Diabolic Debate: The Nightmare on Elm Street Remake

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On the trailer, Jackie Earle Haley, Krueger & more

Ryan Rotten: Rob, our readers are getting downright rabid about Platinum Dunes’ Nightmare on Elm Street. Rabid, I tell ya! There’s a whole lot of fuss over this movie, especially since that AICN test screening review. And I’ll reveal this, when I check our top stories on a weekly basis, Nightmare always ranks in the top five. Go figure, because it seems to have a lot of haters. But site traffic is telling me even the haters are interested in it to some degree. Unless they’re just fascinated to watch the train wreck it could possibly be. Without a doubt, it’s the film to watch for next spring, and I’m curious as hell to see what they’ve done with Freddy Krueger, but that early review has me concerned. You and I are both children of Krueger, having been raised on the series, and since some of Shock’s readers have asked us how we felt, I thought this would be the place to spew some thoughts.

RobG: I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic, because I really, really loved that trailer. I understand die-hard fans’ concerns with anything Platinum Dunes related, and I, for the most part, agree. The only remake they’ve produced that I kind of dug was the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Friday The 13th was okay, but considering the tools they had, it should have been a much, much better movie. The drastic 60% drop after opening weekend proved that people wanted better. Had it been the kick-ass Friday The 13th we were all waiting for, we would’ve lined up and seen it three times in theaters.

With a few more months to tweak, I’m hoping Nightmare is more in the vein of Texas as opposed to Friday. And by that, I mean I hope they capture the best bits of the Nightmare series and channel it into one movie. With eight movies-worth of ideas, a TV series and tons of comics, there’s no reason not to make an awesome movie. Now, the real concern for fans is the fact that Robert Englund is no longer playing Freddy Krueger. What do you think about recasting with Jackie Earle Haley? Can Freddy truly only be portrayed by one actor as most are arguing?

Ryan: Before we get to casting… Please, Friday The 13th was a Friday the 13th film. I got nailed to the wall for my favorable review, but I stand by it. In the context of the series, the film was what it should have been – although the kills could have been punched up. It was far better than any Friday entry after Part 6. I think Platinum Dunes did fine with it. Nightmare is a different beast and needs to be more than a fun body count film and that trailer – now that I’ve seen it a few times and have processed it – doesn’t do much for me. And the reason why is it plays like a greatest hits of the first film. I know they’ve got to market it to a new generation, but I think they should have celebrated the new stuff they brought to the table – with the exception of the shots of Krueger being hunted down by the parents. So, I’m skeptical about the whole idea of rebooting it now. If you’re going to do it, give me something fresh to chew on. See, I’m open to a new Nightmare film.

I’ve told you this before, we’re living in a time where the bogeymen we’ve grown up with are getting face lifts as those bogeymen of an older generation – the Universal monster kid generation – saw Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman get revitalized during the Hammer period. We’re not necessarily going to agree with the results, but that’s what is happening and I’m keeping an open mind.

Getting to your query about Jackie Earle Haley as Krueger, I’ve been a supporter since day one. I loved him in Little Children and thought he was a great Rorschach in Watchmen. That man is incredibly talented and can bring some decent menace to the role, however, seeing someone else with the glove and sweater on is bizarre. I’ve used the analogy before, but Krueger was such an iconic dude to me growing up, it’s like coming home, and in a strange Invaders from Mars-like instance, finding your parents are not your parents anymore. They’re familiar to you, but something’s off. I’m just glad Haley doesn’t come across like some cheap haunted maze Freddy knock-off.

RobG: It’s funny you make the Hammer reference in comparison to our current crop of remakes, because I always use that one too. Imagine if there was Internet during the Hammer period? People would’ve gone nuts! Alas, even though I grew up on the series and I love Englund’s portrayal as much as the next fan, I’m all for Jackie Earle Haley.

I think it’s interesting that we’re at the point where we have a new Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers. Inevitably there’s going to be a third actor playing Freddy eventually. And think about it, who’s better as Dracula? Bela Lugosi? Christopher Lee? Or Gary Oldman? I think they’re all great Draculas! Much like Derek Mears was the best part of the Friday The 13th remake, I feel Jackie will be the standout for Nightmare.

Now, with that said, I need to argue with a lot of the fan’s nitpicking at little details. “The sweater’s not the same!” Why? Because it doesn’t have full red sleeves like in the original? Well, then by that rationale, the sweater wasn’t the same for Nightmare‘s two though eight then when it was fully striped! “He doesn’t look like Freddy, he looks like a burn victim!” Well, yeah! He is a burn victim! And he’s talking the way he talks in that trailer because as a burn victim, he no longer has lips. Like you said before, we don’t want the exact same movie as the original, it’s got to be different, so I’m okay with Freddy being different and I have faith that Haley will deliver something memorable.

