As the fanfare fades, I take my place at the metaphorical podium. Yes, dear readers, I have returned from self-imposed exile. Thanks to the ministrations of the Compound’s on-site medical advisor Doctor Rob, my throat was back in tip-top shape just in time for me to play the show I was booked for this weekend.
I will now pause for a second round of applause.
Done? Good. We have things to cover.
Blogging ain’t easy, folks. I know I make it look that way, what with my generous wit and fancy-dancy Microsoft Paint captions, but being this clever and entertaining all the time – keeping this blog fresh every day – it’s no picnic. A wise man once told me you have to write what you know, and I tend to agree – that’s why you don’t see me doing a lot of sports writing on here, nor will you see reviews of the latest Harry Potter film or of Miley Cyrus’ new single. I might know something about those topics (not that I’d admit to it in the light of day) but they don’t interest me, and if I’m not interested, you’re not going to be either.
All that being said, I don’t want to tread over ground too often, so if you’re a regular reader getting bored with the content, feel free to let me know. Think of it as an open invitation to suggest topics to me – I’ll pick and choose, obviously, because after all I’m the one running the show, but I’m always willing to listen to your thoughts. I might be writing for myself here, but the pictures – those are all for you.
But until I start getting feedback from you folks, you’re stuck with what I want to talk about, and today I want to talk about Freddy Krueger.
A little about me: I love film. All kinds. Depends on my mood, of course, but on any given night I’ll watch a heady arthouse flick, an emotionally exhausting drama, some kind of visually stimulating Michael Bay explosion-fest, gallows comedy, whatever. But one of the genres I never tire of is horror.
Horror can go a lot of different ways – you’ve got your classic silent stuff, your Hitchcock suspense-type flicks, your slick teen slasher/flasher fests, tons of others I’m sure. And as much as I like a good edge-of-my-couch, spill-my-beer-because-I-jumped kind of movie experience, I can’t deny my absolute favourite kind of horror is the schlocky, tongue-in-cheek, almost-comedy-but-not-quite horror.
You’ve seen movies like this. Army of Darkness. Cabin Fever. Trailer Park of Terror. All good shit. But as good as these flicks were (and are), they’re not representative of a new concept. I know horror schlock has been around since time immemorial, but there’s something magical about the era between the late 80s and early 90s I just can’t shake. This was a golden time in movie history, when an R rating meant an R rating, when action heroes looked more like this:
and we didn’t need to feel bad for all those nasty mulleted teenagers getting their bits lopped off by big scary fuckers like this:
because they were shifty, drug-using, pre-marital sex…having, underage-drinking little sinners who probably had it coming anyway.
The horror movie villains at that time had it good. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Pumpkinhead – they got to run all over suburban America killing at will, but they all lacked one fundamental element that, upon reflection, would never have worked for their characters – dynamic personality and, dare I say it, sort of a twisted charm. Only one contender rose through the ranks to become the reigning champion of schlock horror in that era.
Portrayed for almost twenty years by veteran actor Robert Englund, Freddy is one of the most well-known fictional killers in media history. His signature fedora, Christmas sweater and nasty-looking blade glove are instantly recognizable even to people who don’t watch horror flicks, and his trademark brand of black, surreal humour is just as much a part of the character as the burn-face makeup.
I’m going to stop for a half a second to placate the bleeding hearts in my audience. Here’s the official disclaimer.
Whew. Good thing I know a few lawyers. I’m going to get myself in trouble one of these days.
Where was I? Oh yes – the trademark humour. Fast forward this clip to about the 1:55 mark.
Where you might see a) a girl getting horribly killed by having her head put through a TV, or b) an anthropomorphic television cracking bad puns, I see comedic genius. I laughed my ass off the first time I saw that scene, and I laughed again when I uploaded it here. Stuff like this goes all the way through Englund’s eight film run in the role, and every line is as good as this. I couldn’t find Youtube copies of all the best lines, but suffice it to say for a child murderer, he’s hilarious.
For me, Englund’s portrayal of Freddy was as funny as it was frightening. Yeah, the concept is inherently scary – the idea of trying to stay awake for fear of being dragged into some lunatic’s imaginary playground where he can brutally murder you unless someone wakes you up is, well, nightmarish. But Freddy’s constant one-liners, coupled with his very human reactions to pain and verbal jabs when he’s dragged (film after film) out into the real world to get beat on by the protagonists – these were what made the movies for me. I can’t see anyone else playing the role other than Englund – it’s not like Jason or Michael where they’re wearing masks and don’t ever speak; Freddy is an actor’s character, and Englund has been bringing such life and, ironically, humanity to the role for so long that I just don’t think anybody else could do it that well.
