3 questions a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie must answer
Last week news broke that the Craven estate had regained the rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street and would be open to hearing story pitches. The possibility of getting a new Nightmare installment is exciting, but before we get too hyped, here are three important aspects that need to be considered.
1. Tone Deaf
What makes for a successful Nightmare movie in the year 2019? The perfunctory answer may be scary, but consider this: the last scary Nightmare movie was probably Dream Warriors. Even then, Freddy had begun his transition from dark psychopath to evil court jester. That whimsical menacing persona became the de facto version of Freddy in all subsequent films.
Naturally, the structure of the Nightmare movies changed too. No longer shackled to a cleanly definable genre like horror, Freddy grew into an anti-hero, and his exploits became amusing and creative vignettes that found new ways to finger murder the remaining Elm Street children. While these sequels could hardly be called scary, the series was clearly at its creative apex. A balanced tone must be struck then, between the terrifying maniac and inventive filmmaking. Freddy must be a wretched terror and his dreamworld a twisted, mindboggling occurrence.
2. The Bastard Born of 100 Maniacs
Which brings me to the next big concern for the franchise: who plays Freddy? On two separate occasions, New Line Cinema tried to get someone other than Robert Englund to wear the red and green sweater. In both scenarios, it was a resounding failure. The most recent and consequential was Jackie Earle Haley in the uninspired 2010 remake. While Haley is a capable actor, he lacks the mien of Englund and came off as a toothless approximation.
The other time was when New Line Cinema entered contract negotiations over Nightmare 2. The studio thought Englund was asking for too much money and tried to replace him with a no-name stunt double. Thankfully, sanity had replenished the room once studio head Bob Shaye saw early footage of the Krueger doppelganger and Englund was brought back into the fold.
While it’s a long shot, and Englund is over 70 years old, he has never been shy about his love and stewardship of the Krueger character. With Englund’s personal take for an older, grislier Freddy, perhaps Wes Craven’s original Freddy concept will see the light of day, after all. Of course, it’s cheaper to bring in an unknown actor. Or worse yet, a well-known actor. It seems somewhat likely that this is the route they’ll take, but perhaps the Craven estate, like Wes, understands that without Englund, there is no Freddy, or at least there shouldn’t be.
3. A New Challenger Approaches!
Perhaps the most pressing matter: who should direct the film? Once news broke about the estate taking pitches, I imagined the number of ideas sliding into the Craven’s DMs like so many thirsty 3 a.m. boys. They likely have a range of directors to choose from. I ran into a few entertaining, albeit notably amateur, pitches myself. One particular idea caught my attention, though. A proposal from a young filmmaker named Evan Santiago, and I’d like to submit it for your consideration.
The budding creator is cagey about the details of his story, he prefers for the trailer to do the talking, and while it’s a long shot, I think it’s one of the freshest Nightmare ideas I’ve heard in a long time. Young insurgents like Santiago may be able to inject bold ideas into a well-worn framework. Ignore them at your peril.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Mike Flanagan and his tweet this weekend. Flanagan is perhaps the most obvious choice among brand names. He is so well suited for a film structure like this. I’ve commented many moons ago that while Oculus has its flaws, it did play with time and space in a way that felt reminiscent of Nightmare’s most compelling moments. Flanagan’s knack for subverting expectations falls right in line with the franchise’s beguiling sensibilities.
Regardless of how the Craven estate decides to move forward, I am naively optimistic at the prospect of a new Nightmare film. Provided these questions I pose are answered, we may finally see the proper return of Fred Krueger.