New entry in the enduring horror remake trend, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, is almost upon us but Empire have managed to get their hands on a new poster for the film:
The remake of the 80s slasher classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is being directed by Samuel Bayer (music video director) with Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN, SHUTTER ISLAND) playing the part of Freddy Krueger. Based upon the trailers released thus far the film seems to stay very close to the original storyline which saw a supernatural serial-killer killing off a group of teenagers in their dreams.
Most of the horror remakes that have plagued cinema screens since the early 2000s have been terrible, but a select few have actually been pretty decent. Whether NIGHTMARE will fit in the former or latter category is anyone’s guess at this point but the trailers are looking rather promising and Haley is a brilliant choice to replace Robert Englund. This new one-sheet, which is brilliantly simple yet striking, also shows potential.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is released on the 30th of April.
New entry in the enduring horror remake trend, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, is almost upon us but Empire have managed to get their hands on a new poster for the film:
Warner Brothers releases this new horror film, the latest remake produced by Michael Bay (who has given us updated versions of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE HITCHER, among others). Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN) toplines as Freddy Krueger, bastard son of a thousand maniacs. Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, and Katie Cassidey are among the potential victims, with Clancy Brown (HIGHLANDER) along for support. Samuel Bayer directs from a screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer. Wes Craven, creator of the original, gets only a “based on characters created by” credit, although the trailer suggests a point-by-point remake.
Variety reports that actor Jackie Earle Haley – most recently seen as Rorschach in WATCHMEN – has been cast to play Freddy Krueger in New Line Cinema’s upcoming remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which is to be produced in conjunction with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. The film will be directed by Samuel Bayer, working from a script by Wesley Strick (who wrote Martin Scorsese’s remake of CAPE FEAR). Shooting starts in Chicago next month.
New Line and Platinum Dunes recently collaborated on the remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH, another film that relaunched an ’80s horror icon.
ShockTillYouDrop.Com reports that Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes productions and Warner Brothers Studios have agreed to make the previously announced remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET their next project. Wesley Strick (CAPE FEAR) will write the screenplay, which is expected to go before the cameras in Chicago this spring. Says producer Brad Fuller:
“It’s like what we’re doing to Friday the 13th,” says Fuller. “It’s not Freddy cracking jokes. We want to make a horrifying movie. The concept is so scary, don’t fall asleep or you’ll die. This guy gets you when you’re most vulnerable, in your sleep. We love that. That’s the basis of the movie. It’ll be most similar to the first one but in terms of kills and dreams we’ll borrow from the entire series.”
Apparently, Warner Brothers’ decision to go ahead with the project was based in part upon positive response to test screenings for the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake. Robert Englund will not return as Freddy Krueger, but he may get some other role in the film.
Stuart Wood at CinemaBlend.com is less than optimistic about the news, decrying the lack of originality. I say, with Strick on the script, this one is at least worthy of the benefit of the doubt.
Freddy Krueger – the dream demon who stalked sleeping teenagers throughout the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films – is one of three “modern” horror icons sub-contracted to appear at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. Freddy shows up on the back lot “Terror Tram” tour, and he also has his own walk-through maze, which attempts to recreate the Elm Street House. Inside, are memorable scenes from several of the films, including the Boiler Room and the Roach Motel. Unlike other Halloween Haunts, Universal Studios has the resources to present movie quality sets, makeup, costumes, and effects. This is especially helpful in the Elm Street maze. Unlike Freddy’s contemporaries, Jason and Leatherface (who also lurk on the studio lot during October), the Elm Street films featured a fair share of fantastic imagery, thanks to the dreamscape wherein Kruger resided. The result is a distinctive Halloween experience.
Despite directing non-genre films like 50 VIOLINS, an Oscar-nominated effort starring Meryl Streep, Wes Craven is most renowned among his fans as a writer and director of scary movies, a reputation that extends all the way back to his feature debut, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972). Produced by Sean Cunningham, that film, along with TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, was one of the transgressive independent horror efforts that set new levels of screen violence; Craven’s script was also notable for its structural similarity to Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING. Since then, Craven has often written or co-written the scripts for his films, bringing to the horror genre an intelligent grounding in mythology (as would be expected of a former teacher).
Craven’s most enduring creation is dream demon Freddy Krueger, who first emerged in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The success of this 1984 film from New Line Cinema helped its writer-director make the jump to the major studios, which released subsequent efforts like THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988), SHOCKER (1989), PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991), and VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN (1995), and the SCREAM trilogy starting in 1997. However, none of those films quite matched the cultural impact and longevity of Freddy Krueger. Not only is there an ELM STREET remake in the works; over twenty years after his debut, Krueger has achieved horror icon status on par with classic movie monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein. Evidence of this (if any were needed beside the success of the sequels) can be found on the Universal Studios tour in Hollywood every October. The company – which created classic horror in the ’30s – sub-contracted New Line Cinema’s ELM STREET franchise (along with FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), so that Freddy is now rubbing shoulders with the Count, the Baron, Norman Bates – the horror movie equivalent of being invited to join the gods atop Mount Olympus.
