Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bad news

I'm not very interested in seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street. Not only am I more than a little skeptical of Hollywood's recent binge of horror remakes, but -- and I can't believe I'm about to admit this -- I did not actually see the original, so I don't have a built-in hunger to see what director Samuel Bayer has done with the concept.

The part of me that is interested, however, is interested entirely because of Jackie Earle Haley.

Haley, who's been on a major career upswing in the last couple years, is not a household name or anything. But connoisseurs of cinematic creepiness should be plenty familiar with him.

It wasn't always this way for Mr. Haley. In fact, long before anyone knew him as Freddy Krueger, they knew him as Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears. I'm not talking about the Richard Linklater remake -- I'm talking about the actual, original Bad News Bears from 1976, in which Haley played one of the players on the titular little league team.

He was a bad kid, granted. But nothing like we've seen in the last few years. Haley has gone from being a Bad News Bear to just being bad news.

It all started in 2006 -- a whole 13 years after Haley had made his last film. (Which, for the record, was Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence.) Now past his awkward "middle years" (otherwise known as his thirties), Haley made a splash back onto the scene in a movie I did not like as much as most people, which may be a candidate for my Second Chances series: Todd Field's Little Children. Creepiness personified, Haley received an Oscar nomination for his role as a child molester. Something about his physical stature (he's short and thin) and his physical appearance (he looks ... weird) made him the perfect candidate to play an emotionally fucked-up abuser. And he took the role and ran with it.

But it was really starting about a year ago that he became the new go-to guy for all things disturbing. Haley played arguably the most depraved character, Rorschach, in Zack Snyder's Watchmen. And though his face was covered by a mask that looked like a roving inkblot for much of the movie, it's the scenes where he's not wearing the mask that stick with me the most. Rorschach's alter ego, Walter Kovacs, gets captured and sent to prison, where he kills nearly a half-dozen different men, one with boiling oil, another with (I think) a chainsaw, and a third -- a dwarf -- in a way seen only in flashes through a closing bathroom door. Awesomely brutal.

Haley's third really creepy role is basically a cameo in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. This time, his whole appearance occurs in a jail cell, and it's one of those scenes that may actually occur in the mind of Leonardo DiCaprio's Teddy Daniels. Beaten, bruised, spittle flying from his mouth, Haley plays George Noyce, a patient who has been in and out of Asheville Prison, and apparently, in and out of sanity as well. Haley can make someone seem insane better than anyone these days.

Enter A Nightmare on Elm Street. When I heard about who was chosen to play Freddy Krueger, I could think of no better choice. If you want someone who can growl his lines, make everything seem sick, sadistic and twisted, and freak you the fuck out, Haley is your man.

Maybe what I'll do, later this year when the remake comes out on DVD, is watch the original and the remake back-to-back, then compare and contrast. That would make a nice little blog project. And though Robert Englund became an icon for his performance in Wes Craven's original 1984 film, I wouldn't be the least surprised if Jackie Earle Haley makes this part all his own. The way he has with everything else he's touched in the last few years.

Did I say "touched"? I meant ripped, mauled and strangled.

Like I said, bad news indeed.

1 comment:

Lord Vader said...

Haven't seen Wes Craven's original 'Elm Street'?!? Well, sir, you are in for an absolute treat when you get around to popping that one in the DVD player!