The Nightmare on Elm Street reboot raised a lot of interesting questions when it came to light. Most notably, who’s playing Freddy. As I’ve touched on in the past, perhaps the most iconic horror character of the last 30 years has been Freddy Krueger, and it’s always been Robert Englund. Englund was very enthusiastic about a reboot of the franchise and , in fact, about finding a new Freddy.
“Let’s face it I’m not a kid anymore; I have done a variety of films in many genres. I came out of that makeup after 10 years, and after I did a whole bunch of different films I did Freddy vs. Jason and have been real busy since. I could probably don the makeup, but they would certainly need a stunt double for the action stuff. I’m only good for about one take; then I get kind of sore…I haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ve only seen the trailer but you know, I’m more than happy to hand off the baton to Jackie.”
I get the feeling with or without his blessing, this thing would’ve found a new, more high profile Freddy, but it was gracious of him to say as much. Why would they find a new Freddy? Because Englund has no real mainstream appeal and Freddy is a leading man role, unlike Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. The man they got to fill the role was Jackie Earle Haley. Probably most notable as Rorschach in the Watchmen to those of the same mind of Nightmare on Elm Street. Certainly someone who is up to the task of filling Robert’s glove. In fact, Robert thought he was a great pick.
How did the movie turn out? Well, let me start out by saying it’s a perfectly fine horror movie. In fact, it takes a lot from the original Nightmare on Elm Street; namely just about every shot. If you had wondered what the original might look like with heavy CGI editing in lieu of man-made Special Effects, you are in for a treat! Ipersonally was a little disappointed with the results however.
There are a few key things that made this movie not scary to me. Me, a guy who is scared pretty easily by horror movies. Firstly, Freddy himself. Englund played Freddy like a creepy son of a bitch. Licking his lips, laughing and enjoying the torment he was putting on Nancy and company. Even in the original movie, he had some sarcasm to him (It really got ridiculous as the franchise moved on, however). Haley’s Freddy looks…off. Perhaps it’s because I have the original version so ingrained in my thoughts, but the new one looks sort of like if Clint Eastwood stopped eating for several months, molested children, and then died. He snarls like him in all of his lines as well. Everything is said like he was a tough-as-nails cop as opposed to a frightening monstrosity of a man. It was not something I could really shake and it made me chuckle instead of scream.
Problem number two is the CGI. We’ve made a lot of advances with computers, but sometimes there’s just no beating real life ingenuity. Some of the scenes ARE more visually impressive, others look laughable compared to the original. Probably the most obvious one would be Freddy pushing his way through the wall. In the picture below, one certainly seems a little more plausible. The new one looks more like someone froze the guy who did CGI for the Mummy 2 the moment he finished and thawed him out specifically for this movie.
I kind of came to the same conclusion at the end of Halloween in my last review, so one might label me a curmudgeon who doesn’t like anything new, but I’m ok with that. This one, moreso than Halloween, really has no reason to be made artistically. As it’s the same movie, the only thing on display is not creativity or cinematography, just computers and their place in film. One might argue that Freddy being more of a grump is a change, but honestly unless he goes full goofball by the end of the third sequel, he’s just another slasher character. His definition becomes his glove and not his one liners. There’s a reason why he’s the only horror character with a completely non-ironic, completely for kids pull-string doll.
On the other hand, you could say this is about as true an homage to the original as one could present, and I’m sure a lot of horror fans are thankful for that regardless of the result. In fact, this is probably one of the few times where you could put a movie side by side and see the difference between CGI and good old Special Effects. It’s well worth seeing, if only to compare.