April 30th sees the release of revamped Freddy Krueger: freshly cooked by neighborhood parents and clawing his way into your daydreams about Kellan Lutz. The trailer's tagline for A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) says, "Welcome to your new nightmare," all the while ironically stealing old scenes from the sixth sequel, Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Besides that the remake creators have expressed a desire to make Freddy dark and dastardly once more (again, do I have to prove the existence of Wes Craven's New Nightmare?), all the while Jackie Earle Haley perfects his skill at cinematically fondling Little Children. Chances are it will be 50% old, 20% new, and 30% recycled plastic. But like a horror fan glutton for the punishment he pays to endure, I'll pay to see this one as well. I'm 50% concerned genre buff, 20% asshole, and 30% struggling for things to blog about.
But there's plenty of reason for my bad dreams. Current remakes tend to forget that the villains aren't the only things that made the originals great. To credit only Freddy Krueger with Nightmare's success is to ignore its uniquely empowered Final Girl, Nancy, and Wes Craven's grimy and glossy aesthetic. Yet filmgoers have too hard a time dismissing how iconic Freddy is at this point. To quote New Nightmare, "Every kid knows about Freddy. He's like Santa Clause or King Kong." Fedoras and stripy sweaters, hand-fashioned gloves as signature as Michael Jackson's, and a distinctive comedic shtick to compliment his mass slaughter of sleepy adolescents. Before Final Destination's excessive death scene spectacles, before snarky Ghost Face was testing you with bar trivia via obscene phone calls… Freddy was once a sensational and innovative cinema serial killer.
That wicked (often wicked lame) sense of humor, that playful taunting -- Freddy took extensive pleasure in the hunt. What a difference from Michael Myers, who waited for years to make shit happen. Or backwoods hulk Jason Voorhees, who could be a bulldozer considering his lackadaisical attitude toward teen homicide. Freddy was notable in that he got into kids' heads and toyed with what made them tick -- before inevitably deciding their time was up. Wes Craven's original film is playful as well, and iconic in more ways than its razor-fisted poster boy. Think of those dank, steamy boiler rooms, teens dragged to their ceilings and decimated, or Johnny Depp's film debut as a geyser of blood. The imagery is chilling and fantastic. The special effects practical and, even when cheap, in the aid of some sort of surreal dreamscape.
Never you mind the big hair, the big wardrobe, or the presence of John Saxon. Craven's visuals are, to this day, as relevant and steeped in nightmares as they were in 1984: evocative, terrifying, and still with an undercurrent of gallows humor.
Like a little girl's jump rope chant, there's something mindlessly unnerving about this whole remake business. And even if the most nightmarish thing about the new film is its budget, we can sleep well knowing it stands very little chance of being worse than Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, or that burnt popcorn taste left in your mouth after Freddy vs. Jason. Freddy Krueger, like Santa Claus, should be depended upon to show up about once every year, even if his gifts sometimes disappoint. Tis the season for coal in your stocking or coal in the boiler room.