Freddy's Not Dead: 7 ways to build a better 'Nightmare on Elm Street' remake
Another "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake? You're not dreaming.
According to multiple sources, New Line is rebooting the iconic slasher franchise only five years after the last attempt fizzled with critics and audiences (despite grossing a healthy $115 million at the box office). David Leslie Johnson ("Orphan," "The Walking Dead") is scripting this time around, and the hope is he can help us forget about the series' creatively lackluster 2010 installment.
Don't like it? There'$ no u$e fighting thi$, people. Question is: can they build a better version this time around?
To that point, below I've listed seven suggestions on how to make this re-remake a more worthy followup to Wes Craven's 1984 original.
1. For the love of god, leave Michael Bay out of it.Photo Credit: AP Photo
The blockbuster director and his Platinum Dunes shingle don't appear to be involved in this new incarnation, and thank goodness for that. Since releasing their glossy remake of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" in 2003, the company has churned out some of the most uninspired horror retreads (and originals) in recent memory, from the truly heinous "Friday the 13th" remake (they're also behind a second "F13" reboot slated for 2016) to last year's critically-lambasted board game adaptation "Ouija." What's clear is that Bay and his associates are far more interested in appealing to the widest possible audience than pleasing hardcore genre fans, and it shows in the vacuous horror flicks they've been putting out for over a decade. Let's hope their non-involvement remains a thing.
2. Don't just do a retread.Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
The 2010 remake suffered in part thanks to its over-reliance on paying homage to the "greatest hits" from the original film, from the levitation murder sequence to the iconic bathtub scene (see above). Sorry, but that's boring. Why does Freddy have to go after white suburban teenagers, for example? Why not set the remake in a multi-cultural urban landscape? Hell, why not make Freddy a woman even? (Frederica?) I'd also love to see an overtly surrealistic sensibility brought to the dream sequences, an approach that hasn't been exploited to its fullest potential in the previous films. And for the love of god, let's ditch the origin story this time around (we all know it!). The slasher genre's most inventive franchise deserves an update that will take us in wild and unexpected directions.
3. Take a tonal cue from the first 20 minutes of the original movie.Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
The mood Craven establishes in the first few minutes of the original film is deeply scary, and I'd love to see a filmmaker try and sustain that level of dread throughout an entire movie. As much as I like the '84 version, the latter half occasionally devolves into cheese, rendering the scares less potent than they otherwise might have been. Making an "Elm Street" film that's as scary as or scarier than the original is a tall order, but in the right hands it's far from an impossible challenge.
4. Ditch "jokester Freddy."Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
Robert Englund's performance as the macabre wisecracker has rightly been praised, but the character was effectively de-toothed once the parade of sequels rendered him more comedian than bogeyman. One thing I thought the remake actually got right -- at least in concept -- was in bringing Freddy back to his darker roots. Numerous creative missteps kept this approach from reaching its full potential, but it's the right direction to take the character in.
5. Hire a true visionary with a proven track record to direct.Photo Credit: AP Photo
All due respect to Samuel Bayer, but the director's work on the 2010 remake left a lot to be desired. His impressive list of music video credits clearly won over the suits (he directed such iconic clips as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"), but I think what's needed for the re-remake is a visionary filmmaker with a solid resume who can bring a truly distinctive touch to the franchise. "It Follows" director David Robert Mitchell is almost too obvious a choice, but he's just one of many exciting genre filmmakers currently making waves, from "The Babadook" director Jennifer Kent (pictured) to Adam Wingard ("You're Next," "The Guest") to Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer ("Starry Eyes"). That's just a sampling of up-and-coming directors whose distinctive voices could go a long way in reviving a franchise that's in dire need of fresh blood.
6. Make the teenage characters feel like actual teenagers.Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
In the original "Nightmare," Heather Langenkamp and her fellow young cast members (including then-newcomer Johnny Depp) felt like real high school kids; in the remake they were stock Hollywood archetypes (i.e. "the arty girl," "the J'oy Division-shirted indie kid," et al.). I'm not saying the new incarnation has to center on adolescent protagonists (see: #3), but given Hollywood's youth obsession I'm assuming that's the direction they'll take it in. And if they're going to do it, they should treat the characters like human beings with actual personalities and not some studio executive's idea of what teenagers should look and act like. (See "It Follows" for a recent example of how to do it right.)
7. Delve deeper into the thematic heart of the original film.Photo Credit: New Line Cinema
The original "Nightmare" had a lot of meat on its bones, making it probably the most sophisticated film in the early slasher movement. Thematically it deals with the cycle of violence, the hypocrisy (and ultimate futility) of mob justice, intergenerational disconnect and the thin veneer that separates "civilized" human beings from their primal selves, among other heady subjects. The sequels largely ditched these complex themes in service of more run-of-the-mill slasher conventions, but there is rich territory to be mined if the powers-that-be have the courage to take it there.