It was only a matter of time in the current glut of horror remakes (Halloween, Friday 13th) until one of the undoubtedly greatest imaginings of modern horror cinema was given an update.
If anyone doesn’t know the story of Freddy Krueger then you don’t frequent the world of horror, or possibly even cinema, very often. Devised by Wes Craven in 1984, Freddy Krueger was depicted as the spirit of a child murderer, trapped in the world between dreams and reality and finding ways of bridging the gap to continue his murderous spree from beyond the grave. His iconic status grew with the subsequent sequels until Nightmare 6, when the comedic value had taken over from the shocks, leaving Freddy as a wise-cracking pop culture figure rather than the evil monster of his early years.
Then, in a stroke of genius, Wes Craven brought Freddy back from the dead in New Nightmare, a film within a film that reunited the cast of the original film as themselves, pitted against a Krueger that was no longer confined to the cinema screen but had been released into reality. This was a darker Krueger, more like that seen in Craven’s original film. Years later and Krueger reappeared in the Nightmare/Friday 13th crossover, Freddy vs. Jason, a film that fans loved and served its purpose of bringing together two of horrors greatest icons in a bloodbath showdown.
Then all went quiet on the Freddy front until an announcement that Michael Bay’s company Platinum Dunes was going to remake the original. With the success of Rob Zombie’s reimagining of Halloween, and the so-so Friday 13th remake (which while not bad added nothing of value to a pretty straight forward film franchise), the reaction to the new was mixed.
Now, finally, the wait is over and Freddy stalks the teenagers of Elm Street once more. Like the original, the teenage cast is led by Nancy, who turns out to be Freddy’s nemesis and instigator of his ultimate downfall. The five teenagers’ dreams are haunted by Freddy, and as expected one by one they find themselves being killed off in the most grisly of ways while trying to discover the secrets of who Krueger is and why he is killing them.
The story is not identical to the Wes Craven original, which is a sure-fire plus point, although there are some iconic scenes from the original to be found in it and there are more than a few passing similarities in the storyline other than just the characters. The first death scene involving one of the female cast being flung around the room as her unseen attacker slices and dices her, and the glove in the bath scene both make it into this remake, landing it somewhere between a straight remake of the original and a new take on it.
With a production team that have worked on remakes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday 13th, Amityville Horror and The Omen, as well as blockbusters Watchmen and Transformers, the film’s production is obviously in the hands of the well tread and qualified. The only dubious appointment is Samuel Bayer as director, being best known for music videos for Green Day and television commercials. As you would expect this does lead to some snappy directing, so don’t expect anything slow and unnerving but more jumpy and straight for the jugular, in your face camera work for the most part.
The cast, led by Watchmen’s Jackie Earle Hayley as Krueger and supported by the likes of Clancy Brown (Carnival, The Shawshank Redemption), Lia D Mortensen and an up and coming teenage selection play their roles well and while Haley will never overtake fan favourite Robert Englund as Krueger, he does bring something new and refreshing to the character, in both his role as the scarred demon and his human incarnation in a flashback.
In the end, any remake should be taken at face value.
Whether you were a fan of the original, a fan of Freddy or new blood to the franchise then there is something for you in here. Spot the familiar bits, compare the styles of Englund and Hayley or just go along for the ride. Whatever your opinion of the film, with Michael Bay at the helm and a legion of eager Freddy fans awaiting the release, there is little doubt that the Nightmare bandwagon is still rolling on with money spilling out in its wake.