Continuing our massive on set coverage of Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema’s A Nightmare on Elm Street redo, Jeff Otto flew down to Chicago for the third of our 4 day experience. Below you’ll find Jeff’s report that features interviews with the cast and crew, along with some spoilerific info on one of Freddy’s “tricks” (no, this isn’t an April 1 joke). Elm Street arrives in theaters April 30.
Editor’s note: Major spoilers follow.
There are lots of ways to bite the dust, but having Freddy Krueger unzip your face and tear out from the inside has to be towards the top of the painful list. As Bloody-Disgusting explores the world of Freddy Krueger for a third day in the Chicago warehouse sets, Freddy’s peekaboo scene is being prepped. When we get to set, producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form can barely contain their enthusiasm for the scene. They welcome us and invite us to look on for the big moment.
I will tread carefully to avoid spoilers, but basically the scene takes place towards the end of the movie. As Mr. Disgusting mentioned, our heroes Quentin (Kyle Gallner) and Nancy (Rooney Mara) have now gone quite some time without sleep and are experiencing brief micro-naps. “At the end, there are so many micro-naps, you never know what’s real and what’s a micro-nap,” explains Mara. Nancy goes into the basement of a preschool to rescue a screaming Quentin when she discovers Kyle looks a little sickly. He screams out in pain and suddenly, heeeere’s Freddy!
To perform the feat, a large prosthetic version of Gallner’s head has been constructed with a zipper down the middle. The dummy head will be placed over Jackie Earle Haley’s noggin and he must unzip the mask and pop out at Nancy like a jack-in-the-box. As is often the case on a horror movie set, the set-up looks more comical than frightening, but it should be pretty cool once it’s all put together for the final version.
“It’s kind of hilarious,” says Gallner of his giant prosthetic head. “You’re never gonna see a giant version of your own head except on a movie set.”
Before the unzipping scene, Gallner must be filmed sitting in the exact position where Freddy will later “pop out.” Mara comes into the room and Gallner gives a pained expression before letting out a blood-curdling scream. Director Samuel Bayer wants just the right screech, so he makes poor Gallner re-take the shot a few times until his voice is about to give out. Gallner’s screams are impressive, possibly even worthy of scream queen status. “I think a couple more, I would have been fried,” says Gallner. “I think it helps because it echoes through the whole building.”
After the first part of the scene is finished, Freddy Krueger (Haley) himself steps in and places the giant Quentin head on. Two monitors are set side-by-side so that the image of Gallner can be lined up with Haley in the Quentin head. The effect should appear seamless after some post production work.
The big scene proves more logistically difficult than expected. During take after take, Haley reaches behind his head to unzip the giant Quentin head, and then something goes wrong. The zipper sticks. The fake head falls off only partially. The zipper sticks again. Haley laughs. Then that damned zipper again. I’m not sure if a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie is exactly the right forum for Blu-ray outtakes, but if so, then this stuff is golden.
The unzipping effect was first used by Bayer more than a decade ago in a music video. “ I did a Rolling Stones video in 1997 with Angelina Jolie and Jolie came out of somebody’s head,” says Bayer. “I ripped off a bunch of my stuff – I mean like, I’ve done music videos and commercials for 20 years and I’ve pulled all sorts of things that I’ve done in my work over the years into this film – and some people have to look for it, but it’s there.”
During our set tour, we got a brief look at Freddy’s workshop, a sort of crude, dingy basement set-up with old rusty tools covered in cobwebs and dust. It probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Freddy isn’t the world’s best housekeeper.
This stuff is all well and good, but what we’re really after is the glove. The designer of the new, improved Krueger weapon of choice is props maestro William Dambra. He arrives to greet us carrying a locked case similar to that used to house a gun. He places it on the table and reveals the shiny glove to us PULP FICTION style. Compared to the original, this one is more detailed, rusty and crude. It looks homemade and unsafe for home use.
When Dambra passes me the glove, the first thing that surprises me is its weight. “It’s about three or four pounds,” says Dambra. “I mean after a while, it gets a little heavy. But it fits his hand, it’s custom made. We made a mold of his hand because I got a chance to see him when we were designing and making it. So we made a mold of his hands so we had something to work off of. And then we made some fine adjustments once Haley got here. That’s just a regular gardening glove.”
