The creators behind the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street have claimed that the film is a reimagining of the classic, and not just a replica. This is true. They have gone back to the drawing board, cut away what the made the original so enjoyable, and churned out a derivative, by-the-book horror film that only the most hardcore gorehounds will enjoy.
Nightmare tells the story of the iconic Freddy Krueger, a child molester who is hunted down and burned alive for his crimes. A decade or so later he reappears in the nightmares of his victims to enact bloody revenge. The victims, now teenagers, struggle to stay awake as they unravel the mystery behind Krueger and search for a way to stop him.
Nightmare on Elm Street fails as both a remake and a standalone horror film. The intentional campiness and absurdity of the original film is gone. To his credit, Jackie Earle Haley does an effective job with what he's given, but he still doesn't transcend the generic slasher archetype. He's psychotic and he wants to kill everyone. Does this even fit within the child molester profile? This is not my area of expertise, but when does a child molester make the jump to full-blown murderer? I will submit that being murdered yourself probably changes you a bit, but stomping around in people's nightmares and slicing people open with bladed fingers seems like much more than petty revenge.
Back in the real world, things make even less sense. We're introduced to the concept of micro-naps. Microsleep is a real thing, but during an interview about the film, screenwriter Eric Heisserer claimed to have invented micro-naps. So I assume they took some liberties with the real science behind microsleep, real as it may be. The bizarreness of the situation doesn't really sink in until it's put into practice. One character sees a grisly scene while seemingly wide awake. Another character explains it with the line "you're having micro-naps."
There's the absurdity I was looking for. It was just misplaced.
But what are micro-naps, really? They're a lazy plot device that allows the characters to be affected outside of the dreamworld. Was falling asleep not a dangerous enough prospect? Does Freddy have somewhere so important to be that he just can't wait any longer? Not to mention that micro-naps drastically change the entire story. The looming threat of inevitable sleep has been rendered ineffective. The struggle to stay awake feels pointless if the characters are powerless to stop the dreaded micro-naps.
Another thing that baffled me was how the secondary characters were so unwilling to except the idea that something strange is happening, when people are dying in seemingly impossible circumstances. But that's a widespread problem with the genre, not just this film in particular. Still, it's an easily avoidable problem and Nightmare fell victim to it.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a bad film. The creators sought to reintroduce Freddy Krueger to a new generation and they did so in the worst possible way, displaying him as another completely interchangeable horror antagonist. There's nothing interesting about him or any of the characters in the film, so regardless of who is killing who, you'll be yawning.
Oh, there's also a part where a kid falls asleep while swimming laps in a pool. But to fair, it could have been a micro-nap.
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