I think for the next trailer, Platinum Dunes really needs to focus on the new aspects of their movie to win over the skeptics. You got a good look at Krueger on your set visit. What are your thoughts?

Ryan: Well, I’m still under embargo from talking about anything I saw on set – so you’re not prying anything out of me, sir. The bickering over the sweater, to me, is tantamount to the fans getting riled up over Jason Voorhees’ coat or hair…or running – even though he jumped into a sprint during the pre-Hodder days. It’s a bit ridiculous. The memory seems to get a bit foggy for some when they’re so riled up with vitriol. I’m not going to make any damn judgment calls over “how Freddy talks” based on that trailer – he says one line. However, I can certainly see the argument for the makeup, even though Freddy’s look got increasingly sloppy as the sequels went on. Jackie Earle’s makeup is answering to this overwhelming need for realism in every horror film now – there’s no sense of “fantasy” to the design, although I’m sure director Samuel Bayer will create some interesting dream sequences. You’ve got a wicked hard-on for that guy. Platinum Dunes courted him for the Near Dark remake, now they got him for Nightmare. But I’m not sure if he’s got the chops for the material.

RobG: Whoa, whoa…a wicked hard-on is a bit much! For me as a kid, the two things that left the biggest impression on me was the first Nightmare On Elm Street movie and Nirvana’s music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And it just seems ironic – yet fitting – that the director of that video would go on the helm a remake of my most impressionable horror movie. Look – again, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m not as dismissive as most fans have been just because he comes from a music video background.

If you take a look at some of Bayer’s videos such as David Bowie’s “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” or The Smashing Pumpkins “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, he can definitely visually illustrate a cool, dream-like aesthetic. It makes sense to me that the Platinum crew would pick him considering the look of some of his videos.

One of my biggest concerns are things we’re hearing story-wise. For example, this rumor that in the remake, it’s only implied that Fred Krueger was a child molester. The trailer certainly makes it seem like he’s possibly wrongfully accused – the bit with him screaming out “I didn’t do anything!” But the fact that he was a despicable human being before being burned is inherent in the character and important to why he becomes the monster he does. So, I’m nervous about that. But at the same time, by remaking this, they have the chance to fix the ending to the original. I’ve heard fans refer to the first Nightmare as a “classic” and say things like “how dare you remake it?!” I agree that it’s a great, but it’s far from a perfect movie as even the filmmakers will tell you! Between Wes Craven and Bob Shaye not ever truly deciding on how that first movie should’ve ended properly, I’ve never found it satisfying. (Has anyone?) Hell, the sequels just sort of ignored it. So while I’m sure the ending of this remake will set it up for an obvious sequel, I just hope it’s improved upon from the original.

Ryan: Well, you’re now treading “what’s the criteria for remaking a film” waters. And I don’t believe for a second that the original Nightmare was flawed enough to go and redo it, but I see your point with the ending, however, I’ve always accepted it as bleak denouement. Nancy didn’t eradicate the evil and Krueger’s power lives on. Of course, the sequels did whatever they wanted. The question of whether Krueger 2010 is a child molester or a child killer and what’s more effective is a pretty damn hilarious argument you’ll only find in our circles. Yet, those are the kinds of creative changes I’m looking for – whether I like them or not. If this new Krueger is a wrongfully accused dude, now there’s something we’ve never seen before in the franchise: An ounce of sympathy for the guy, which harks back to the Universal monsters in some respects. It’ll drive the die-hard fans nuts, but if you’re going to update a film don’t give me surface level changes. Take a cue from Carpenter’s The Thing and Cronenberg’s The Fly. Make the material mean something different, offer it another level of potency.

RobG: Wow. I actually was against the idea of any of our modern bogeymen being at all sympathetic, but you just reminded me that Frankenstein, the Wolfman and even the Creature (especially in The Creature Walks Among Us) were all sympathetic monsters. Bottom line, as a life-long die-hard Freddy Krueger fan, I’ll be there opening night with the best of intentions. I like the director and I like Jackie as the new Freddy. However, Platinum Dunes hasn’t had the best track record, at least in terms of my own personal tastes. So, all I can hope for is to be pleasantly surprised when the flick opens in April. Regardless of if it’s good or bad, successful or not, praised or reviled, nothing can change the fact that I can always walk over to my DVD shelf and have a double-feature of Nightmare‘s one and three. Dream Warriors will always be my favorite Nightmare!

Ryan: You want to talk about flaws – look at Nightmare 3 (“I’m a wizard in my dreams! Woo-hoo!” – not an actual quote, but what the f**k), still, I dig that one, too. Well, I’ll be right there with you in April when the remake opens. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of notes to trade then…

Source: Ryan Rotten, RobG.