Is Freddy Finally Dead?

Director Samuel Bayer has committed the behemoth of all travesties by turning one of horror’s most iconic villains into a lame imposter of insipid character and lackluster aesthetic. In Bayer’s re-imagining of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy is in deed dead. Creatively at least.

I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of creative license – it’s what makes cinema art. And I am not hating on re-makes. They have their place in cinema, and they have the potential to astound. That said, horror is a genre that revolves around the ‘big baddy’; the quintessential arch villain that rules the realm of the supernatural. Whether the horror fiend is manifested in the form of a person (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or creature (Frankenstein), a hypothesis (The Excorsist), an enigma (The Ring), psychosis (Carrie), a mystery (The Island) or some form of human depravity (Orphan), the aim is to frighten, intimidate, provoke, terrorise… sicken. So, when a film, originally released in 1984, is remade, we expect bigger, better and scarier. Or at least the offering of a fresh perspective on an old idea.

Bayer’s film sits lethargically in the middle of ‘the same’ and ‘different’ – it is neither. And when I speak of ‘the film’ I am referring specifically to Bayer’s depiction of Freddy Krueger. With the advantage of modern film techniques that were not available twenty plus years ago as well as a new actor, the film had the potential to completely re-imagine Craven’s Freddy or cast new light on his original characterisation. But Academy Award-nominee Jackie Earle Haley’s Freddy rendition is unimpressively dull, not as a result of poor acting but rather an uninspired script.

‘The remake’ is something difficult to master because most viewers watch with preconceived ideas lurking just below consciousness. Craven’s film is a classic and it is a fearsome task to take on Freddy Krueger but Bayer offered himself up for the challenge and fans were ready to be amazed. The look of Freddy in the old Nightmare is more anatomical or primitive. His sinewy, rugged structure seems to be a representation of his bestial soul, which, of course, is hideously alarming. In the new Nightmare, Freddy has been smoothed over with a ‘less is more’ approach. His seamless design looks more accurately like that of a burn victim, which is true to plot but the effect is not as severe. New Freddy’s imperfections seem to have slicked away his gruesome nature.

The hollow face look works well with an illusive horror character like Michael Myers but Freddy’s scathing disfigurement is a part of his characterisation. Freddy is fear personified and for the horror to be given effect, his appearance needs to reflect the debilitating potential of the subconscious mind. In the film, fears materialise in dreams and, just as Freddy has the power to destroy, so too does fear, albeit in a more abstract manner. Fear is paralytic in nature and consequentially has the ability to render its victims lifeless, or passive.

The film’s comment is relevant to life, and is brutally delivered by the jagged barbarism of Robert Englund’s portrayal of fiend Freddy. The actor gave Krueger gravitas. He played Freddy with an unnerving flippancy and although almost comical, Freddy’s complete disregard for all things benevolent renders him all the more horrific. Freddy 2010 is calculating; Freddy 1984 is crazed – which is worse?

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door. Five, six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. Nine, ten, never sleep again.

Freddy’s dead… until next time.