Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street


The most imaginatively conceived of 1980s horror franchises, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" degenerated fast after Wes Craven's '84 original, as Robert Englund's Freddy Krueger became a standup ghoul dispensing limp wisecracks to teens in baroque death throes. Thus, it seemed possible a reboot might be more corrective than redundant -- especially with the inspired choice of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy 2.0. Alas, little about New Line's return to the well delivers on that promise. Nevertheless, fan anticipation should mean big biz, even if this new "Nightmare" has as tough a time re-raising the tentpole as other recent slasher retrofits.


Haley's startling comeback turn as a repulsive yet pathetic pederast in "Little Children" three years ago certainly qualified him to breathe new life into the striped sweater of this child-abusing villain. (The closest thing to a significant update in Wesley Strick and Eric Hessler's script is the shift in cultural paranoias: Instead of a dead child murderer, Freddy is now a dead child molester who worked at a preschool, and whose victims recover repressed memories of trauma.)


Wearing more realistic extreme-burn-victim makeup and afforded longer pre-ghoul flashbacks in order to play the role straight (at least until some de rigueur lame puns later on), Haley still doesn't get the chance to lend Freddy genuinely creepy dimension. Just one scene as quietly, insidiously suggestive as the actor's car date with Jane Adams in "Children" would have been a game-changer.


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