[Interview] ‘Freddy’s Dead’ (For Now, Anyways…): Director Rachel Talalay!

Nightmare on Elm STreet

Overseeing the sixth and supposedly final chapter of the world’s second highest grossing horror franchise of all time is a hell of a role to fill – just ask Rachel Talalay, the woman charged with hanging up the old fedora hat and glove (at least until three years later when Wes Craven would return to the franchise with New Nightmare). Before Talay directed Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare for New Line, she produced two of the franchise-best sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.

This Elm Street fan boy was lucky enough to have a quick chat with her on her problems with the recent remake, how the Dream Warriors production nearly killed her, on Englund vs. Haley, while she also reflects on how the all important “final” Nightmare could have gone a lot differently…Nightmare on Elm STreet

Aaron Williams (BLOODY DISGUSTING): What did you think of the Elm Street remake? It had a pretty negative reception. Will there be another? If you were to direct, what would you do with it?

Rachel Talalay: Well, they made such a big deal in the press about the fact that the series sucked and they were going back to the only good one and were making it better and that only they understood scares, etc etc, that I hardly felt warm and cosy when I went to see it. I didn’t hate it, but I was disappointed. I thought all that time and money and this is it? And a new backstory that’s kind of lame?

I think what made me most pissed off was the bathtub scene. How could they blow that? Don’t they know that horror is about tension? What worked so well in the original was the set-up. They just turned it into a gag. It was the opposite of what they were bragging about, it showed Zero understanding of the material.

On the other hand I liked some of it. I liked the beginning. I liked it better than the twitterized Friday the 13th remake (wander around, pop scare – always identical, creepy music, death, repeat).

I don’t want to sound like an annoying snob or even bitter. I just had an email from some fan complaining about the plot of Freddy’s Dead. What I tried to explain in never sleep again was that decisions were made for many reasons. Some were time constraints; some were just ‘the times’. But I don’t really have an opinion when someone says ‘ you suck, Nightmare 6 should have followed the story of Nightmare 5.’

I think the least favorite sequels among the fans are 2 and 5, but I’m not sure, I think I read that somewhere not on that interweb thingy.

I do regret that I should have gone scarier on Freddy’s Dead. The scene I would redo right now is Spencer in the video game. When we cut back to reality, it should be as clever and scary as the bed sequence in the original. I didn’t see that then. I wanted more fun, but I was wrong.

Bob Shaye had this great idea that when Carlos’ head explodes, instead of just spray, it should come apart like puzzle pieces. But he suggested it five minutes before we shot. I regret not having held off and created that effect, not that Bob would have given us the time or the money. Now in digital it would be a cakewalk.

It’s hard – this movie making. Do you have any idea how Nightmare 3 almost killed me? We made that film for about $4.2m in Los Angeles. I could do an essay on all the things we pulled off that would cost another film $50m. We didn’t have digital effects. It’s a feat of sheer passion from chuck Russell, a great script from him and Frank Darabont, and no sleep from me. The production team was me and a production coordinator, who did all the production managing without the credit — I produced, line produced, UPM,’d with one production helper. We had three makeup effects teams, visual effects including the mirrors, which were hard, stop-motion teams, and mechanical effects with water beds and it was huge. It’s a production miracle that we pulled it off. And it’s not like I own any of it. But it was better than film school.

BD: Did you like Jackie Earle Haley’s Freddy?

RT: I didn’t like his voice. It took me out of the movie. I ended up realizing there’s only one Freddy for me. It’s not like Darren on “Bewitched” where ultimately you might get used to it, it’s a lot more visceral, i think, the need for the character to sound the same. The look didn’t bother me, because we did change Freddy’s look a bunch of times. I really like Jackie Earle Haley in general, so it not like it should have been another choice. It’s just Robert IS Freddy.

BD: What was behind the decision to go so ‘goofy’ for the final nightmare? It was very ‘Looney Tunes’..

