One thing about me, I'm hopelessly optimistic. Most of the time. Not recently, but that's another story. When word came out Platinum Dunes was remaking a classic 80s horror staple, I let out a huge groan. "Oh, here we go again," I complained. Michael Bay's moniker did nothing to alleviate my anxiety. And yet, deep down, I was hopeful. I was hopeful that PD would learn from mistakes past, I was hopeful they would stop counting their money long enough to realize they had another real opportunity to produce something of quality--not just another entry in the genre canon, but a film that could actually breathe new life into a dead franchise, exploring newer and darker territories.
Think about it. Freddy Krueger, the Springwood Slasher. A man burned alive at the hands of an angry mob who exacts vengeance upon his killers' children. He stalks them in their dreams, when they are at their most vulnerable. It's an excellent parallel to the crimes he committed when he lived--child molestation and murder. Dressed in a Christmas sweater, he's the antithesis of jolly ol' Saint Nick; Freddy sees you when you're sleeping and kills you before you wake. He enters your dream and makes it his own, twisting your subconscious to suit his desire. Your fear gives him strength and you victimize yourself by trying to stay awake.
The original NOES touched on a number of these points, and as the franchise grew, Freddy's character devolved. At first he was a frightening apparition, but toward the end he was better known by fans for his quips and one-liners. A new Freddy for a new century would reclaim some of that original flavour, as horror villains have grown darker and more sadistic over the years. Jackie Earle Haley is a strong actor with enough presence and weight to carry a true villain. Unfortunately he's got nothing to work with. PD's remake is dark and unrelenting, but there's no counterbalance, nothing to offset the terror. Freddy is not facing off against teens, he's competing with their angst.
What made the first slashers so scary, it wasn't just the jump scares. It was the setting--idyllic, comfortable, beautiful, and mutated by evil. It was the people--ordinary, boring, and capable of finding strength in unlikely places in order to just keep on living. And it was the story, building to something truly unreal. The new NOES has none of that. Springwood is not a character in and of itself, and we never get to connect with actual characters in the movie. The film is nothing more than a series of death scenes, loosely tied together with the flimsiest of plots. Maximizing jump scares, inciting incident and rising action are sacrificed for the sake of screen time for Freddy. He is the best thing about this movie, but his character is wasted in this film.
I was a fool to think it would be otherwise.