Horror films, and more specifically their villains, have the ability to become some of the most iconic things in not just film but pop culture in general. Even if they’ve never seen the films, most people would be able to identify Jason Vorhees or Leatherface because of their distinctive looks.
Even where there are different killers in each film, like Ghostface from the Scream movies, people know it’s the scream killer. The beauty of these iconic masks is that not only are they instantly recognisable, but that anyone can play that role, and quite often several actors and stunt performers will play these bad guys over the course of a franchise. The biggest exception to this for horror films has to be Freddy Krueger.
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Freddy is as iconic as his mask-wearing brethren, with his green and red striped jumper, hat, razor glove, and burnt face. But it’s not just his clothing and appearance that makes him stand out, but the performance of Robert Englund. Englund played Krueger a staggering eight times across different films, and it’s the energy, mannerisms, and voice of Englund that helped to make Freddy an icon that came back time and time again.
Getting over this, and recapturing that magic, would prove to be the biggest hurdle for the 2010 remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street. The decision to remake the film came about in part thanks to the success of the Friday the 13th remake the year before, a film that was a critical and commercial success. Platinum Dunes, the production company that owned both franchises, thought that they could bring the same level of success to A Nightmare On Elm Street.
The new film looked good, with great cinematography from Jeff Cutter, the script was true to the spirit of the original yet managed to do enough of its own thing thanks to good writing from Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, and director Samuel Bayer executed a slick and entertaining film. Despite this, the remake is never given the amount of respect and love by Elm Street fans as the original film. Unfortunately, this is down to the performance of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy.
Fresh off the success of playing Rorschach in the 2009 Watchmen adaptation, Haley was something of a hot commodity, with filmmakers wanting to get him into one of their projects as soon as possible. And that’s a fair thing: he’s a very good actor, and his performance as a deranged and unstable lunatic was probably the best thing from Watchmen,was so why not get him to play another deranged lunatic? It should have worked.
What seems to have happened, however, was that for whatever reason Haley was still playing Rorschach. His Freddy was slow, he hid in the shadows, and he grumble mumbled his way through most of his dialogue. Whilst not inherently bad creative decisions when you compare them to Englund, which moviegoers were always going to do, it comes across as a flat and dull version of the character. The energy and fun that Freddy adopted over the course of the franchise was gone. Instead we had a gloomy and nasty killer who didn’t actually seem to be having much fun in what he was doing.
Freddy was always a killer that loved killing. He revelled in not just the kill, but the hunt too. He liked that he was able to mess with his victims in their dreams, and would often perform elaborate torture and means of death in large part because he found it funny. Many of the films in the franchise could probably be classed as somewhat comedic at times because of this. Taking out these moments of dark comedy might sound like the right decision – after all, you’re making a horror. But it turns out that doing so leaves a film that feels like a pale imitation of the original, one that fails to please fans, and is often forgotten.
A Nightmare on Elm Street had its original release on 30th April 2010 and opened in the UK on 7th May 2010.