I’m sitting right next to Jackie Earle Haley but I’m having a hard time looking at his face. I find myself focusing on his hands, which are in his lap, but that’s no help as his fingers are long and thin and bony and raw pink and black with cracked, fungal nails tearing away from the sensitive nail bed. He’s in full make-up as Freddy Krueger and this Freddy isn’t the melted cheese face guy who graced plenty of kid-friendly toys and items. This Freddy looks more like a legit burn victim, like the guy who suddenly comes into your line of vision on the bus or at the grocery store and makes you want to turn away but also makes you want to just stare at the sleek, shiny skin and the nubs of ears. There’s something about this Freddy’s eyes that cross the line from being horror movie horrible into being real life horrible, and I think it’s that quality that makes it hard for me to look at Haley as he speaks.
In other words, this Freddy Krueger is fucked up looking. Not so fucked up looking that the nation will lurch queasily from theaters when the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street hits, but fucked up enough that children’s toys like this Freddy-faced squirt gun would be in exquisitely bad taste. And that’s seemingly how everybody involved in the film wants it – this isn’t a return to the Henny Youngman of slasher films but rather a dark, serious and hopefully scary dream killer.
“We’ve never been attracted to a jokey antagonist because it feels less scary and less real,” producer Brad Fuller said when he sat down to chat with my group of journalists visiting the suburban Chicago set of the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. “He’s not witty. He’s a fucked up guy.”
Talking slowly and quietly, Jackie Earle Haley agrees. “We’re focusing more on the less campy and a little bit more of the scarier side. More of a serious side. And there’s definitely, I think, a little more focus on what makes this guy who he is. And so there’s a little bit of a deeper kind of look at him. I’m playing a boogeyman, you know? So that’s what I’m really trying to embrace, but at the same time find out what makes this boogeyman tick. So there is room to kind of look at his past and to see what’s happened and to see what makes him who he is—to see what’s made him the boogeyman that he is. But I think it’s really important that Robert Englund and New Line has done such a fine job over the years of creating this world and this character. It’s fun to kind of re-envision and do that but at the same time we need to remain true to a point of who Freddy is and what the franchise kind of represents. It’s neat to get to re-envision it but at the same time you don’t’ want to go so far that we’ve left what makes it so kind of cool and bitching.”
While the face may be slightly different, the rest of Freddy remains obviously him. While walking around the set we saw Freddy’s stand-in, dressed up in the complete costume. This Freddy has the exact same silhouette as the original – the hat and the sweater and the glove. Oh, the glove. It’s been slightly redesigned but it’s obviously the Freddy glove. And its surprisingly sharp and very heavy. Yes, I did put it on. Sometimes this life is good.
There’s a lot more – we saw some filming and toured sets from Freddy’s nightmare world. All of that will be coming in a longer piece, with more in-depth interviews, closer to the film’s release. In the meantime keep your eyes peeled for the reveal of Freddy’s new look; it may even have hit by the time you’re reading this.