Saw the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street last night with Emily. I've loved the original since I first saw it in grade school and when the remake was announced I was less than thrilled, to say the least, especially when hearing that Robert Englund would not be reprising his role of Freddy, making this the first time any actor other than Englund would play the role. As previews were realeased, however, I started to get more excited for it! The new makeup for Freddy looked very promising. Less sinister, perhaps, than Englund's had been, but more realistic with melted features and missing lips. The movie looked like it was going deeper into the science of sleep as well, as the previews introduced the idea of micro naps (when an insomniac's brain shuts down part of itself for regeneration without the person's knowledge so that they can be dreaming even though they're awake) for the first time in the whole series which looked like it would add an excellent element to the story.
What I saw last night, however, was an overall disappointment.
My greatest fear when this sequel was announced was that they would weaken the script, and especially the character of Nancy. The script from the original was really and truly, in my opinion, phenomenal. The characters were very well developed so that you really cared whether they lived or died, they felt like real people, and the pacing as the audience slowly finds out more about Freddy and what he's doing to these kids was fantastic. One of my absolute favorite things in the original was that it showed the victims' parents and friends reacting to their deaths. This is an excellent detail which should really be included in more horror movies. It makes the situation so much more realistic, gives the deaths more emotional power, and helps bond the audience with the characters more.
In this film, however, the characters have brief and shallow "grief" over their friends' deaths. Typically a single scene in which they shed a few tears or shout angrily, followed by moving on. None of the relationships felt even remotely real, especially the relationship (friends? acquaintances? cousins?) between Kris (this film's Tina) and Nancy. Their first scene together seems to suggest that they might be friends, but every interaction after that encounter suggests nothing more than mere classmates. Nacny's reaction to Kris' death (she pretty much had none, oher than to accuse Kris' boyfriend of killing her) only proves that their relationship was practically non-existant.
Speaking of Nancy, this was the movie's greatest crime against the original. Not its greatest crime as a movie, that came from utterly lacking tension and interesting characters, but it was a travesty to even give this new character the name of one of Horror's strongest heroines.
Nancy Thompson was a phenomenal character in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street who was played with incredible strength and charm by Heather Langenkamp. She was a realistic teenager who loved her friends and, driven by anguish over their deaths and her own will to survive, became a formidable adversary for Freddy. She fought harder and smarter than any female character I've ever seen in a slasher flick and had fantastic characterization. New Nancy (Holbrook, this time) gets practically no screentime for the first 30-45 minutes of the film, and what she does get is perfectly inconsequential and unsubstantial. She has been watered down and weakened to the point where truly any actress could step in and play her this time around. The actress who does, Rooney Mara, is fine, but has pretty much nothing to work with. The fault of this character weakness is about 80% script and 20% actress. Tall, thin, pretty Rooney has the substance and strength of a China doll, both in her physical appearance and her acting.
Now who do you think has the power to actually be an adversary for Freddy? Also, if you're wondering about the hat Rooney's wearing, New!Nancy is artsy and draws dark pictures constantly. If you're wondering if this is an insight into her troubled soul, well, your guess is as good as mine. They never talk about the subjects of her drawings, Nancy is just shown drawing them every time she's being irrelevant to the story.
The only thing I really found enjoyable in this film was Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy. He did a fantastic job and, though he lacked the psychotic glee that Robert Englund brought to the role, he was sometimes frightening and powerful. The movie relied on jump scares, as opposed to real horror, but there was one truly horrifying scene which occurred just after Freddy kills one of the boys. We see him die in the real world, then we go back into his dream where Freddy has him hanging in the boiler room and whispers do him "Did you know that after the heart stops, the brain continues living for up to seven minutes? We've got six more minutes to play." That thought was bone-chilling and was thankfully left to the imagination which kept the film from resorting to a gorefest and gave the scene a more lasting power.