s not just the question of Haley’s Freddy that has divided reviewers. The efforts of director Samuel Bayer have been both slammed and praised. Time’s Richard Corliss falls into the latter camp. “Bayer, who directed such music videos as Nirvana’s ’Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ brings a craftsman’s loving attention to every aspect of the movie, from the opening credits (which appear in a child’s script, like an S.O.S. jotted desperately on a sidewalk, and where the sign ’Badham Pre-School’ turns into ’Bad School’) to flicked references to old scare movies like [David] Cronenberg’s ’Shivers’ (a somnolent teen in a bathtub, her legs asprawl, with Freddy’s claw rising briefly, teasingly),” he writes. “Bayer isn’t Orson Welles, exactly, but he has plenty of assurance and the props to back it up.”
There’s also the question of the folks on whom Bayer trains his camera, including Kellan Lutz and Rooney Mara. “The atrocious acting, even for a horror movie, just gets worse and worse to the point where every scene in between the fairly regular dream sequences and kills is as boring as a soap opera,” writes Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net. “After a number of the characters are quickly disposed of in their dreams without much effort, it essentially leaves Rooney Mara to utter all her lines through gritted teeth and Kyle Gallner to mope around, both of them trying to stay awake while putting us to sleep.”
We’ll give the final word to our own Kurt Loder. “So Freddy is no longer the lovable wisecracker we once knew; and after a quarter of a century and seven previous films in the original ’Nightmare’ series , he can no longer really terrify us the way he once did, either,” he writes. “Which raises the unavoidable question: Why did the filmmakers feel the need to do such a formulaic remake? Why did they think anyone would feel a need to watch it?”
The critics are split on whether the new “Nightmare” is formulaic or fun. Let us know what you think in the comments!
Check out everything we’ve got on “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
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