After seven of his own films and a title fight against Jason Voorhees, the man of your dreams has returned to his old stomping grounds. While it may not be exactly the same Freddy Krueger (now played by Jackie Earle Haley) you remember from the original line of Elm Street films (played deliciously by Robert Englund), he’s still cut from the same cloth. Leave it to Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes to manage to try to reinvent something while only managing to pay homage.
Samuel Bayer may be making his debut film with this reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street but it’s nowhere near as bad as people have been saying. Instead of coming up with something completely new, Bayer and his screenwriters (Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer) decide to spend their time rehashing not just the first film, but almost all of the past Elm Street films.
With a pre-credit dream/death sequence that sets the right tone at least, we meet Freddy’s first victim, Dean (Kellan Lutz). While sitting in Springwood Diner drinking cup after cup of black coffee, he still manages to doze off only to wake up with a slice on his hand from Freddy’s razored glove. Kris (Katie Cassidy) sits down to chat with Dean to find out why he hasn’t been sleeping but not before Dean falls asleep again and appears to slice his own throat while repeating, “You’re not real.”
Kris isn’t the only witness to Dean’s dispatching as Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara), inexplicably name-changed from Nancy Thompson, is a waitress at the local diner. But if you thought Nancy was the main character, you have to wait a few more deaths and even then she never once feels like the heroine of this new Nightmare. First we have to slog through Kris having her own dreams about Freddy and things that go bump in her attic. She could have some skeletons in her closet but Freddy manages to kill her before even she learns the truth.
Finally, Nancy begins sharing her truths about her sleeping issues with her new friend Quentin (Kyle Gallner). Quentin has an unrequited love for Nancy who continually asks her to hang out with the group of friends but Nancy feels like she doesn’t fit in. After a few more deaths and some parental confrontations with Quentin’s father (Clancy Brown) and Nancy’s mother (Connie Britton), Nancy and Quentin learn that they all used to attend the same preschool when they were five years old.
You see, at Badham Preschool there was a groundskeeper named Willie… er, Freddy. The children share the news that he has been taking them to a special “cave” where he abuses the preschoolers. Upon learning this, the local townsfolk chase him into an abandoned, highly flammable hideout and proceed to throw a flaming gasoline tank through the window and light Freddy on fire where he rips off his jacket to reveal the red- and green-striped sweater we all know and love come Halloween time. Where the fedora comes from we’ll never know; maybe he killed Indiana Jones in one of his own dreams. Do I smell one of the weirdest spin-offs ever?
At first, Nancy and Quentin assume that maybe Freddy is after them because their parents declared martial law on an innocent man. Very quickly the film stops playing fair as we never know whether the teens are awake or asleep and they suddenly begin taking micro-naps that the audience is supposed to remember them mentioning a half hour ago while having the requisite insomnia research sequence. Soon the two remaining teens learn the truth about Freddy and figure out the only way to put an end to his reign of terror is to bring him into the real world and battle it out.