Monday, October 19, 2009
The Gloved One
By Joshua Bottomley
That glove, it shimmers even in the dimmest light, captivating an audience that is holding in one, collective breath, waiting with an insatiable anticipation as to what’s going to happen next. Millions scream when his eyes appear from under the fedora. Eyes that examine soul, and can do things to you, control you, and make you imagine things that just don’t seem possible. That’s right, parents, lock up your children, Freddy Krueger is coming back to Elm Street.
There are two things I need to make clear. One, I don’t like remakes. I think it is lazy and asinine to be remaking these franchises that were either perfect the way they were, or are still too young to warrant a facelift and boob job. Some I boycott because of exorbitant amounts bad press and some I won’t see because of an invisible bond I have with a certain cast of characters that I look at as my extended fantasy family. Two, I am a liar. I begrudgingly admit that some of them are half way decent.
This list could include movies like Freaky Friday, which initially starred a young Jodie Foster earning her acting chops, and was then morphed into Linsday Lohan right before she learned how to chop coke, or Zac Efron romping around in 17 Again a role that was originated in all it’s “WHOA” glory by a fresh faced Keanu, way back in 1988. But no, I do not wish to delve into the sugary syrup, but rather the corn syrup. The red, thick goop. Oozing. Viscous. The kind that slowly drips off five fingertip blades, blades that drag across metal pipes producing a piercing wail soon to be mimicked by its listener. Freddy’s Back. And he is pissed off.
The trailer for the new, A Nightmare on Elm Street, has just seeped its way onto the interwebs and it looks gooooooooooood . Never have I been this excited for a franchise reboot. There has been a mixed bag of releases during this new trend and the horror genre seems to be putting the most films in the can. Whether this is due to cheaper budgets, or the absence of a star driven cast is debatable, but while the mainstream is watching Denzel in The Manchurian Candidate, horror buffs have received, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Hills Have Eyes, My Bloody Valentine, The Last House on the Left, and Prom Night, not to mention the ever-growing pile of foreign flick re-dos like The Ring and The Grudge.
While Rob Zombie had a decent take on Halloween, it still fell flatter than Will Shatner’s singing voice, and Friday the 13th failed because that hockey mask is more played out than the phrase “played out.” But, Freddy….Freddy is king. Yes, he became more of a vaud-villain in his last few go-arounds, but the first three Nightmare on Elm Street movies were topnotch fright fests. I was ten years old when I watched Freddy tear out a young boys tendons and parade him through a mental institution like a puppet before sending him off the roof, while waving. Grinning. Laughing. It was awesome. Twenty years later my veins still ache when I watch that scene in Dream Warriors.
Robert Englund was a craftsman when it came to donning the hat and glove and he became THE icon of the 1980’s horror boom. The guts n’ gore biz is cresting another wave, so the suits n' ties know that Freddy Krueger’s return to the Cineplex will usher in a new generation of children ready to “never sleep again.” The reason for Freddy’s immense popularity over the other slashers of the era is that Freddy has a face, albeit grotesque. Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees are both silent, humongous, masked characters that could never be hurt until their film’s final five minutes. Freddy had a sneer, a voice, and he was prone to being beaten up, almost masochistically at times, before lacerating his sleeping prey. His ability to communicate drew fear from his victims, even if it drew a few giggles from the audience.
I believe those giggles are gone. We live in a post-Dark Knight era. And the campiness of the 80’s horror genre, I’m afraid that train has sailed. These current “reimaginings” are trying to take on a darker, drearier tone, even in the horror game. So, away with the cheesy one-liners.
Englund helped make Freddy a household name, but now that his street is being repaved, someone else had to throw on the red and green sweater. Enter Jackie Earle Haley, fresh off a career-resuscitating gig in Watchmen. Now Watchmen certainly garnered mixed reviews and not many, besides its hardcore audience, really got what the film was saying. They also never read the graphic novel. But it was unanimous that Haley BECAME the demented anti-hero, Rorshach. His crazed persona carried what was a very tedious film. Every time Rorshach had a voice over, it captured the heads in attendance. And that scene in the prison, it was gore-gold.
Like Dracula, it is going to be hard to reinvent Freddy. Haley’s biggest problem is that he is going to be the first to do so. Dracula has been done numerous times varying in degrees of success and failure, but there are so many to compare each other too that it is hard to keep track. Jackie Earle is only going to be compared to one Freddy, the O.G. My only hope is that the producers somehow squeeze Bobby Englund into a cameo. He deserves it so much. But how can they do it while not making it a comedic shout out?
I don’t want comedy. I don’t want pop culture. I want blood. I want boiler rooms. I want a teenage girl held upside by an unseen force that slices her abdomen while her not so bright boyfriend yells, “Tina!” I want Johnny Depp to get swallowed by his bed and be regurgitated in a gravity defying puree. I know that I won’t get everything that I want, but I’ll damn sure be in line to buy a ticket. And that is more than I can say about the majority of these remakes, which I usually wait to be burned on DVD or just ignore completely. Except for Dawn of the Dead, that was harsh! My advice to you is, check out the trailer. I realize that its six months until the release but I’m going to watch all eight of the originals to gear up for this flick, and try to save up on some sleep. “One, two Freddy’s coming for you.”