The Tracking Board has heard that New Line is prepping a new Nightmare on Elm Street reboot from Oprhan scribe David Leslie Johnson, whose other credits include The Walking Dead, Wrath of the Titans and the upcoming Conjuring sequel The Conjuring: The Enfield Poltergeist. Plot details are being kept under wraps, but this will definitely be a new reboot, not a continuation of the 2010 version starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger. The story has since been confirmed by The Wrap.
When I first saw that news, I immediately committed to staying positive. Why give in to the negativity of railing against the idea of rebooting Freddy Krueger again? That’s just what Hollywood does now. As long as an intellectual property retains some perceived value, it will continue to be exploited until it is dead in the ground, at which point you simply wait for it to rise from the grave and come back around after it’s been gone long enough for nostalgia to take over. Freddy’s played the nostalgia card twice already, first with Freddy Vs. Jason and then in the 2010 reboot, which made plenty of money. Of course New Line will take another go at this. Why should a silly thing like, “Yeah, but didn’t we just reboot this franchise?” stop them? As TB pointed out, several of the other 80s horror icons are playing a similar game, “Marcus Dunstan is helming Dimension’s Halloween Returns, Hannibal’s Nick Antosca is writing the Friday The 13th sequel, and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel focusing on Leatherface is already fully cast.” Plus, Evil Dead got a new movie and now a new TV show.
These projects tend to get stuck in development hell anyways. I remain highly skeptical that Paramount will really crank out another Friday the 13th in time to meet its announced 5/13/16 release date. I’m similarly skeptical about a new Nightmare on Elm Street happening anytime soon. So, if this is just business as usual, and a new Nightmare on Elm Street is likely years away from getting made then why get worked up about any of this?
Let’s offer some constructive suggestions for what New Line could do in this thus far theoretical reboot:
1) Don’t mess with the basics
2) Decide on a tone and stick with it
Freddy has been many things in many movies over the years, and the 2010 reboot admirably attempted to return things back to the 1984 original in which Freddy is far from the campy, cartoonish prankster he became in all of the sequels. In fact, the reboot took much of its inspiration from Wes Craven’s original conception of Freddy as someone with realistic-looking burn scars and gaping holes in his face and a rather pronounced background as a straight-up child molester. These were things Craven ultimately pulled back on for a variety of reasons in ’84. The fact that the reboot went to those darker places distinguished it from earlier franchise installments. However, for as grim as the reboot wanted to be it also wanted to occasionally offer a hat tip to the funnier version of Freddy we’d expect, but some of his one-liners didn’t completely fit that version of Freddy (the first that comes to mind is a joke about Nancy suffering a “wet dream”). So, if you pick a certain tone for the new movie then just stick with it.
3) Say Goodbye to Nancy a.k.a. Reboot the Franchise, Don’t Simply Remake One of the Earlier Movies
The 2010 movie is a somewhat loose remake of the ’84 original, replacing Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy with one played by Rooney Mara. The Langenkamp Nancy is one of slasher’s most memorable final girls, and I barely remember anything about Mara’s version. Either way, if the franchise is to again be rebooted it should step back from the plot of the ’84 movie and come up with something different meaning entirely new characters.
4) Wow Us With Dream-Like Imagery, But Do So In Camera
Jason had his machete, Michael Myers had his knife and Freddy had his glove of death. However, Freddy also had insanely inventive dream sequences in which he could turn into just about anything he wanted. That’s always what separated Nightmare on Elm Street from its contemporaries – the others were hack-and-slash affairs. By comparison, Elm Street could be almost avant-garde, particularly with a lot of the imagery in Renny Harlin’s Nightmare on Elm Street 4. From a pure filmmaking standpoint, that gave the best of the Elm Street movies a sense of “How’d they do that?” wonder, elevated above the more standard slasher questions like, “How’d Tom Savini make that kill happen?” Most of that Elm Street wonder was achieved practically in camera, using age-old tricks like rotating rooms and playing footage in reverse to make it appear as if Tina was being dragged up the walls of her bedroom in the first Elm Street or Kristen was being swallowed by snake-Freddy in Elm Street 3.
