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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street

There's no reason why horror remakes have to be bad - they just seem to turn out that way. Unlike a lot of the recent remakes where the original's success was such a fluke that changing anything would (and does) ruin the film, Nightmare on Elm Street has a central idea strong enough to handle another swing at it.

That central idea is, of course, a monster (here burnt-up possible child-molestor Freddy Kruger, played by Jackie Earl Haley) who can kill you in your sleep: as one character puts it, "if you die in your dreams, you die in real life". The scariness comes from two directions: you have to fall alseep eventually so you can't escape, and inside your dreams anything (unpleasant) can happen. So with all that going for it, why is this remake little more than a lifeless, by-the-numbers chore to watch?

Apart from the usual fatal flaw of boring characters played by poor actors - not only are all these "teenagers" easily pushing thirty, not one of them is in the slightest bit memorable even when they're spurting blood - this film fails because it's actually too faithful to the original. The original is a classic make no mistake, but this treats the first film's set-up so reverentially that it feels like any possible originality has been strangled out of the film.

It doesn't help that most of the dream sequences are really just of the "you didn't realise you'd fallen asleep... and now you're dead" variety, with only a few moments of surreal horror to show what might have been. And with the invention of "micro-naps" (basically, you can fall asleep at any time and not know it), the film becomes yet another quick shock-packed affair rather than anything remotely disturbing. It's hardly the worst remake of recent times, but if you're going to re-do a classic you need to do better than this.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #477)

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