While I really liked Platinum Dunes’ Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday The 13th remakes (especially the latter), it’s no secret that their 2010 version of A Nightmare On Elm Street was a frustrating experience for most fans. They seem to know it too, I’ve seen video interviews where partner Brad Fuller hints at misgivings he has with the film. And with a $63 million domestic haul and a $115 million worldwide take at the box office (before making some additional coin on home video) that puts it at least on the precipice of breaking even – I’d say that fan and critical reception is one of the reasons why we haven’t heard talk of a sequel.
I imagine it’s a very tricky franchise to get right and even if those glaring script issues from the 2010 version had been fixed I think the producers would have still been facing an uphill battle. Freddy is a complex villain, and the fact the films deal with a visual representation of the dream world makes them even more complex. It’s gotta be difficult striking the right tonal balance between fantastical and frightening, which is probably why not many films in the original Elm Street franchise were able to do it either.
While I’m not sure exactly how the rights issues tangle out on this one, it would be nice to see Freddy on the big screen again. Here are a few ideas to help that along.
One of the reasons the first Elm Street remains the scariest in the franchise was that it operated within a very specific set of limitations. There were the obvious financial constraints of low budget filmmaking that probably helped keep Freddy in the shadows and the narrative focus sharp, but there were a lot of wise creative decisions being made regardless. If you’re going to do this thing for less than the reported $35 million budget of the remake (something I assume is necessary at this point) concentrate on the things you can afford. A good script, a good director and good scares.
On the other hand, one of the missed opportunities of the remake was that the dream sequences weren’t even more bold. Can you imagine a Dream Warriors type installment with that kind of budget? It would be amazing. If there’s one creative loss to the remake not having a sequel it’s that they weren’t given a chance to right the ship, correct their mistakes and deliver an installment that explored that side of the Freddy universe.
Of course his backstory should be kept intact – the idea of a child killer (and/or molester) targeting the children of the vigilante parents who burned him alive is perfect. That and him having access to their dreams is all we need. I love Dream Warriors but it started a bad trend with the whole “Freddy’s mom was a nun… he’s the bastard son of a hundred maniacs” type of thing. That bleeds over into the “passing on of the powers” stuff in The Dream Master and the whole kid business of The Dream Child.
I say keep it lean, simple and threatening. Venturing too far into the fantasy/mythology realm distances the audience from the very immediate fear of, “what if someone killed me in my dream?”
One of the missteps of the remake was that we had almost zero moments of levity with our characters. Granted, I like the fact that the film boldly played with Freddy’s backstory, alleging that he had already abused these exact kids when he was still alive, but this choice had an unfortunate side effect. By the time we meet our teens they are downright tortured individuals. It felt like an odd Frank Miller-ing of the material, we don’t need our kids to be dour too. It almost seemed like Freddy was doing them a favor by coming back to put them out of their misery. Even the kids in Dream Warriors were fun to be around and they were in an asylum!
It’s much more tragic to see a happy teen in the prime of their life snuffed out than one who was just gonna wind down the clock painting goth sh*t anyway.
The reason I didn’t put a declarative statement here is there’s very little actual help I can offer in this department. Sure, I could continue the armchair producer pose I’ve adopted for most of this piece and blather on about what makes Freddy work or not work, but it’s such a delicate balance you can’t really put it into words. Not even Robert Englund nailed it 100% of the time (I’d pin this on the scripts and direction of Parts 4-6, not him as an actor). And I don’t see him returning to the role again.
I actually thought Jackie Earle Haley was fine in the remake, I know some people had issues with his makeup or voice but the filmmakers were wise to take steps to set his Freddy somewhat apart from Englund’s. While I don’t see much of a creative issue with bringing Haley back, the film’s reception indicates that won’t happen.
The only advice I can give whoever makes this thing is to be a fan and trust your gut, you’ll know it when you see it.