Movie News & Reviews

Remake of 'Elm Street' aims to put frights back into franchise

A Nightmare on Elm Street might give you nightmares again.

The reboot of the Wes Craven horror classic of the '80s, opening Friday, stars Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger, the iconic serial killer with the burned face, who wears that glove — the one with blades embedded in the fingers — and kills people in their dreams.

Haley, creepy in a different way as Rorschach in Watchmen and enigmatic as Guerrero in TV's Human Target, described the movie as a mix of the old and new. In a phone interview, director Sam Bayer agreed, saying it is not "a remake but a reinvention" of Nightmare with a darker feel.

"We redid classic moments from the original specifically to please fans," he said, "the hand coming up in the bathtub, one character propelled against the ceiling."

Bayer said the original's sequels became less and less frightening, more parody, while "we want to scare the hell out of people."

His target audience? Teens and adults.

"I'm hoping adults who saw the original when they were young will be excited to see this one," he said. "There will be the usual roller-coaster moments, but we're also very proud of getting an Oscar-nominated actor for the role."

Bayer heaped accolades on Haley. "Jackie is amazing; he took a completely different path in his portrayal than Robert Englund did.

He compared it to the difference "between Jack Nicholson as the Joker and the way Heath Ledger played the role. Jackie struggled to find the human side of Freddy."

In an interview with Haley after filming last year in Chicago, he said he was helped immensely by the young actors who play the teens Freddy is stalking.

He singled out Rooney Mara, who was "wonderful, a perfect embodiment" of Nancy, and Thomas Dekker and Kyle Gallner. "They blew me away."

What he didn't enjoy were the arduous sessions in the makeup chair: "31/2 hours getting into makeup, an hour getting out," he groaned.

Bayer said Freddy's look is quite different here than Englund's visage in the original. "Jackie's face looks more like a real burn victim, with flesh burned off. Some of the special-effects masters who worked on Dark Knight did some of this CG work as well."

Haley did manage an occasional smile during these grueling transformations, he said: "Every day I was in makeup, I saw a little poster: A Nightmare on Sesame Street ... with the Muppets."

In a recent e-mail interview, Haley elaborated on his Nightmare experience.

Question: Have you seen the original? How would you compare this one with that?

Answer: Sam definitely pays homage to the first film. Some of the iconic imagery from the first films is there, and that's a lot of fun, but there's a lot of new stuff, too, which makes it even more fun. Wes was wonderfully clever with the first film. It was a great idea with an incredibly low budget. And at the time, I think that was part of the fun. That Wes made this cool movie for 67 cents. Sam's version has a bigger, more updated look, and the film is a bit darker. Freddy is a bit more serious.

Q: How much of a back story does he have here?

A: In the first Nightmare on Elm Street, so much of Freddy's back story comes from a speech given by Nancy's mother at the fireplace. In this film, we get to see some of his back story in flashbacks. It's pretty cool, you know, in a sick, campfire story kind of way."

Q: Did any bad dreams of your own result from making the movie?

A: I remember one night, after shooting for a week straight in the makeup, I was lying in bed and I was suddenly awash with the feeling that the makeup was still on my face. It wasn't, but it felt like it was. I had to keep touching my face to prove to myself that the prosthetics and glue weren't there.

Q: Why do you think these movies continue to haunt viewers, while other slasher and serial killer movies don't?"

A: Freddy, especially from that mid-'80s group of horror films, was by far the most interesting — not only in character development but in story as well. And the setup: You get killed in your dreams, you die in real life.

That's kind of like sickeningly cool.

Q: What about the Freddy story is so special?

A: In the other films you have to do something stupid, show up at the wrong place, walk into the dark shed by yourself, etc. But everyone sleeps. Everyone lies there, head on a pillow ... the slumber starts to kick in ... and we're slowly whisked away into the world of dreams. And it's there that we see him: Freddy.

Then, in a wicked turn reminiscent of his character, Haley added: "He'll probably pay you a visit after you see the movie. But don't worry. You'll probably wake up before he gets to you. I think. Maybe."