When asked about the origins of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Craven at first replies, “It came to me in a dream.”
Then with a laugh, he adds, “No, it was a series of articles in the LA TIMES, three small articles about men from South East Asia, who were from immigrant families and who had died in the middle of nightmares—and the paper never correlated them, never said, ‘Hey, we’ve had another story like this.’ The third one was the son of a physician. He was about twenty-one; I’ve subsequently found out this is a phenomenon in Laos, Cambodia. Everybody in his family said almost exactly these lines: ‘You must sleep.’ He said, ‘No, you don’t understand; I’ve had nightmares before—this is different.’ He was given sleeping pills and told to take them and supposedly did, but he stayed up. I forget what the total days he stayed up was, but it was a phenomenal amount—something like six, seven days. Finally, he was watching television with the family, fell asleep on the couch, and everybody said, ‘Thank god.’ They literally carried him upstairs to bed; he was completely exhausted. Everybody went to bed, thinking it was all over. In the middle of the night, they heard screams and crashing. They ran into the room, and by the time they got to him he was dead. They had an autopsy performed, and there was no heart attack; he just had died for unexplained reasons. They found in his closet a Mr. Coffee maker, full of hot coffee that he had used to keep awake, and they also found all his sleeping pills that they thought he had taken; he had spit them back out and hidden them. It struck me as such an incredibly dramatic story that I was intrigued by it for a year, at least, before I finally thought I should write something about this kind of situation.”
Having decided on dreams as the landscape of horror in his script, Craven then had to conceptualize the demonic presence haunting them, in the form of Freddy Krueger. What was his creative thinking process?
“It was kind of like a very fortunate series of thoughts I had,” he explains. “I wanted to do something that was tied into the deepest recesses of our subconscious. I had a history in academics, so I knew there were certain things that were universal. One is the fear of predatory animals; obviously, it goes back to when we were little primates running around with nothing to protect us. Nature is full of stabbing instruments: claws, teeth, horns. I thought the claws of the cave bear must be buried somewhere in our subconscious, so that claw which is from nature or animals was combined with what is one of the most specifically human parts of our anatomy, which is our hands. The human hand is so much more dexterous than any other animal’s. Many scientists postulate that that has gone hat-in-hand, if you will, with the development of our brains: the more developed our brains have gotten, the more clever our hands have gotten, and vice versa. So that became the instrument; rather than anything he would leave someplace and then pick up, it was something that he actually had on him.”
The choice of red and green stripes on Freddy’s sweater was the result of reading an article in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN in 1982 “that said the two most clashing colors to the human retina were this particular green and red.”
Craven adds, “I wanted this costume that [would be recognized] if he changed into any other thing in the room. I was an old PLASTIC MAN comic book fan—I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that in your history books! Anyway, he used to change shape, but you could always tell it was him because the couch would be red with a green stripe down it—or yellow? So I wanted Freddie to be a shape-shifter that could be recognized from his colors.”
Freddy’s other trademark, his hat was the result of a childhood incident.
“The hat was the kind worn by men when I was a kid, and there was a particular man who scared me when I was little. He was a drunk that came down the sidewalk and woke me up when I was sleeping. I went to the window wondering what the hell was there. He just did a mind-fuck on me. He just basically somehow knew I was up there, and he looked right into my eyes. I went back and hid for what for what I thought was hours. I finally crept back to the window, and he was still there. Then he started walking almost half-backwards, so that he could keep looking at me, down to the corner and turned, and I suddenly realized, ‘My god, that’s the direction of the entrance to our apartment building.’ I literally ran toward the front door and heard, two stories down, the front door open. I woke up my big brother; he went down with a baseball bat—and nobody was there. Probably the guy heard him coming and ran; he was drunk, having a good time. But the idea of an adult who was frightening and enjoyed terrifying a child was the origin of Freddy.”
The final element in Freddy’s appearance was his burned visage, a sort of variation on the masks worn by typical slasher movie villains of the time. Not just a visual element, this detail impacted on the script’s explanation for Freddy’s origin (having been burned by a vigilante mob after escaping legal justice on a technicality).
Craven calls the concept of the mask “quite ancient” and explains, “Almost all cultures have it in their most important ceremonies. It kind of is a combination of removing humanity and yet leaving it there, behind the eyes. But I didn’t want an immobile mask—I think Jason was around in those days—I wanted something that could express. So I suddenly hit upon scar tissue. So the back story came out of that.”
While working on his script for the original NIGHTMARE, Craven had to keep in mind what was popular in other horror films of the time.