RT: See my answer above. It was a combo of twin peaks and the fact that the lighter we went the bigger the audience, but not necessarily the right choice, I admit.

BD: Which is your favorite Elm Street?

RT: The series as a whole — because it’s all different — so it sparks debate. It’s not really a parody of itself like Friday the 13th became.

BD: Did you like Freddy Vs Jason? Personally I loved it!

RT: Saw it in LA with major fans in the audience so it was riotous. But I dislike that they made a movie full of ‘stuff’. There were no rules, so it became junk to me. Ronny Yu didn’t even know the series, and he didn’t mind telling you that he didn’t care. He just shot action and ‘junk’ and I was annoyed. Imagine what we would have done with digital and with money and with respect for the material. Still, it was fun. But I don’t think you have scares when you have no rules. It was a complete comic book, not a horror film. That’s a fine choice, but it’s not Nightmare on Elm Street, and they were right not to call it that. And the ending was cheesy.

Nightmare on Elm STreet

BD: What would you change, looking back at Freddy’s Dead? Have you seen it recently?

RT: Answer above. Scarier mostly. Plus experience would have meant it simply would have looked better.

BD: There were alot of cameos in FD – were all voluntary? Where did the Johnny Depp ‘this is your brain’ gag come from?

RT: Yes, all voluntary. Id come off of producing Cry Baby and been all about cameos, which is also how I got Depp for the day. Respect for his past, unlike those guys who try to bury their early movies. Depp is amazing. Mike DeLuca wrote the ‘brain on drugs’ scene, I just asked Depp to be in it.
BD: Would you accept another Elm Street gig?

RT: Complicated. Yes, I think I would. I think I’d make an amazing one with all I know now. Now, there’s ego!!

BD: Where would you go with the story if screenwriting duties were handed to you?

RT: That would be telling.

BD: It’s the popular consensus that studios are primarily driven by financial gain – was this the sole driving force behind so many Elm Street sequels? It kind of seems like this is happening all over again with Final Destination for New Line.

RT: Bob Shaye loves this series. So while of course he was building the company and building on the success, so yes, financial gain was critical, he was also very involved with all aspects of the series. It made his creative juices flow, so he was delighted to keep making them. I took a break at part 5, I needed the break, I needed new eyes, but the company needed to keep the cash flow and build on it. It was worth it, if you realize that that led to Lord Of The Rings. I can’t comment on the new New Line — it’s not Shaye anymore, it’s just an arm of WB, I don’t know what they are about? But I liked the first Final Destination.

BD: So how are things with you? Anything special in the pipeline?

RT: Finally developing my own horror script about teen girls. Working developing with John Waters again, so that’s thrilling.
BD: Any horror films that have impressed you in the last few years? Anything that could be the future of the genre?

RT: I like some shorts I’ve seen especially from the Viscera Festival. I’m on a tear about discrimination against women especially in genre. Joe Jackson -” don’t you know that it’s different for girls?”

I don’t like torture porn I like traditional scares and I like humor in my horror. I loved Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. I might be ostracized for that but I think it’s fabulous. Not quite Evil Dead 2, but great nonetheless.

BD: Finally – Why were Robert Shaye and Wes Craven on such bad terms with each other for so long? Was it purely Elm Street related?

RT: I don’t really know the details, but it started on NOES because bob had lots of opinions and ideas and Wes disagreed sometimes and it blew up. Classic director producer conflicts. The bigger problem is that Bob can be quite terrifying so how you deal with that is a dilemma. Wes argued and it turned into a feud. I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know. I don’t have a relationship with Wes so I don’t know his feelings. I liked New Nightmare. I thought it was funny and original and clever. It just wasn’t scary enough and maybe too clever for the classic fans?

Gonna throw in another bone here. Something I don’t think I mentioned in any other interview. Have you listened to Iggy opposite song at the end of FD? Iggy sings ‘do you really think that Freddy’s Dead?’ It’s so ballsy that we kept that. I love it. It’s like our own fuck you to ourselves, I think.

Nightmare on Elm STreet