A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

If audiences are willing to pretend that they've never seen Freddy Krueger, at least give them the privilege of a tease. Unfortunately, this remake of Wes Craven's 1984 horror staple pops its cookies early. The story is unchanged: Freddy Krueger, the guilty secret of Springwood, Ohio's parents, menaces their teenaged children's sleep: "If you die in your dreams, you die for real," "One, two, Freddy's coming for you," and so on. Its first half-hour devoid of the most basic sense of timing, showmanship, and atmosphere, Nightmare gets a grip after a couple of bad dreams winnow the focus down to two nice-looking goth-y kids (Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner). The job of making Freddy Krueger plausibly frightening again goes to Jackie Earle Haley. No small task, this, but the makeover is good—the stringy melted-mozzarella complexion is replaced by a head that's a singed, featureless knot of meat, with charcoal nubs for ears. But even with a greater budget and ostensibly superior technology, first-time director Samuel Bayer proves mostly content to record cover versions of Craven's analog nightmares. All your favorites are here, including wallpaper Freddy, the dancing-on-the-ceiling number, the slithering body bag in the school hall—as well as slight variants on the melting staircase and gore geyser. Notable updates include CGI blood spurts and characters using Internet search engines. This franchise relaunch may have been inevitable, but that's no excuse for it to feel automatic.

Credits

Director:

  • Wes Craven

Cast:

  • John Saxon
  • Ronee Blakley
  • Heather Langenkamp
  • Amanda Wyss
  • Johnny Depp
  • Jsu Garcia
  • Charles Fleischer
  • Joseph Whipp
  • Robert Englund
  • Lin Shaye

Writer:

  • Wes Craven

Producer:

  • Robert Shaye

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