“I was keenly aware of FRIDAY THE 13TH, because at that time I think they had already done a couple of sequels, and the tone in Hollywood was that ‘horror is dead and it’s used up, and it’s a nasty thing and FRIDAY THE 13th is a good example.’ So I was trying to think of elements that were beyond just slice-and-dice, but at the same time there was a sort of thing where you had to have a special weapon — which led to a very careful consideration of what Freddie’s would be — and the use of a mask, I think, goes back to HALLOWEEN. But beyond that, back in ’84, I had been making movies for nearly fifteen years already; LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was the early part of the ‘70s. So, I was kind of just coming up with my own ideas of what I could do.”
Craven had no idea that his script would lead to a successful series of sequels for New Line Cinema; in fact, he had trouble even finding a producer who would finance the film.
“I knew it was a good yarn,” he says, “but it took three years of taking this script around to everybody in Hollywood. I have a wonderful old file of rejection letters on this, like Bob Raimi, who was the head of Universal at the time, saying, ‘I just don’t find anything scary in this.’ There was only one guy, some guy in a little tiny hole in the wall on 8th Avenue in New York, Bob Shaye, who saw something in it. He stuck with it for three years, trying to raise money on it. Meanwhile, I was taking it to everybody else, and nobody ‘saw’ it. They either thought it was too gory or nobody would take it seriously. Sean Cunningham, who did FRIDAY THE 13TH, a close friend of mine, said, ‘Nobody will take it seriously because they’ll know it’s a dream.’ So, it took a long time.”
During its initial release, NIGHTMARE was perceived to be part of the slasher trend, but its similarities are superficial. For instance, the character of Tina (played by Amanda Wyss) has sex shortly before becoming Freddy’s first victim. Craven, however, does not see this as an example of the puritan morality underlying the HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH films.
“There’s two thoughts I have. One is that I think horror films are about the transition from childhood to adulthood. In fact, Heather [Langenkamp]’s character [Nancy] has an interesting journey, where her character is put to bed by her mother in the first act, and at the end of the picture, just before she goes to face Freddy, she puts her mother to bed. So there’s that transition from childhood to adulthood, and obviously sex is a part of that. And there’s always certain dangers in sex, from early pregnancy to diseases and the fury of your parents. So there is that but nothing much beyond that.”
Craven continues, “The second part of it is that I had been reading during those years a lot of Eastern sort of esoteric knowledge. There’s a Russian philosopher who wrote about levels of consciousness and equated consciousness with being awake — which I did throughout this picture. His theory was that consciousness is painful. To know really what’s true, to know the truth in any given situation, is painful, often uncomfortable, and it’s not pleasant. So most of us, most of the time, will go out what he called ‘doors.’ He listed sex, eating, sleeping, being out in a crowd; today you could add television and drugs. Those things ease the pain of consciousness. The hero is the person that remains conscious, remains awake, up to the point where it’s so painful you want to kill yourself. Most people, if they get near that level, turn around and go the other way; some people actually kill themselves, and some people break through to a sort of clarity where they’re truly conscious. That became the framework for the film. Everybody says, ‘You must sleep,’ but they’re all liars. Really, the only person who survives is Nancy, who refuses to sleep and insists on being conscious. That was more what sex was, among other things: everybody had some door they were going out to avoid confronting this horrible reality, except for Nancy.”
Craven’s script originally had a softer, more evocative ending, but the producer requested a last minute jump-scare (a la CARRIE) that would also provide a hook for sequels.
“Bob Shaye said to me, ‘Wes, I gave you this film when nobody else would. Just give me this one thing.’ Watching it now, I don’t feel it [the compromise] quite so much. The ending as written was she just comes out the front door, and her mother’s alive and there’s a tremendous fog. We did not have much of a budget, and we could not get that damn street to fog over. There was a breeze at that point. We had twenty guys with fog machines out there, and when we’d get ready to shoot, it was ‘Whoosh, all gone!’ Anyway, she was supposed to walk off into the mist, and that would be it — which to me was a lot cleaner.
Craven adds: “What Bob wanted – and which I would not do – was he wanted to have Freddy driving the car. If you’ve seen NIGHTMARE 2, it starts with Freddie driving the bus — Bob had control of that one. (Bob, if you’re here, I love you!) God knows, film is full of compromises, and there are actually precious few in this film — everything else beside that one moment is exactly as it was written and pretty much what I wanted. Bob, I think, only showed up for one day of shooting; he actually got to call ‘action’ on the scene where Heather runs up the stairs that turn to goo — which is oatmeal and glue.”
