(Judge Dredd Megazine, 2010)
Freddy Krueger, he of the knifey-knifey fingers and naff striped cardigans, is back in a remake on A Nightmare on Elm Street, specifically the Wes Craven original from 1984. The rules are the same. You’re a teenager, you live on Elm Street, you sleep, you dream, you meet Freddy, you die in a range of splattery ways. The horror critic Kim Newman once noted that other franchise super-slashers – Michael Myers in Halloween, Jason Vorhees in Friday the 13th – have been portrayed by numerous different actors over the years. On the other hand, Freddy could only be Robert Englund, who cackled and wisecracked through eight films, a TV show and a Fat Boys music video.
Well, finally we have a new Freddy, played by Jackie Earle Haley, formerly Rorschach in Watchmen, and… he’s fine. But he’s not any kind of revelation; long-time Freddy-watchers aren’t likely to scream “Oh my god!” The reaction is rather, “Oh… okay.” Freddy’s ravaged face has been made over in a way that gives it a slimier, slug-like quality; his voice sounds like, well, Rorschach telling jokes. Come to think of it, one of Freddy’s few funnies in this version, when he tells a victim that his brain will go on living for some minutes after his guts have been ripped out, is something Rorschach might have said as easily.
As for the film… Well, it’s hard for me to judge it fairly, because I watched Craven’s classic so often as a teen that I even knew the pattern Johnny Depp makes on the ceiling after Freddy spews him up in liquidised form. The remake is, well, passable. As the film-makers promised, it makes Freddy uglier and more sordid than before. Rather than being a child-killer, Freddy is a… Fill in the blank. Or maybe not, as the new film throws up the suggestion that maybe Freddy was innocent and didn’t deserve to be crisped by a horde of angry parents. It’s not a new idea – the British fantasy author China Mieville has long argued that Craven’s film can be read that way, with the parents torching the wrong guy. If so, Freddy’s not an undead child-killer, but rather a phantom brought into being by middle-class vigilantes and Daily Mail readers. Now that’s scary.
(c) 2018 Rebellion A/S. Reprinted with permission.