Most people aren't going to like the new Nightmare on Elm Street for several reasons. The main one being we are allergic to change. The second one being that the boundaries crossed are a little too uncomfortable to handle. While I did find much of it to be problematic, I did find a lot of the changes to be interesting and actually helpful to the overall story of the original. Maybe this is all due to my new outlook on remakes, but I didn't think the film was as bad as everyone is hoping it will be. As I've said before, a good remake should take the original and improve on things that maybe did not reach their full potential on the first go. The basic story line may survive but things need to be changed or else we're just watching the same exact movie only with CGI blood. Some changes were welcomed, others were strange and some were downright ridiculous--but they were changes and it could have been worse. Much worse.
Our plot is basically the same only Nancy is changed into a moody, artistic, stringy haired girl who may or may not have suffered from self inflicted wounds at some point. There is one main difference; the question of Freddy's innocence. Instead of simply scaring and killing the kids in their dreams, Freddy has become more resourceful and uses his dreams as a way to give them clues to his past and theirs. An interesting premise and one that gives Freddy a much welcomed sense of depth. I was worried at first that we would get a Rob Zombie style dose of too much backstory on our villain--but the measurement turned out to be just right. We don't find out what made Freddy, Freddy--but we do get to see him before he became Freddy...if that makes sense. The funny thing is--he may scarier looking without the burn marks.
Here's the rub; as horror fans--we all know what it is that Freddy has done in his past, and we are forced to watch these kids grope in the dark for any kind of clue. They have no recollection of their lives as children and cannot remember anything about their preschool careers, which I found odd. Maybe I just have a stunningly great memory-but I can remember some specific details about my preschool career. Small gripes aside, the remake does make one very appreciated change and that is an explanation for why only some of the kids see Freddy in their dreams and others do not. I always found it odd in the original that only our main character's become victims of Freddy's nighttime conquests- so this was an extremely refreshing addition to our plot line. I wasn't crazy about Freddy's innocence being up in the air and I feared for the movie as soon as the possibility hung over my head. Anyone with a brain however can solve the answer to that question- and it's not really a spoiler if you pay attention to his mannerisms and witty one liners.
There are other thorns in my side- a huge one being the insanely high amount of jump scares which literally became exhausting to your heart after the first 5 happened in 10 minutes. The writing wasn't stellar, and most of the parents seemed to be strangely absent at key points in their children's lives. The CGI blood was of course less than desirable in almost all instances, and sprinklings of the newer age Freddy are evident in some of his lines and gets a little bit annoying.
None of these are as distressing as the major boundary that the movie crosses. I won't get into tons of detail until more people start seeing it- but lets just say there is something to be gained from things that are implied rather than things shoved in our faces. While it is comforting to know about Freddy's past and to understand the truth--the general feeling of ickiness was at times too much to handle. The very idea of his crime is upsetting enough, but to see it fleshed out felt pretty awful and I'm not convinced that that boundary had to be crossed.
Moving on to the good things now, there were plenty of homages and direct scene replays from the original that will have most fans smiling. I was quite distressed during the bathtub scene when the audience broke out in laughter- AND in the body bag scene (which I find to be one of the more troubling images out of the entire original film). What is it with these people? Don't they know this shit is iconic?
Then there were also plenty of new and fantastic images, all having to do with the dreams. The snow scene in particular and a pretty well done blood bath kind of sequence all had me wishing my screen grab program was wired to my eyes. Jackie Earle Haley was interesting- and while I still felt he sounded a little too cartoonish his overall sense of being was still much more serious and even darker than the Freddy we know today. One thing that I can't decide if I like or not is the extremely thin line between reality and dreams. I enjoyed how the transitions happened, but the moments where our characters were actually dreaming were such a trick. In the original you could always tell that something wasn't quite right--even if it was the tiniest of hints. Here I felt straight up deceived- just in the way that jump scares force you to be scared, so do these fake outs. But perhaps the biggest blunder in this area is--the explanation for that very problem. Our man hero searches insomnia online and comes up with a timeline. After 70 hours of no sleep our bodies begin the process of "micro naps" instances where we don't even know we are asleep. How convenient for a dishonest ploy at scaring people.
Despite all the problems I have, I do think that the movie does many interesting and good things. It's tough of course to watch a remake and not think longly of the original. I will say that it's one of the better remakes out there- although many will probably disagree. It doesn't change the story dramatically and brings some highly interesting changes to the table. Sure sleeping pills are switched out for adrenaline, and our main guy characters appear to be wearing eye liner but sometimes you have to accept the little things. Some of the images are stunning, and the movie takes things to a truly dark place that many people will not be prepared to handle. This is going to be a tough call and I'm not sure how most people will react. Just know that you have to be prepared to accept some changes. Still, there are too many jump scares for my taste.
I will say that on the way home, my subway car lost power, lurching to a stop in the middle of a tunnel, lights and power flickering and then all of a sudden gone--my heart began to race and I would imagine I have Freddy to thank for that.