Movie prop or not, this glove could do some serious damage. This is not the rubber-bladed Freddy glove I wore on Halloween as a kid (or last year). “ Oh absolutely,” says Dambra of the blade’s cutlery abilities. “We can sharpen them, but they are very pointy. We actually made another one, set out of rubber in case he were ever really close to the actors face. We also made one out of aluminum. It’s lighter, but for the most part we’ve gone with the real glove. It’s all copper. We didn’t paint it, we didn’t do anything. The heat transfer made the different colors, on the copper, when it heated up, it’s got that purple tint to it. It came out really well.”
Earlier in the day, we met the more casual Freddy Krueger, sporting sneakers and a sweatshirt. The burn makeup still looked cool, but there’s something about Freddy heading to the gym that just isn’t quite so scary.
The first topic of discussion with Haley was the makeup itself. There are similarities to the classic Robert Englund getup, but this version of Krueger has a more realistic look, like a patient you’d see in the burn ward. You almost feel sympathy for him. I mean, those burns look painful. When I later made this comment to Brad Fuller, he only laughed, promising once we see how nasty Freddy gets in the remake we won’t feel a whole lot of sympathy for him.
But back to the makeup. “It’s pretty encumbering,” says Haley. “All of this stuff is just glued, from here all the way to the back (he touches the back of his neck), every square inch of my back has got appliances glued to it. It feels like crap when you’re sitting around, but it’s kind of oddly motivating for the character between action and cut because it’s just such a weird feeling. You know, I’ve got fake fingertips over here and the glove over here. I’ve got a cloudy contact and I can’t see out of this eye at all and this one’s bloody and I can kind of see out of it and of course I don’t have my glasses so the whole experience is just this weird thing, but it oddly helps for Freddy once we’re moving. Whenever I perform Freddy, all of this is going on so it’s part of the experience; I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Besides the look of Freddy, another big question fans have had is what exactly Freddy will sound like. Something like Englund? A little like Rorschach? “There’s kind of a voice,” explains Haley. “It’s me. A lot. Trying different things, just providing information to my conscious level so that the subconscious could kind of brew on it. You know, while I’m driving around different sounds would come out. I really found it motivating to go with this face into the mirror and just kind of play around a little bit.”
Later in the visit, we got to witness the moment we were all waiting for – a legitimate Freddy kill. Aside from the fact that Haley is a little shorter than you might imagine the dreaded dream killer being, seeing Freddy Krueger in his full glory for the first time brought goosebumps to my geekier tendencies. When you combine the dirty red and green sweater, the tattered fedora and, of course, that shimmering glove with the new burn victim look, the full affect is pretty frightening.
Readying for his big scene, Haley smiles, but this time the smile doesn’t appear so friendly. He holds up the glove he’s using for the scene. This one is missing part of one blade, the one that will soon be firmly implanted into a throat. “They look great,” says Haley of the gloves. “The ones with the real blades on, they rock. Very cool. This is a little lighter, but I’ve kind of gotten used to the ones with blades. They’ve kind of gotten second nature.”
Haley has a few spots of neon green makeup on his face, which will later be filled in with some additional CG work. “I think it’s gonna be kind of like what you guys saw earlier, says Haley. “There will be a little more depth and stuff moving around a little, I hope. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a little vein jumping here or there.”
The scene is a flashback in which the character Jesse (Thomas Dekker) has a dream that he’s a child again and Freddy kills his father (Christian Stolte). It takes place 15 years earlier. The set is a child’s room, colorful with lots of greens. There’s something unsettling about seeing Freddy Krueger in a nursery. We are only seeing a portion of the scene, but the setup is pretty simple. Freddy grabs daddy dearest from behind, gives him an unpleasant reach around and slits his throat. Blood pours out as daddy gurgles for breath and Freddy smiles wickedly. The moment certainly satisfies our bloodlust. After all, what’s a visit to Elm Street without some bloodletting? Blood spills to the floor with a nice echoing splatter and Bayer yells cut. Cast, crew and press on hand applaud with approval. Now I feel like I can go home happy.
Bayer promises the dream sequences in the new ELM STREET will be lighter on flash, heavier on realism and scares. “I look at the old movies and I think the dream sequences aren’t that interesting,” says Bayer. “I think they feel like bad Broadway musicals or something, like with steam and smoke and they’re not scary, they’re not beautiful, they’re not interesting. I’ve looked at everything from German expressionistic film to Tim Burton movies to all kinds of disparate influences and the one thing this movie is going to have [is] a vision when it comes to the dream sequences. And I think they’re beautiful and macabre and scary. And hopefully I answered that. I think I did.”
Stay tuned for more from the set of NIGHTMARE on ELM STREET when we talk more with the new Krueger, Jackie Earle Haley.