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:
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.