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'Nightmare on Elm Street' remake a nightmare for all the wrong reasons

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Last year, Platinum Dunes decided it would update the legacy of Jason Voorhees  with a Friday the 13th  "Nightmare On Elm Street." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.update. That film was inept, but because money talks, the infamous studio is back again to take on another horror classic. Now it should come as little surprise that the anticipated desecration of Wes Craven’s  stunningly original A Nightmare on Elm Street  is inferior to the 80’s classic. It is however, surprising just how badly the whole affair turned out. Director Samuel Bayer  does opt to follow Craven’s original blueprint more carefully than other recent reboots (Rob Zombie, are you listening), but this remake still never finds its footing.

The film opens in a diner where a zombified teen (Kellan Lutz) is desperately trying to stay awake. He is one of a group of teens are terrorized in their dreams by a man with a burnt face and razors for fingers. That burnt face belongs to none other than Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), an alleged child molester that was brought to vigilante justice by the children’s parents many years back. They tracked him down and set him on fire, and now their offspring are reaping the consequences, one by one. Somehow he has managed a way to kill the teenagers in reality through their dreams. When the group realizes that they are connected, it is up to them to find out why and how they can stop the demon before he slices up every last one of them.

"Nightmare on Elm Street." Photo courtesy of Wanrner Bros.The story and visuals that made the original so scary are there, but none of the magic has translated. Director Bayer attempts to pay homage to the original by lifting entire sequences from that film, and truthfully, they are the only set pieces that register as interesting or effective. The film attempts to do a bit more with the back-story of Krueger’s legacy, but none of it adds up to much in the end. The recreated dream sequences drastically lack the creative touch that Wes Craven injected into the original.

The cast, as aforementioned, are uniformly terrible, some getting by on their attractive looks and screen presence. The original certainly didn’t win any awards in the acting department, but the performances in the remake are so wooden and awful that they ascend into levels of unintentional camp. Nancy (Rooney Mara), who was the heroine of the original film, does reprise a role in the remake, but the actress lacks any sense of presence and the character is vastly underdeveloped. Bayer doesn’t help by filming the actors in countless close-ups, which just magnifies their flaws.

As for Haley, who takes on Robert Englund’s  iconic Freddy Krueger role, he steps into it with confidence. His monster still lacks the edge that Craven’s/Englund’s did, but he is appropriately nasty and vile. Most of the weaknesses here come from the distracting CGI effects on his face and the decision to retain some of his wise-ass one liners, a cartoonish trait that the series developed in later entries.

In the end, the A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 remake is generally another failed attempt to recreate a classic. The movie is visually impressive, and the audience will likely leap out of their seats at the strategically placed scares. Perhaps it’s easily digestible slasher junk food, but as a reinterpretation of hallowed horror material, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a failure.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com