Platinum Dunes has made a very successful career out of messing up other people's classics. Sure, they showed promise back in '03 with the surprisingly taut Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, but ever since then, they've hardly made a watchable movie. Now, we're supposed to trust them with what is perhaps one of the most respected and seminal horror franchises of the past 20 years?
Needless to say, I was dreading this movie and I gotta tell you that I was sort of surprised.
Anyone notice that they removed Nancy's legs?
The new Nightmare starts with a bang as Dean (thespianally challenged Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz) kills himself in front of his friends, but the general consensus is that he was murdered by a ghoul who has been visiting the whole group in their dreams.
"Uhhhh...what's my line?"
Cutie pie Kris (a stellar Katie Cassidy) decides to play Nancy Drew and find out why they all share the same strange dreams. She's joined by her boyfriend Jesse (The Sarah Connor Chronicle's and all around great actor Thomas Dekker) and resident school "alternative kids" Nancy (fresh faced sweetie Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Haunting in Connecticut's amazing Kyle Gallner.)
From here on out, it pretty much plays out just like the first film with our likeable teens discovering the horrific truth about why they are having these deadly dreams as they race against the clock to beat the vengeful dream demon, Freddy Krueger (the brilliant Jackie Earle Haley.)
There's no denying that the ensemble cast is one of the better, more realistic groups of teens we've seen on the screen in quite soon time. Compare them to the impossibly annoying casts of Friday the 13th and Prom Night and you'll find these kids damn near Oscar worthy. The sad part is that they really have very little work with. The script is one of the weaker elements of the film and no matter how hard everyone involved tries, it's something none of them can overcome.
For once, a remake shows enough backstory to not keep us in the dark, but not enough to bore us to tears (Black Christmas '06, I'm talking to you!) Jackie Earle Haley is a sufficiently spooky and pervy Krueger, but his performance can never take flight due to scripting issues. At least they keep him in the dark most of the time. He's still the scariest Freddy has been in a long time.
As my friend Nina would say "Ew! I mean, it just looks like he'd smell really bad!"
It's nice to see seasoned actors like Clancy Brown and Connie Britton as two of the parents harboring their dark secret. They play it like pros and I love 'em for it, although how can one not miss John Saxon's hard ass Lt. Thompson and Ronee Blakley's hilariously camp alcoholic mama Marge?
I love me some Marge!
The other big problem is that the film just goes a bit too fast for my liking. We all know what's happening from the 3 minute mark. The original film took it's time to build the dread and slowly explain just what was really going on. It felt more mysterious and spooky that way.
I must also mention that the most of the moments recreated from the original film never seem to work here. They've recreated Tina's ceiling death, the body bag in the hallway, the glove in the bathtub, Freddy coming through the wall behind Nancy, but all, besides the body bag bit, fail miserably. Don't get me started on how terrible Freddy coming though the wall looks. Let's compare shall we.
Hmmmm...which is creepier? Let me think!
Actually, the newfangled body bag scene is pretty disturbing.
Ick! C'mon, that's creepy!
They should've just stuck with something altogether new, because the first 30 minutes or so are all, for the most part, completely brand new material besides a few nods to the original here and there. For my money, this is the most successful part of the film. Yes, it goes too fast as I previously mentioned, but at least it seems like it's trying to be its own movie. Plus, Katie Cassidy makes for a very likeable heroine. Not to get too far off track, but I really do love Katie Cassidy. She was the best thing about that retched When A Stranger Calls remake (she should have gotten the lead in that disasterpiece!)
Scream Queen in the making? I think so!
Once we get to the end, we start to get more new material as well, namely the "micronaps" element which adds a good deal of tension to the proceedings. I also quite liked a scene where Nancy and Quentin inject themselves with a syringe of adrenaline. There's also a great nightmare sequence where Kris falls asleep in class and all her classmates explode into piles of dust.
Seriously, guys, for a Platinum Dunes remake, this isn't bad at all, but as a remake of a classic horror film, it falls short. It's o.k., though, cause I think we were all expecting it to. Still, the atmosphere reeks of dread, just about all of the perfectly timed jump scares work pretty damn well, and a few new plot elements, namely the "micronaps" gimmick, add a new layer of suspense. It really feels more like a sequel that should be somewhere between Freddy's Revenge and Dream Warriors.
It's worth at least a rental on a rainy Friday night. You can do MUCH worse! Even Marge thinks so!
7 out of 10 syringes full of adrenaline!