Beware the “jump cut,” that cheap scare tactic that involves the sudden appearance of a person or object in the frame, usually accompanied by a loud, startling screech on the soundtrack.

In horror movies, this device is the first and last refuge of the desperate; it’s the means by which a director who has no idea how to build tension attempts to fool an audience into thinking that’s he’s scaring them. But when the same tactic is hauled out 10, 15, even 20 times — as it is in the mechanical new remake of Wes Craven’s classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street” — it ceases being startling and soon turns laughable. Is this really the best they could come up with?

Alas, it is. Directed by Samuel Bayer, a music video specialist making his feature debut, this new nightmare doesn’t reinvent the franchise, in the manner of Marcus Nispel’s evocative and stylish “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003). (Both of those films, as well as last year’s “Friday the 13th,” were produced by Michael Bay, the director of “Armageddon” and “Transformers,” among many other spectacles of crunching metal).

Instead, Bayer and screenwriters Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer take us through the paces of a very familiar retread, replaying the most famous moments from the original. The underwear-clad girl who gets slashed to death while thrashing in midair is here, as are those catatonic-seeming children who chant a terrifying nursery rhyme in gauzily lit flashbacks — but there’s nothing resembling a fresh perspective or a driving purpose.

Once again, a beautiful teenager named Nancy (Rooney Mara) is plagued by terrifying nightmares, in which a gruesome figure with a scarred face and metallic razors in place of fingers stalks her. When a number of Nancy’s friends are killed in their sleep, after reporting similar visions of this menacing weirdo, Nancy comes to realize that she can’t allow herself to fall asleep, lest this monster make her his next victim.

The original film was a deliberately low-rent affair, filmed in less than two months for less than $2 million; it had one foot in the ’70s underground exploitation cinema tradition of “I Spit on Your Grave,” and the other in the ’80s slasher tradition of “Friday the 13th.”

But Bayer, with his cheesy jump cuts and buckets of gushing blood, never establishes what he’s trying to do with this remake — it plays like every interchangeable horror movie of the last 20 years (most of them inspired by the original “Nightmare”) about impossibly good-looking teenagers struggling against deadly forces beyond their control.

Then there’s the matter of Freddy: As played by Robert Englund in the original (and in a series of surprisingly effective sequels, including 1987’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” and 1994’s “New Nightmare”), Freddy Krueger — the man behind all of this wrongdoing — emerged as one of the greatest villains in movie history; a serial child murderer with bugged-out eyes sunken into his melted, scaly skin, and a wicked, transgressive cackle that seemed to suggest he was taking an almost sexual pleasure in violence.

But as played by Jackie Early Haley (“Little Children”) in the remake, Freddy now has a more ordinary backstory (instead of murdering young children, he molested them) and a less interesting look (the make-up turns him less into a burned human than a marauding zombie) — and not even a hint of sinister charm.

Meanwhile, those terrifying razor-fingers, which launched a million and one Halloween costumes a quarter-century ago, are so carelessly employed that you wonder if the filmmakers only remembered to include them midway through production. At least the similarly rote “Friday the 13th” remake managed to do something clever with Jason’s pitchfork.

The other actors running around here, including (briefly) Kellan Lutz of “Twilight” fame as one of Nancy’s friends and Connie Britton of TV’s “Friday Night Lights” as her mother, make little impression. Most crushing (at least for those of us dumb enough to get our hopes up for this remake) is how little the Elm Street of the title plays a role.

In the original, Craven conjured up an American Nowheresville in which the sins of one generation were spreading like weeds on a perfectly manicured lawn and destroying the sunshine-filled lives of the next generations. In 2010, we get a quick shot of an Elm Street street sign, though it’s not entirely clear which of the characters even live on this street — and then it’s back to those jump cuts and thudding shrieks on the soundtracks. This movie sets a new standard for laziness.


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