Freddy Krueger, the maniac with the melted face and steel hand, has haunted audiences for 26 years.
Since the first Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, there have been eight films, a television show, novels and even comic books. The new film is an attempt to re-boot the franchise and introduce Freddy to a new generation. He is still as psychotic and blood-thirsty but his trademark witticisms seem labored and even the ominous clink-clank of his claw is now a bit of a bore.
The grand narrative twist of the Elm Street franchise has been that Freddy kills you in your sleep. You first have a nightmare of him slicing and dicing your body parts and then inevitably, the nightmare becomes a reality.
The film begins with a young, drowsy boy slitting his own throat. The only way to escape Freddy is by staying awake but after a few days, his victims are so sleep-deprived that they start to inhabit a surreal, in-between world, in which they aren?t really sure about what is a dream and what is real.
At one point, one girl burns herself to stay awake. This play on such a basic human need is genuinely frightening and grotesque. So are Freddy?s first few appearances.
Director Samuel Bayer uses sound effectively and makes you jump. But the fun wears off very quickly. Slasher films aren?t driven by logic or performances but by pure sensation. Their sole purpose is to provide a roller-coaster ride through body parts and blood that makes you scream and laugh in quick succession. Unfortunately Elm Street manages neither.
Bayer, who has directed iconic videos such as Nirvana?s Smells Like Teen Spirit, creates some memorably creepy visuals ? at one point, Freddy pushes through the walls of a girl?s bedroom and at another, the floor changes into a swamp of blood as she walks through it.
But the story is so tired that visuals simply can?t prop it up. Beyond a point, both the characters on screen and viewers are struggling with the same problem: how to stay awake.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is more fatiguing than frightening. Only for die-hard Freddy fans.