In the world of slasher villains, I am more prone to cite Michael Myers as the greatest of them all. I am not a Freddy Krueger guy, although I respect Robert Englund and all he did to make that character iconic. I think that is the reason why I didn't hate the new Nightmare on Elm Street as much as everyone else seemed to; although there are a fair amount of flaws and dull moments, the acting by Jackie Earle Haley and the visuals are strong enough to keep this ship from sinking.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you the plot to this, but I guess I will anyway: in a small town, a group of kids all begin to have the same nightmares involving a burned-up man known as Freddy (Haley). This sucks enough, but soon enough, these kids begin dying off because as it turns out, this weird man has the power to kill them as they dream in violent and grisly ways. And when they die in their dreams, they die "for realz". As the movie goes on, it begins to zero in on outsiders Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara), who try to find the truth behind the mysterious Freddy while doing whatever possible to stay awake and avoid death.
Unlike the film series before it, which headed into campy territory making Freddy more of a lovable goof as opposed to a scary serial killer, the Samuel Bayer-directed A Nightmare on Elm Street goes back to its roots. This is an attempt at pure unadulterated slasher horror and for the most part it succeeds. However, the thrills presented are nothing that will stick. Jump scares are the name of the game here, and they are plentiful. For people susceptible to cheap scares, who jump out the seat easy, will be freaking out through the course of the 95 minutes (like, say, a really handsome reviewer who didn't realize how easily scared he was).
Haley is the best choice anyone could have made for the role of Freddy Krueger, and he is excellent at it after honing his "creepy" persona with roles in Little Children and Watchmen. He stalks, leers, and kills with precision and all the horror fans should at least be happy they got someone competent to take over the role. The two leads, Gallner and Mara, are actually pretty decent for a horror movie, especially Gallner who I found myself rooting for. Although Mara supposedly has the bigger role, she had moments of horrible dialogue and character development that made me not like her performance as much. Gallner, on the other hand, is a good "white knight" to Mara's character and he is more sympathetic. The adults of the story, played by Clancy Brown and Connie Britton, are good as well but they are barely in it and only show up to further the plot. Brown is always awesome though and he is actually creepier than Freddy at points.
A Nightmare on Elm Street does have some flaws though. For the first twenty minutes of the movie, it focuses on completely different teenagers and makes it look like it's going to be a completely different movie. It begins as an ensemble and after twenty minutes, it becomes just about two characters. At the same time, I don't mind because Katie Cassidy, who plays the blonde girl you see in the trailer, is absolutely terrible. Some of the dialogue is a little suspect as well, and part of the plot revolves around finding a picture of all the people and crossing them out a la Final Destination which felt really stupid. As Quentin and Nancy try to search for the truth, the movie hits a standstill and gets really boring. It's like they just shot their load with the kills early on, killing the pace.
My biggest complaint had to do with Freddy himself. Although Haley was excellent, there is a tonal shift in the third act and he starts busting out one-liners. I was under the impression this was supposed to be a more "scary" movie, and having him all of a sudden start playing around was a little awkward and didn't feel natural.
A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't horrible, but it isn't great; it's merely passable. There are some good scares, good kills, and Haley does a great job as the new Freddy Krueger. Still, the slow pacing and dumb story elements kept this from being as good as it possibly could have been. If you're a fan of the old series, you will probably hate this and even though it's been awhile, I'd recommend the original over this. However, if you compare this with the crap show that was last year's Friday the 13th remake, A Nightmare on Elm Street is definitely one of the better horror remakes.