Most of that wonder was absent from the 2010 remake. Seeing Katie Cassidy’s version of Tina (renamed Kris) dragged up the walls of her bedroom didn’t present the same “How’d they do that?” charm because the answer was obvious: They did it in a computer, or at least it sure looked like it. A reboot needs to somehow recapture the wonder, and reverting back to the franchise’s calling card of practical effects done mostly in camera (and merely enhanced by CGI) would be a good start. Also, one of the best moments in the entire franchise is when the two leads in Elm Street 4 race to save their friend only to quickly revert right back to where they were moments before, going through the same motion multiple times, causing us to question whether or not the movie had somehow messed up by showing us the same exact scene over and over again. We get our answer once the characters actually realize they’re not awake, but asleep, and stuck in a weird dream loop. That’s the type of loopy, Inception-like fun-with-dreams a new Elm Street could play with.
BTW, if you have 45 minutes to spare you should check out this making of Nightmare on Elm Street 4 video on YouTube to see how they pulled off some of their awesome effects shots.
5) At Least Offer Wes Craven the Courtesy of a Phonecall
Craven has had a long and somewhat tortured history with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but it’s still his baby, even if he doesn’t own the rights and has maybe had his final say on the subject in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Still, if you’re New Line you’ve got to at least extend him the professional courtesy of an offer to act as a consultant on a potential reboot. Platinum Dunes never even bothered with that for the 2010 remake, and Craven was none too pleased.
6) To Prequel or Not to Prequel
It feels like one genuinely new direction to go with this would be to do a prequel visiting Freddy as a human, but that’s actually been done already, in an episode of the TV series, via flashback dreams in both Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and the 2010 remake. Even Freddy Vs. Jason opens with Freddy in the final moments of his life as a human. So, the next step would be to come up with a more elaborate explanation for Freddy’s post-death existence as a dream demon, perhaps visiting Freddy as a young man who was into the dark arts instead of as an older man who simply made a pledge to enact his revenge upon murderous parents from beyond the grave. Yet I almost hate myself for writing that last sentence because, honestly, at this point I don’t particularly care to see Freddy further demystified. I would vote against doing any kind of prequel.
7) Diversify the Cast
Freddy has encountered and killed loads of white folks, not nearly as many people of color. There’s no reason a new Elm Street couldn’t add a little more diversity, specifically with its final girl/final guy.
8) Have You Thought About Haunting the Dreams of Adults As Well?
This idea would violate the core identity of Freddy Krueger. He only kills teenagers because they are the offspring of the adults who murdered him. It’s the notion of the sins of the parents coming back to quite literally haunt the children, and the parents are by and large rendered useless, quite often standing as active obstacles who refuse to address the real problem and choose to ignore their kid’s complaints of scary dreams. There are undoubtedly loads of academic essays offering insightful analysis of the metaphorical meanings of Elm Street, placing it in its original socio-political context as a product of Reagan-era America. However, from a simple “What haven’t we seen Freddy do before?” standpoint for a reboot it immediately jumps out at me that we’ve rarely if ever seen him venture into the dreams of adults. That could open up so many more doors for a reboot, yet at the same time I’m not so sure those are doors which should be opened. Plus, from a bottom line standpoint it would probably deviate too far from the core audience for a horror movie like this: teenagers.
Maybe it’d only really be cool to see a new Nightmare on Elm Street if Robert Englund and Wes Craven were involved. Maybe there’s more that could be done with the Dream Warriors concept, i.e., people who train themselves to control their own dreams and thus defend themselves against Freddy’s attacks. Maybe it would be interesting to see Freddy done as a period piece or in another country. Or maybe we’re better off without a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie in our lives. Actually, that’s the direction I ultimately lean on this, but if they can achieve some really inventive effects sequences in camera then a reboot might at least make for an interesting watch.
What do you think? 1,2, the comments section’s waiting for you. 3,4…no, that’s pretty much it.
Source: The Tracking Board