It was a very humid night in June of 2009 when this Dread Central scribe stepped off the plane back in her hometown of Chicago to check out what Platinum Dunes had in store for this generation of fans with its new vision for one of horror’s most beloved franchises.
It was fitting that Platinum Dunes picked Chicago as one of the locations for its updated version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. After all, just a mere 25 or so miles west, the franchise’s creator, Wes Craven, received two undergraduate degrees from the private religious university Wheaton College.
It was almost like the franchise was coming full circle.
The very next morning we were shuttled off from our hotels to a warehouse district on Chicago’s West Side. You’d hardly know that one of the most anticipated horror films of 2010 was being filmed here except for the sight of production trucks lined up three-fold in the parking lot.
As we walk towards the set, I can’t help but notice that one of the large trucks is filled to the brim with carnage of all shapes and sizes: dead bodies, body parts, animal carcasses. It’s confirmed: Freddy Krueger is back to his old and brutal ways.
Inside a warehouse is the perfect setting for director Samuel Bayer’s new direction for the Nightmare franchise. It’s gritty, it’s dark, and you feel like you don’t even want to imagine what the body count is for Freddy this time around.
Case in point: As we are escorted to a viewing area, we see two of the film’s leads, Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner. Rooney portrays iconic final girl Nancy and Gallner is Quentin, one of Elm Street’s troubled loner teens who finds a dark connection with Nancy through their nightmares.
The duo spoke about how they’d been adapting a method to their acting by actually sleep depriving themselves and gave us some insight into their feelings about this new era for the Nightmare films.
Mara discussed the differences between her contemporary portrayal of Nancy Thompson in comparison to the character fans were introduced to with Heather Langenkamp’s performance in the 1984 original.
“This Nancy is very disturbed so you see her growth more than the original Nancy,” explained Mara. “The original Nancy was just a regular girl so now audiences will get to see me come out of my shell, form a relationship with Quentin, and in the end she finally figures out why she is the way she is so she’s able to do something about it.”
Gallner spoke about how it was more of the psychological aspects that attracted him to this new Nightmare film than being in a horror film that was just about the body count.
“I always thought Freddy’s story was more interesting than Jason’s or any of the other horror villains out there. There’s a psychological side to the Nightmare films and a deeper thing going on with Fred Krueger than there is with a lot of the other killers in horror movies. So as an actor, to me that was an interesting thing to want to get involved with,” Gallner said.
Gallner’s thoughts about Freddy Krueger were similar to those of Jackie Earle Haley, the very man who is now donning the fedora and dirty red and green sweater and severely messing up the sleeping patterns of a group of teenagers whose parents torched him in an act of revenge.
Haley, it turns out, has been a fan of the franchise since he first saw the flick in theaters during its original release some 26 years ago. The actor found Freddy to be the most engaging of the modern movie monsters.
“I can actually remember seeing the first one in the theater and how much I dug it,” explained Haley. “The whole concept was just really different. Of this group of monsters from the mid-‘80s, he (Freddy) was always the most interesting to me because there was some depth to him that drew me in. It made me curious what made this guy tick, as opposed to the other ones where it was just kind of masks and people running at you.”
When you’re taking on one of horror’s most beloved franchises, you better make sure that you have the right guy at the helm. Platinum Dunes felt that visionary music video director Samuel Bayer would be ideal to bring the new Elm Street to a completely different level than the original.
Most people may know Bayer as the man who revolutionized music videos in the 90s with his “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video for Nirvana or his controversial video “Coma White” for Marilyn Manson. For Nightmare on Elm Street, though, the director searched in some very unique places to find inspiration for his terrifying trip into the landscapes of some seriously hellish nightmares.
Bayer spoke about his inspirations, saying that, “I’ve looked at everything from German expressionistic film to Tim Burton movies to all kinds of disparate influences, and the one thing this movie is going to is a distinct vision when it comes to the dream sequences. I think they’re going to be beautiful and macabre and scary.”
When you’re recreating one of the most memorable visages in horror, you have to come up with something interesting that still hearkens to the original face fans will always identify with. This was the delicate balance that rested on the shoulders of Andrew Clement, special makeup effects designer for A Nightmare on Elm Street.
As we arrived in the special make-up trailer to meet with Clement, he was eager to discuss the realistic direction he went with his Freddy make-up, focusing on the villain looking more like an actual burn victim than the stylized make-up featured on Robert Englund in the original film.
“I definitely wanted him to look like a burn victim,” explained Clement. “Unfortunately we did have to do some research into some tragic burn victims — and there was a lot of asymmetry going on there, so I always wanted to get an asymmetry going on for this Freddy. I think that’s really scary and interesting to look at. I just wanted it to be a design that makes you not want to look.”
During some down time on set, we had an opportunity to sit down with the Platinum Dunes producing team of Andrew Form and Brad Fuller between shot set-ups. The pair, who were the first to talk about the Internet chatter surrounding the films in their production stable, candidly chatted with the press about their struggles to keep die-hard horror fans happy while making a product that will still be accessible enough for new fans.
Fuller said, “For the most part we feel, whether we’re right or wrong, that our audience is really two groups of people. They’re the people who are going to go see the movie because they are fans of the original, and then there are groups of people who’ve heard of the title but have never seen the films and who are not familiar with the legacy necessarily.”
“You have to balance those two groups and attempt to satiate both, which I don’t know that we’re ever successful in doing, but you can’t turn your back on either of those two groups. So we try to figure out a way to get the back story in there so that everyone’s up-to-speed by about ten to fifteen minutes into the movie. Everyone needs to have the same amount of back story knowledge going forward I think,” Fuller added.
So, will Platinum Dunes succeed in pleasing both sets of fans with its reimagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street? I guess fans will have to wait until April 30th to find out for ourselves.
One thing this writer can say based on what I saw during my set visit is that this new Nightmare, while familiar in some areas, will be unlike anything fans have ever seen before. Hopefully it will deliver on all counts!
|A Nightmare On Elm Street CENTRAL|
|Our POSITIVE look at “>A Nightmare On Elm Street by Heather Wixson|
|Our NEGATIVE look at “>A Nightmare On Elm Street by Carmen Potts|
|Check out our TOTAL “>News Center|
|Find out what we learned from our Set Visit|
|Read our Interview with Brad Fuller|
|Feast your eyes on our extensive Photo Gallery|
|Watch all of our Video Clips, Soundbites, and B-Roll|
|Get entranced by our Video Interviews with Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel Bayer & Thomas Dekker|
|Make like you’re there with us at our Black Carpet Premiere Coverage|
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