Wes Craven’s horror hit took elements of then-current horror films (numerous teens dying in graphic ways) and refashioned them into an imaginative alternative to the stalk-and-slash formula of FRIDAY THE 13TH, et al. The film combines horror with surreal dream sequences, bending our notion of reality and fantasy and creating a truly terrifying villain in the form of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). The dark, shadowy lighting by Jacques Haitkin captures a wonderfully malevolent mood, and the low-budget trappings actually increase the horror–unlike a major studio effort, this feels like a film that won’t play by the rules, that is willing to violate our comfort zone. Slightly marred by a studio-mandated ending (yet another CARRIE-type grab-and-scare scene), the film nevertheless stands as one of the great horror efforts and a worthy successor to the classic monsters of yesteryear.
Although Craven had conceived of Freddy Krueger as a one-shot villain, Robert Shaye saw the potential for turning him into a returning character. Actor Robert Englund returned as Krueger in a series of sequels that, despite their dwindling scares and tongue-in-cheek attitude, showed more imagination than either the HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13TH franchises. Craven even returned to work on the script for the third ELM STREET, then wrote and directed WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, a 1994 attempt to re-imagine the franchise as a movie within a movie, implying that the Krueger we’ve known all these year’s is a somewhat degraded, Hollywood incarnation of an eternal, undying evil. Despite the intriguing concept, the film failed to revive the Krueger’s box office fortunes. Eventually, the character made a big box office comeback in FREDDY VS. JASON (2003), but the film continued the trend of moving away from serious horror toward a more audience-friendly, “dumb hoot movie” (those are Shaye’s words, from long before the film was produced).
Fortunately, the grim, hard-edged impact of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remains undiminished after all these years. The original film may be a bit rough around the edges, and multiple viewings do tend to expose its low-budget origins, but the strength of the concept endures, and Craven manags to convey it with enough force and conviction to overcome the budgetary limitations. Watching movies has often been likened to dreaming, and horror films often seem like nightmares transcribed on celluloid.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET takes this connection and makes it literal in a way that is hypnotizing and beguiling, exploiting the cinematic medium to its fullest extent.Yes, there are plenty of shocks, but there’s something much more, almost worthy of the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges: an uncomfortably convincing suggestion that the reality around us may not be the firm bedrock we imagine, that it may be plastic and malleable, waking life not all that clearly separated from dreaming.
After walking out of a theatre (or turning off the home video player), you’re likely to find yourself feeling as if you’ve awakened from a dream to a new way of looking at reality, with your sense of wonder re-kindled as you ponder the implications. As with Borges, the concepts may not survive scrutiny in the real world, but that doesn’t lessen their impact upon the imagination — their ability to make us aww things differently and ponder the implications, even if we are not convinced of the premise. A NIGTHMARE ON ELM STREET is the best kind of cinefantastique, the kind that fires your imagination and lingers, long after the curtain has gone down and the lights have gone up.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Written & directed by Wes Craven. Cast: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corn, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund.
Universal Studios Hollywood has issued a press release that is showing up around the web, trumpeting the terrors that await visitors to this year’s edition of Halloween Horror Nights, the annual celebration that begins on October 3.
Like last year, Horror Nights 2008 will feature mazes based on Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface, but Universal promises that the Kruger maze will be brand new, featuring a recreation of the infamous house on Elm Street. (Last year was more like a trip through an Asylum – not surprising when you know that it located in a maze that had been called “The Asylum” the year before.)
New for this year will be a Scare Zone inspired by THE STRANGERS, the sleeper hit horror film from earlier this year. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, Scare Zones are simply areas of the park haunted by ghouls, so you get the Halloween experience even before you stand in line for an hour to walk through a maze.)
In addition, the back lot tram tour will be significantly upgraded to double its length, for the first time incorporating mazes.
Universal’s usual rides and attractions will be open, although revamped for Halloween: the Jurassic Park Ride becomes Jurassic Park in the Dark; the Waterworld show becomes Slaughterworld, etc.
Halloween Horror nights will be open on weekends, beginning October 3. Dates are October 3-4, 10-11, 17-19, 24-26, 30-31 and November 1. Doors opening nightly as 7:00pm; closing hours vary.
Tickets are available for $54 onlin at Universal Studios Hollywood’s official website; they are also sold in advance at Ralph’s, Food 4 Less, and Hot Topic, where you can save $20 a ticket by buying a Coke-related product.
Freddy Kruger is coming back to haunt your dreams again.
Variety reports that Platinum Dunes – the company behind such abysmal remakes as last year’s THE HITCHER – has been hired to relaunch New Line’s NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise. No details are available; a writer cannot be hired until the current strike ends.
Meanwhile, Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, and Andrew Form are prepping a remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH for a May start, with Marcus Nispel directing from a script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift. Freddy’s last appearance was in FREDDY VS. JASON, which was written by Shannon and Swift.
Other Platinum Dune remakes in development include NEAR DARK, to be helmed by Samuel Bayer, and THE BIRDS, in which Naomi Watts will star for director Martin Campbell. The company is also planning an exorcism thriller for director David Goyer.