Much like the creatively-bankrupt revival of last year's FRIDAY THE 13TH, Platinum Dunes's horror remake specialty has finally gone an all-time low with this unnecessary re-imagining of Wes Craven's 1984 classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. What's even more shocking is that this is the worst NIGHTMARE movies ever made, so bad that those lesser sequels in the past are much more entertaining.
It begins with an uninteresting, lengthy prologue where we first introduced to sleep-deprived classmate Dean Russell (Kellan Lutz) who spends his night time at the local Springwood Diner to stay awake. But no matter how hard he tries, he can't stop having nightmare about a mysterious-looking burnt man who wears a pair of gloves with razor blades acted as fingers. The particular burnt man turns out to be powerful enough to torment him in real harm, that Dean ends up struggling and plunging himself with a steak knife into his own throat and dies. Fellow classmates, Kris (Katie Cassidy) and Nancy (Rooney Mara) are there, witnessing the shocking incident that they can't believe their eyes what they have just seen. Then during the funeral, Kris discovers a photo of her and Dean together as children, in which she has no memory whatsoever other than knowing him at the high school. So she determines to find out the truth and starts doing some investigation of her own. Apparently she and Nancy, along with Kris's boyfriend Jesse (Thomas Dekker) and pill-popping Quentin (Kyle Gallner), are all having nightmares about the same person. They also discovered that if they die in their nightmare, they die for real. And it's doesn't take long before everything is connected to the murky past -- many years ago, the parents in their small town found out that Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), the groundskeeper at a local pre-school, had been doing terrible things to the children. Because of Freddy's immoral action, they tracked him down and burned him alive. But now Freddy is back, and he wants revenge against the kids who have grown up so he can kill them during their nightmares.
Originally conceived as a prequel to the 1984 original, the idea was dropped in favor for a run-of-the-mill slasher formula that is nothing more than a generic redux of the past installments. Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer's screenplay is shockingly dull, relying too much on expository scenarios to keep the narrative flowing while lacking any worthy characters and effective thrills altogether. Not even the inclusion of a backstory about Freddy's origin manages to rise above the occasion. Worst still, the creative energy during the nightmare sequences that always makes the NIGHTMARE installment all the more guilty-pleasure entertainment to watch for, are painfully routine and hate to say this -- creatively-bankrupt. Element of suspense are random at best, especially the fact that first-time feature director Samuel Bayer (a music-video veteran who once made the popular Nirvana's Smells Like a Teen Spirit) doesn't know a single clue about elaborate set pieces and sustaining a momentum. Steve Jablonsky's music score is terribly unimaginative, and the brief recall of original composer Charles Bernstein's central theme serves more of an afterthought. Some of the original's tribute are included as well, but fails terribly in comparison -- iconic moments by the likes of the bathtub scene, the bloodbath bedroom murder, and of course the scene where Freddy's head emerges against the wall of Nancy's bedroom -- doesn't evoke any sense of worthy thrills at all.
All the teenage cast are strictly cardboard cutouts and very forgettable. Rooney Mara, who plays Nancy, is sadly reduced to a pathetic figure here -- an absolute far-cry to the original Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp) who is more resourceful, strong-willed and butt-kicking girl. The adults, in the meantime, are very wasted as well with Connie Britton's thankless role as Nancy's mother and Clancy Brown's less-than-enthusiastic performance as Quentin's school principal father.
What's left in (perhaps) the only redeeming quality of this otherwise dull movie is Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Freddy Krueger. At least, he's a spot-on to play such a role even though there's no denying that Robert Englund's iconic performances in the original movie series remains unsurpassed. Still, it's sad to know that Haley's monotone delivery lacks the playful or threatening vibe that Englund mastered them so memorably well in the first place. It doesn't help too when Haley's special-effects makeup looks surprisingly dull and less threatening.
Coupled with an anti-climactic finale and a (yawn) ending that opens the door for future sequel, this terrible remake is a wasted effort. Someone should tell the filmmakers to change the tagline of Don't Fall Asleep to Do Fall Asleep.