Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Franken-Freddy


Over the course of the eight films that featured actor Robert Englund as the sweater-garbed, razor-fingered Freddy Krueger, the make-up was tweaked from film to film but the essence of Freddy remained constant - a face that appeared on everything from bubble gums cards to lunch boxes (but curiously, no bed sheets!) during the character's heyday. Although the upcoming A Nightmare on Elm Street remake starring Jackie Earle Haley superficially sticks to those same essentials, with the costuming retaining the classic fedora, sweater and glove, the new Freddy's burned-scarred mug just doesn't look like the Freddy we're familiar with. In going forward for a new generation, making adjustments to an icon's appearance may have been necessary but it's still jarring to go from this:


To this:


As clearer views of Jackie Earle Haley's fried face have come to light, I finally clicked on who his Freddy reminds me of - Christopher Lee's Frankenstein Monster from 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein:


For fear of copyright infringement, Hammer Studios had to get as far away as possible from the flat-top, bolts-in-the-neck Jack Pierce make-up known from Universal's Frankenstein films. The look invented by Pierce was instantly iconic, the look devised by Hammer, far less so. It worked in the context of the film, it just didn't have that classic feel to it. Pierce's Monster was such a familiar sight, a viewer could recognize it even in shadow or silhouette. In contrast, Hammer's Monster looks ghastlier but less distinctive. The Universal Monster had a glowering, cadaverous look, Hammer's was just ugly - like an unfortunate accident victim.

Going from Englund's Krueger (designed by make-up artist David Miller) to Haley's, there was no copyright issues at work - just a different conceptual agenda. Just as Hammer's Frankenstein strived to be a grittier movie than James Whale's 1931 original, one that had to distance itself from the camp of the Monster's last onscreen appearence - 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - so too were the makers of the 2010 Elm Street determined to restore the character's darker shadings rather than remind viewers of Freddy vs. Jason (2003).

It remains to be seen how well recieved the new Nightmare on Elm Street will be - but it seems certain that regardless of the merits of the film as a whole, the new Freddy is destined to go down in history, much like Hammer's Frankenstein Monster, as a crude likeness of an icon.

10 comments:

The White Wolf said...

Agreed.

The New Freddy just looks gross - not scary, or cool, or iconic. Too much like a real-life burn victim.

I read the script however, and it's good. My only 'complaint' is that there's way too many dream sequences where Freddy's JUST ABOUT TO... interrupted by real-world actions, waking the character.

And I mean A LOT.

The kids'll love it, tho.

Jeff Allard said...

That's encouraging to hear the script is good. Platinum Dunes hasn't had the best record when it comes to satisfying the fans but I hope they can nail it with this one!

The White Wolf said...

And keep producing Original Scripts.

Jeff Allard said...

Yes, definitely - but better ones than The Unborn!

Matt-suzaka said...

I like the new make up...I'm okay with a drastic change to the look, especially considering how much the original make up looked like Englund in a way.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, it's impossible to take out how important Englund himself was to the look of Freddy. Haley just doesn't have the same body type - instead of being tall and lanky, Haley's Freddy is short and stubby. And for some reason, the make-up on his face makes Haley's face look puffy and bloated (at least in the stills I've seen) - an odd look for a burn victim.

The success of Haley's Freddy is all going to come down to his performance and how well he sells his interpretation of the character.

The White Wolf said...

From what I heard, he sounds too similar to his Rorschach character.

I think that might prove to be distracting.

Planet of Terror said...

I agree with White Wolf. That's my biggest concern. From voice clips it sounds like Jackie Earle isn't doing enough to differentiate himself from that character and really make Freddy his own. Personally, I think part of the makeup and look will also have to do with how the actor portrays the character onscreen.

theverysmallarray said...

The Iconic Freddy everyone knows and loves is actually the work of Kevin Yagher (Sp?). Miller's original version did have larger islands of scarring/rotting flesh that the new film harkens back to. For the moment I'm giving Haley a push-he was so cool being the punk on the dirt bike with a girl's name in "Bad News Bears."

Jeff Allard said...

verysmallarray, thanks for giving props to Kevin Yagher! If not for his work fine-tuning Miller's design, who knows if Freddy would've taken off like he did. As for how Haley is going to fare in this, I'm pulling for him to kick ass but we'll see.