With his dirty fedora, melted pizza-face complexion, and nasty clawed glove, Freddy Krueger nabs headlines, but this grimly rote remake reveals the unseen threat — who may be one of the greatest villains in movie history — the film's producer, Michael Bay. When not harassing Megan Fox with giant robots, the glib producer-director runs a production company called Platinum Dunes, whose specialty is bleaching old horror movies of their original creative spark. The victim this time is Wes Craven's pleasurably junky tale of an undead, dream-stalking serial killer with an endless vendetta against airheaded suburban teens. That 1984 cheapy was no masterwork, but had enough inventive energy and cynical gallows humor to rise above the slasher rank-and-file, and to spawn a near-ceaseless string of sequels and enough tacky merch to keep the shelves at Hot Topic stocked for decades. Those sequels grew ever sillier, of course, with Krueger becoming a pun-spewing jokester prone to ridiculously elaborate killing techniques, like squishing a blonde in an overgrown roach motel. Things got so out of hand, old Fred started jamming with hair-metal gods Dokken, and doing really scary stuff, like wrestling Roseanne and Tom Arnold in 3-D. Christ.
This sleek, scaled down "re-imagining" strips away the camp, and attempts to restore his Freddy as a fearsome, child-molesting demon — but drained of wit, he's an unpleasant dude.
Creepy (and great) Jackie Earle Haley ably slips into Robert Englund's striped red sweater, though his new improved makeup makes him look a bit like a frog left too long in the microwave. The update wades hip-deep into the murky mythology of the older flicks, with a more prominent backstory about a pedophile preschool groundskeeper (Freddy) who's burned to a crisp in an abandoned factory by a mob of angry parents. For obscure reasons only hinted at, Freddy returns as a malevolent specter, invading the dreams of his now-teenaged victims, to continue the cycle of abuse. Those grown-up kids are an understandably brooding lot, due to the repressed memories their vigilante parents have worked so hard to cover up. When those bad dreams literally come back to haunt them, it takes several of their friends getting sliced and diced into high school sashimi before the lead goth couple wakes up and begins to fight back at the head ghoul.
The whole experience is slicker but emptier, with a tone so gross and grimy you may need a tetanus shot afterward. Where the originals sported fun set pieces, here it's mostly a joyless sludge through grimy hallways and grungy boiler rooms, and about the scariest thing cooked up is having Freddy grind his claws across a blackboard. Wake me when it's over.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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