With films like “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” already receiving the Hollywood retouch, it should be no surprise to horror fans to see the rebirth of Freddy Krueger and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise.
The latest remake proves to be a mixed bag - it’s a solid film that should please its hardcore fan base, but won’t likely convert anyone who wasn’t already a fan of the franchise.
“Elm Street” tells the story of a handful of teenagers being stalked in their dreams by a mysterious burnt man with a red and green sweater and a glove with blades. They slowly begin to realize that this man, Krueger (played by Jackie Earle Haley), is haunting them for a reason, and that when he kills you in your dreams, you die for good.
I’ve always been a fan of the series, which for the most part has delivered, and can remember being unable to sleep for a week after seeing the original.
I don’t think this version will cause too many nightmares, but it does capture the overall vibe of the series effectively. Director Samuel Bayer, who has a background in music videos, has constructed a film with some solid sequences that bring familiarity, but don’t really bring anything that hasn’t been done in the previous “Elm Street” films.
The unknown actors who play the teens (including Quentin O’Grady, Nancy Holbrook and Kris Fowles) are also solid, but no one really stands out. It’s as if the characters names could have been victims No. 1, No. 2 and so on and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
But you could probably say that with the entire series, since Krueger (originally played by Robert Englund) has always been the heart and soul of the film’s success. Haley proves to be a decent Krueger, not quite as wisecracking but every bit as menacing. Like everything else in the remake, he doesn’t exactly bring anything original to the project, although I did like the addition of a dark back story that painted Krueger in a more sinister and evil manner.
While I have reservations overall about the latest “Elm Street,” I think it’s a film that succeeds within its own boundaries. For that it deserves faint praise. It’s definitely the best of the recent horror remakes, but I wish the film could have tried to be a little more original and relied less on a familiar formula to get by.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is the Mel Gibson thriller “Edge of Darkness” (B-), an enjoyable enough revenge flick that offers a little more than your standard action fare. This is a film that has its crowd-pleasing moments, but also has a little substance beneath the surface that makes it pretty compelling, too.
Gibson, in his first starring role after an eight-year absence, plays Thomas Craven, a Boston homicide detective and single father whose world is turned upside down when his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is killed on the front steps of his home.
At first it appears that he was the intended target, but the more Thomas looks into the shooting, the more the pieces come together, pointing to a government conspiracy involving Emma and her employer.
Anyone who has seen the ads for “Darkness” knows this is a film and a role catered to Gibson’s strengths - he plays a man pushed to the edge who takes no prisoners in his quest for the truth.
Gibson channels his inner “Lethal Weapon” and has a few crowd-pleasing moments, although I think people may be surprised at how little action there is in “Darkness.”
Instead, the film veers into a conspiracy film, with the pieces of the puzzle slowly coming together. By taking the story in this direction, the makers of “Darkness” took a calculated gamble that I think paid off.
The conspiracy plot allows British actor Ray Winstone to enter the film as a gun-for-hire who normally stops people from uncovering the truth, but has opted to help steer Thomas in the right direction.
The scenes with Winstone and Gibson have snap - they are easily the best part of “Edge of Darkness.” It’s those moments, when the film shows depth and substance that is rare in big-budget action films, that make it just good enough to separate itself from the ever-growing pack of mediocre thrillers.
“Edge of Darkness” is rated R for strong bloody violence and language and will be available Tuesday on DVD.