The upcoming remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street delves into the backstory of Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), and for the first time the franchise will address whether child murderer Freddy was also a child molester.
We won't give away whether he is, but the film addresses potential abuse in Freddy's own backstory. (Spoilers ahead!)
"I think we were treading very delicate waters," director Samuel Bayer said in an exclusive interview over the weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif. "I think the use of certain words, how much we allude to what may have actually happened or not happened, we were very careful and selective about what's in there and what isn't, because it isn't the core of the story. It's just whether he was innocent or guilty and did he deserve to die, that's the through line of the plot."
Trailers for the movie even raise the possibility that Freddy may be innocent. Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form thought it was important to hit that issue head on.
"It was important, because you want to know what your bad guy's doing so that the audience knows in the end how to feel about that final climax," Fuller said. "You want them to have a clear emotion one way or the other, how to respond to that."
All of which is not to suggest that the new Nightmare is a study in the psychology of abuse. We're talking about Freddy Krueger here. "We talked about it," Form said. "We didn't feel that we needed to hit people over the head with it. It is implied in the movie, and I think it's very effective. We definitely had those conversations very early on in how we were going to address that and deal with it."
For his part, the new Freddy himself doesn't think the question of child molestation is anything new. Haley caught snippets of various Nightmare sequels over the years, and he never got the impression that Freddy's crimes were limited to murder.
"To me, in the previous films, they kind of maybe danced around that issue," Haley said in a separate interview. "It seemed to me, over time, in the pieces that I've seen, I always thought that was exactly part of who this guy was. I think they said it. I think he's always been a molesting kid killer."
Technically, the movies never explicitly said Freddy was a pedophile, though it's hinted at, and it's also clear that Freddy toys with his victims before a kill, which amounts to a kind of molestation.
"Freddy, to me, has always been a molesting killer," Haley said. "He's always represented that to me. I thought that's who the guy was. Freddy is your worst nightmare. Freddy is such a fun, sickening fictional-character boogeyman that we just all love to giggle while he's chasing us down and scaring the bejesus out of us."
Perhaps if Wes Craven had had his way, there never would have been any doubt. Screenwriter Wesley Strick found in his research that Craven's original draft for the 1984 film called Freddy a child molester. Strick was simply bringing back hints that it could be in Freddy's past.
"They shied away from it initially because of the McMartin preschool case, which was in the headlines during preproduction on the '84 film," Strick said in a press conference. "[New Line chief] Bob Shaye didn't want to go there. He didn't want to look like they're exploiting that real-life event. When I was looking at all the original sort of ideas that Wes Craven had and thinking about how to give Freddy's backstory a layer of mystery, it seemed like the way to go. If a character like Freddy is said to be looking for revenge, then where does the revenge come from? It has to come from at least the possibility that he was falsely accused or wrongly punished. That seems like an opportunity to give the story a few layers of the onion that get peeled back, but the kids have to do some work to discover."
A Nightmare on Elm Street opens Friday.