Alita: Battle Angel pays an oddly complex homage to the reviled 2010 remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street. The character of Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic in all of horror, with everything from his razor finger glove to Robert Englund’s performance making an unforgettable impression on audiences. Freddy emerged over the course of the series from the shadowy stalker of the original to the unconventional leading man and became famous for cracking terrible puns while dispatching victims. The original franchise spawned six sequels, a crossover movie with Friday The 13th, a TV series and numerous albums, toys and even a range of children pajamas.
Given the success that greeted Freddy Vs Jason in 2003, it was expected Englund’s Freddy would return for a sequel. While another crossover with the Evil Dead series, dubbed Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash was proposed, it didn’t go anywhere. It was then announced in 2008 the movie was being remade and Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) was cast in the role. Unlike his rival slashers Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, the performance of Robert Englund was a key part of why the character worked, so even a great actor like Haley was going to struggle to match up.
While Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 did solid business at the time, it’s commonly regarded as one of the worst horror remakes of all time. It recreated famous scenes to diminished effect, the writing and direction left much to be desired and the decision to actually reveal Freddy as a child molester was in remarkably poor taste. Co-star Rooney Mara has since distanced herself from it and it failed to spawn a sequel. That said, Haley tried his best to make his Freddy Krueger a haunting figure, and with Alita: Battle Angel, he gets a second chance (sort of) to revisit the role.
Grewishka Is Eerily Reminiscent Of The Remake’s Freddy
Haley plays Grewishka in Alita: Battle Angel, a huge cyborg who vows revenge against the title character. Grewishka is based on Grewcica from the Battle Angel Alita anime, who was himself a composite of two villains from the original manga. On first impressions, the 5 foot 5 Haley doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a 10-foot, muscle-bound assassin, but thanks to motion capture technology he imbues the role with a hulking menace. Following his first encounter with Alita, the character is upgraded with grind cutters, which are razor-sharp, extendable fingertip blades – and that’s when the Freddy Krueger parallels pile up thick and fast.
Grewishka’s constant flexing of his razor-fingered hand is one thing, but Haley’s growly vocals and laugh feel awful close to his Freddy voice too. Alita and Grewishka’s second battle takes place in the sewers beneath Iron City, with the latter jumping down a hole and beckoning his intended victim with “Come to my world!” which is paraphrasing another line from Freddy Vs Jason and the remake. Grewishka’s killing of a cute little dog even mirrors a scene from the Nightmare On Elm Street remake where Freddy kills the pet dog of another of his victims. Grewishka also gets set on fire at one point during the fight, as if to drive the comparisons home.
Homage Or Coincidence?
Of course, the parallels between Haley’s Freddy Krueger and Grewishka could be total coincidence. The grind cutters come from the original manga and anime, after all, and the death of the dog is another addition from the OVA. That said, Robert Rodriguez is a famed movie nerd, so it’s doubtful he failed to see the many similarities between the two characters; that could have even played a role in Haley's casting. The remake’s take on Freddy Krueger was conceptually flawed for a variety of reasons, yet Haley’s performance was one of the few bright spots.
Its been almost a decade since the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, and given the resurrection of famous horror properties like Halloween and Candyman, it feels like a matter of time before Freddy makes a comeback. Haley is unlikely to be asked back at this stage, but his work in Alita: Battle Angel definitely feels like a tip of the hat to the character and the closest he’ll come to a sequel.