Well, Freddy might not age, but Robert sure does, and once production wrapped on Freddy Vs. Jason he was done with the Freddy role. So when it was announced that Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company, was taking on the task of reinventing Nightmare for the 21st century, the news that Englund would not reprise his role again came right behind. The role has instead gone to Jackie Earle Haley (you’ll remember him as Rorschach from Watchmen), a decision Englund is apparently thrilled with. Apparently Haley will be playing a much darker, much scarier Freddy more reminiscent of the first Nightmare flick and, to a lesser extent, Craven’s later New Nightmare installment. Again, Englund couldn’t be happier: he’s quoted as saying
“I hope [Michael Bay] wants to reimagine it, to make it different…I hope [the new cast and crew] make it their own…I just want them to liberate themselves.”
I have a couple of things to say about this.
Personally I think turning Freddy into just another cardboard cutout soulless killing machine is a bad idea. Horror villains already have motives stretched pretty thin to the realm of credibility (seriously, how many camp counselors have to die before Voorhees gives it a damn rest?) – at least Freddy had his wit and Englund’s brilliant physical portrayal (that perfectly haunting silhouette particularly) to give the character a little depth. Strip that away and you’re left with just another boogieman.
I know there’s been a lot of controversy between fans about whether the wisecracking Freddy was a move up or down for the franchise – I spoke with someone the other day who hated most of the series because she felt it wasn’t scary enough, it was too “jokey” and that took away from the horror elements. But if you want to watch a purist horror flick, there are lots out there (most of them not American), so go watch some.
The bottom line is, for better or worse, this is the direction they chose to take the Freddy character. He’s funny, and my whole generation knows him as that. Turn him into a real monster and you risk alienating the audience you’ve spent the last twenty years building, and even worse, ruining a really enjoyable franchise by trying to turn it into something it hasn’t been in years.
For a little more perspective, I called up Brent at Two Assholes Talking About Nerd Stuff to see what he had to say about the new Nightmare.
The thing about remakes is you want to do something new with them. Whether this is explore new territory that wasn’t delved into in the originals, or just do a plot with a similar theme but not the same, the point of it is to bring something new to the table that still has that name-brand recognition. This can be very well done (Dawn of the Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes) and this can be done real shitty or mediocre (Day of the Dead being the best example of the worst). It’s a very fine line to walk.
Take Rob Zombie’s Halloween for example.
Where Zombie stretched his creative legs is what turns out to be the good part of the movie. I love his take on why Michael Myers is the way he is.
But where that film fell down and couldn’t get up is the major chunks of the film where Zombie just recreated John Carpenter’s original film.
The end result was a film that after it’s over doesn’t get a “That Fucking Ruled!” or a “That Fucking Sucked!”. Instead it gets a “…meh”.
And that’s where (so far) the script, photo and rumor indications are pointing to with the Nightmare remake. They are staying true to some of the material but remaking a lot of the original film. Freddy even looks more or less the same.
But that’s what you get when you try to remake a film that doesn’t need remaking. Gus Van Sant found that out the hard way with Psycho. A shot for shot remake of the original film that is not memorable as good or bad.
I tend to agree with Brent that the key to making a remake is making it new; but these arguments aside, I think most fans will agree with me when I say I’m really, really sorry to see Englund go. I can’t blame him – he’s been playing the role since I was a child, and from what I understand he does a lot of his own stunts, so realistically he couldn’t do that forever. The man is sixty-two for goodness’ sake – he needs to let it go sometimes. But to be honest, as much as I think Jackie Haley is a good actor, I wish they would have let the franchise die with Englund’s departure. The stone has been milked; we’ve said all we need to say with this story; move on to something else. Don’t ruin a great thing by trying to take too many eggs out of the goose.
I’m still going to go see it. Of course. It’s still Freddy, in some incarnation. The new film is slated for a summer 2010 release right now, so I’m actually posting these thoughts a little early, but I’ll definitely make a point of following this up once I see the flick.
Okay, here’s what I was talking about earlier: weigh in on me. I can’t just have Brent correcting my citations about when movies came out and who directed them, or Moot being generally contrary to everything I say. I want to hear from more of you. Genuinely. If I don’t start getting some healthy debate going around here (the blog is called State of Affairs for a reason), I’ll punish you with something boring.
No, I won’t actually do that, because then you’ll quit reading, and I don’t think my fragile little ego could take that.
So to answer the rhetorical question posed by Freddy in Nightmare 3, I give a fuck what you think. Here’s your chance to have your say. Welcome to prime time, bitch!