I was on the Austin, TX set of the Platinum Dunes remake of Friday the 13th last June and, while it wasn't until months later that it was confirmed, I don't think anyone on that set thought that the Platinum Dunes WOULDN'T get to do the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The Dunes triumvirate of executive producer Michael Bay and producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, have been on a rampage through the horror genre since the production company's formation in 2001 and, with the buzz surrounding Friday the 13th, I'm sure I wasn't the only one not surprised when the Dunes deal for A Nightmare on Elm Street was inked in December. They have the principals in place - screenwriter Wesley Strick, director Samuel Bayer, Jackie Earle Haley as the iconic Freddy Krueger and young leads Kyle Gallner and recently announced Rooney Mara as Quentin and Nancy, the roles that Johnny Depp and Heather Langenkamp portrayed in the original - and filming is set to begin next month in Chicago. Fuller stated on the Platinum Dunes blog that they are in the process of creating Freddy's make-up as I type ("as we speak" just doesn't fit here) and Fuller also hoped, "to have more casting news very soon," as of the site's last post on April 5. There is no doubt about it: a new Platinum Dunes remake of a horror classic is upon us... and, for some reason more than other Platinum Dunes films, people seem to be speaking out more and more.
I'm actually a bit confounded why there seems to be a lot more buzz - both positive and, mostly, negative - around this remake than their last film, Friday the 13th. The original Jason Voorhes series had a much longer run than the Freddy series, with 10 films for Jason (11 if you count Freddy vs. Jason) and six for Freddy (eight if you count both Freddy vs. Jason and the fabulous Wes Craven's New Nightmare). Perhaps it is that Freddy's series stopped while it was ahead, so to speak, and didn't go to Manhattan or friggin' outer space like his iconic rival. Perhaps it's the fact that Freddy Krueger has that innate quality to both scare the hell out of you and crack you up with his twisted style. Perhaps they're just sick of seeing the icons they grew up with be re-hashed for the younger masses. No matter what the reason, positive or negative, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of opinion or controversy when it comes to this remake.
There have been rumors abound surrounding this film practically from the start, with Billy Bob Thornton originally rumored to portray Freddy Krueger and it was even rumored that now troubled actress Lindsay Lohan was up for a role of some sorts. So, one would think that when they finalized Jackie Earle Haley, fresh off a spectacular performance as Rorschach in the fanboy favorite Watchmen, the fans would be pleased... right? Kind of. The "blogosphere" (I hate that term, for the record) lit up with mixed criticism over the choice, with some fans hailing the casting choice, some thinking he was not right for Krueger and even some bothered by the fact that Haley was too short. For the record, Robert Englund was 5'9" and Haley is 5'5" ½, which is a margin any good set of lifts could take care of... but it's not like they're needed anyway. The widespread reaction to Haley's casting prompted Fuller to write that earlier-mentioned post on the the Platinum Dunes blog, some of which was spent defending their casting choice and, if you ask me, rightly so. There have also been a lot of bitchy blogs aimed at young Kyle Gallner's casting. While I haven't seen Gallner's flick The Haunting in Connecticut, this kid delivered a superb performance in a small arc during the last phenomenal season of The Shield as a very twisted young kid/possible murderer. I really don't know anything about Rooney Mara, except that she's the younger sister of the lovely and very underrated actress Kate Mara, but I do know that she has some very big shoes to fill. I'm actually quite pumped to see what both Haley and Gallner can do here, and even to see of the younger Mara has her sister's acting chops, but, aside from the negativity in the casting, there is plenty of negativity elsewhere... which I actually agree with.
A script review from the guys over at Latino Review has sparked many a negative reaction surrounding the film and I have to tell you, I really don't blame them. For one, Wesley Strick doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence. While he has such hits as Cape Fear under his belt (and a guilty-pleasure flick of mine: The Saint), he also wrote Doom and the syrupy tear-inducer The Glass House. Even if you put his resume aside, the script review brings up some interesting points of this script - which is a recent draft from this January - which indicates that Freddy will be much darker and, instead of the trademark snarky wit that Robert Englund so deftly applied as the original Freddy Krueger, it seems that, according to this draft, Freddy won't be speaking much at all. It also brought up some bothersome points that seem to indicate the film is more about getting to the root of Freddy's past and why he does what he does. It seems they'll be delving into Freddy's backstory in a much bigger way here, and the main question is will Freddy Krueger be a child molester or not? Regardless of what he turns out to be, I'm not a big fan of this at all and I think the fact that they didn't dig too deep into Jason Voorhes' past is one of the reasons Platinum Dunes' Friday the 13th was so successful (I rather enjoyed the film, for the record). While Jason's reboot was a brutal throwback to the 80s films, this almost seems to be a moody character study of sorts, trying to examine this bad man with cutlery hands. I could be wrong, but it seems that the high-spirited sharp-handed, quick-witted killer has been replaced by a brooding possibly sociopathic predator... which would be fine... if it was anyone else BUT Freddy Krueger. Then, for the icing on this crummy cake, it seems that the Mara's Nancy character will be more of a "goth" kid and Gallner's Quentin character runs a podcast... as if that's something we need to know (i.e. I really hope it's not a plot device...). Now, of course, all of this is on the basis of this script review, from a script that was dated in January and, by now, God knows how many revisions have been made since then, so perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree, but if I'm not, I know at least that Andrew Form and Brad Fuller will at least know I'm barking.
Form and Fuller have openly said that they read essentially everything written about them, good or bad. I rather enjoyed meeting Form and Fuller on the Jason set. They were very amiable guys to talk to and were very open about the film and potential future films on the horizon. I've enjoyed some of their films (The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th), I haven't enjoyed others (The Hitcher, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but I respect that they actually do read all those blog posts, comments, reviews and anything else to get a better sense of the fan's perspective.
While I still don't understand the appeal of Platinum Dunes strictly focusing on horror remakes, from a creative standpoint, the philosophy is hard to argue from a financial standpoint. The films make money hand over fist (with The Hitcher being the only real exception), so with their films that always cost less than $20 million to make and always make at least $40 million in domestic theatrical grosses alone, not to mention that fat DVD money... you can see why this cycle of remakes continues. You can get angry all you want about your favorite horror films being rebooted, but that's like being mad at a sports team that keeps winning. For better or worse, Platinum Dunes has found a system that works, which allows for enough of a built-in audience to make these relatively-cheap films relatively profitable, which in turn leads to more remakes and so on. It does seem that Form and Fuller might be getting a bit big for their britches, though, with a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds in the pipeline, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it...
Platinum Dunes seems to have a model that works artistically some of the time and works financially all of the time. They do have a great start in casting for A Nightmare on Elm Street (although if a recent rumor that Chace Crawford was joining the cast is true...) but some script issues are frankly quite frightening to think about. Also there is the wild-card of director Samuel Bayer, who has made a legacy out of his work in music videos (Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to name one of many) but is just now making his feature directorial debut here. I guess he just really really loved music videos for all those years. How does this all come into play for A Nightmare on Elm Street? You know I don't know that, and nor do you, for that matter... but I know that won't stop you from commenting below... Peace in. Gallagher out!