Regarding the new teen slasher-flick "A Nightmare on Elm Street," you probably aren't wondering: How's the acting? Not bad, actually, nor is the screenplay.
That marks two differences between this remake and Wes Craven's 1984 original, an iconic horror film that focused almost entirely on visuals - breathing walls, quicksand staircases and other dream-visions. Over the decades, these ideas have been stolen and resold (sometimes by Craven) and their novelty is long gone. The new "Nightmare" takes a smarter approach to them: It elaborates.
The premise remains the same: In a Midwestern suburb, several teenagers are plagued by dreams of a disfigured man with knives for fingers. When some of these friends end up dead, Nancy (Rooney Mara) and Quentin (Kyle Gallner) band together to solve the mystery. They're sullen, artsy outsiders; in this post-"Twilight" era, the hotties no longer survive the longest.
Director Samuel Bayer, who directed Nirvana's video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (itself a kind of horror movie) avoids MTV-style jump-cuts. He seems genuinely intrigued by the script, which fleshes out Craven's original skeletal themes of children, parents and savagery. At times, it almost feels like a Gothic drama.
But it's not, of course, mainly because of the cartoonish, blade-fingered Freddy Krueger, played by Jackie Earle Haley instead of Robert Englund (stepping down after seven "nightmare" movies). Haley is admirably intense and jittery, but Krueger still can't be taken seriously - he's no scarier than an Iron Maiden album cover.
The film ends much like the first: wide open for a sequel, and perhaps another. This "Nightmare" may continue.