Jackie Earle Haley Wasn’t the Problem in the Nightmare on Elm Street Remake

Jackie Earle Haley Freddy

Last week’s biggest horror news was that New Line Cinema (aka ‘The House That Freddy Built’) is moving forward with a remake of Wes Craven’s seminal classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, the studio intent on rebooting the hit franchise for a second time. It was just five years ago that Freddy returned to the big screen for their first attempt at a reboot, and the results, in so many words, were disastrous.

Despite making its budget back on opening weekend, Samuel Bayer’s A Nightmare on Elm Street was a flop with both critics and fans alike, and the lack of a sequel in the past five years seemed to indicate that another reboot wasn’t far off. That’s why it should come as absolutely no surprise that New Line is going back to the drawing board, hoping this time around to make money AND make fans happy.

Fan reaction to this new remake is much the same as the reaction to the previous one, with most feeling that there’s no point in ever bringing Freddy Krueger back to theaters if Robert Englund isn’t going to be behind the makeup. And there’s even more cause for concern in that department than there previously was, as the 2010 remake solidified (for many) that Englund is the only man equipped for the role.

In six sequels and a mash-up film that saw Freddy going toe-to-toe with Jason Voorhees, Robert Englund definitely proved that the burnt-faced dream demon was the role he was born to play. Englund brought the character to life in a way that I’m not sure any other man on this planet possibly could have, the actor’s charisma turning Freddy from a creepy horror villain into a bona fide pop culture sensation.

But the truth of the matter is that Robert Englund just turned 68-years-old, and his interest in playing the character is seemingly quite low. Even back in 2008, when remake talks began, Englund noted that he was too old to play Freddy and wasn’t really interested in much other than appearing in the film for a brief cameo, insisting that he no longer had the energy or stamina to do what he last did back in 2003.

Yes, it’s been 12 years since the release of Freddy vs. Jason. How old do you feel right now?

With Englund out, that means another new actor will have to be brought in to play Freddy Krueger in this next reboot, which many feel has already doomed the project – just as Englund’s lack of involvement immediately doomed 2010’s attempt at revitalizing the franchise. And it’s a bummer that so many fans feel that way, as the man behind the makeup was the least of the previous remake’s problems.

Jackie Earle Haley has gotten a lot of unwarranted shit for his performance in Elm Street 2010, and many have gone so far as to suggest that he single-handedly derailed the film. They like to point to Haley’s portrayal of Freddy as proof positive that any Elm Street movie without Englund just isn’t going to work, and that’s one opinion – even though I HATED the remake – that I can’t possibly disagree more with.

In fact, if there’s anything about the Elm Street remake that isn’t total garbage it’s Jackie Earle Haley’s performance, and all of us horror fans were quite frankly lucky to have him on board. Not only is Haley an Academy Award nominee but he was in fact nominated for playing a creepy child molester (in Little Children), so it’s hard to argue against him being a natural fit for the razor glove and Christmas sweater.

And Haley was incredibly solid in the role, managing to be pretty creepy in the brief ‘origin’ flashback scenes, and suitably scary during the nightmare sequences. Sure, his vocal performance was almost exactly the same as it was in Watchmen, wherein he played Rorschach, but it totally worked for Freddy, and Haley helped to make the character decidedly more sinister than he was in the original sequels.

The depiction of Freddy in the film was admittedly poor, but it’s unfair to blame Haley for that. The biggest issue with the remake’s Freddy was the character design, with the terrible makeup standing out as the single worst aspect of the entire movie. Infused with unnecessary CGI, the makeup was meant to make Freddy look like a real burn victim, a misguided choice that robbed him of being cool or scary.

And the dialogue written for Haley to spew wasn’t much better than the makeup. The film’s script was all around pretty bad, focused on lifelessly recreating iconic moments from Craven’s original and never bothering to make us care about the characters or add anything even remotely new to the proceedings. The remake was truly a misfire on almost every level, despite Haley bringing his A-game.

Can anybody play Freddy Krueger better than Robert Englund? Perhaps not. But to claim that Englund is the only actor who can do the character justice is quite untrue. With better makeup and writing, we’d all likely be praising Jackie Earle Haley’s performance in the remake, so if New Line’s second attempt can improve upon those aspects, with another great actor in the role, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.

You can color me cautiously excited about this one. If the next Nightmare on Elm Street can at least wash the taste of the 2010 effort out of my mouth, I will kiss its feet and love it forever. Because if there’s any horror icon who deserves a proper reboot, it’s Freddy Krueger.

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