The status of an icon is cemented by an idiosyncratic appearance and that also applies to horror movie icons. Sometimes the defining visual identity is already established in the first movie (Pinhead), sometimes it needs a few sequels to develop the final look (Jason).
Once in awhile though, frozen structures and tired tropes have to be stirred up and a change in looks is a good first step to breathe some fresh air into a franchise and shake off some of the less timeless visual traits that stem from the time of its inception.
Yet, a change is not always needed -“don’t fix what’s not broken”- and in the worst case it can turn out to be a little botched- like the following 9 examples.
*List is in no particular order!
#1 Freddy Krueger in New Nightmare (1994)
For Wes Craven’s meta-sequel to the popular slasher-saga a new look for Freddy was necessary due to the script’s darker approach to the character. I have to confess that when the movie came out, the 14 year old me was very impressed by the design overhaul of good ole Freddy, who looked more aggressive now in my eyes. Looking back today, well, that feeling waned a little.
They surely put some effort into updating the 80s relic Freddy and infused his costume with a fair dose of 90s slickness, with some unintentional hilarious results.
I give them the snazzy new coat and the vaguely biomechanical hand with the integrated razors that replaced the classic leather glove. The hat is now green like that of a Christmas elf though and the brand new sweater is 100% wool with a semi-turtleneck, right off the shelves from Abercrombie & Fitch. Below the beltline, the outfit suddenly goes all goth rock-star, with a ridiculous combination of shiny black leather pants and jump boots that reach up to the knee, the former probably a forgotten leftover of the DOKKEN wardrobe for the video clip shoot to “Dream Warriors” and the latter a loan from the NIN fanclub.
Worst part of the new look is the new, cheap looking face makeup, with no more visual references to Italian dishes, but with a more “aggressive” design, showing off a violently torn skin that exposes some very rubbery facial muscles, complemented by some equally awful Marilyn Manson (“Mechanical Animals” era) type contact lenses.
#2 “Cyborg Jason” from Jason X (2001)
Jason Vorhees’ excursion into space is definitely one of the most entertaining and self-aware entries into the Friday series, but Jason’s temporary redesign is a low point in a series with quite a few low points.
At one point in the movie, Jason’s face and parts of his body are blasted away, only to be restored with a liquid metal substance by nanobots (…long story). The resulting look is beyond cheesy. I guess the FX department went for something in the vein of Terminator, but it looks more like someone left a “Shredder”action figure, minus helmet, too close to the radiator.
#3 “Drake” aka Dracula in Blade: Trinity (2004)
As a character that appeared in roughly 80 movies (not counting rip-offs), the vampire count has unsurprisingly had his share of horrible incarnations and this version, with a bull-necked Dominic Purcell playing the part, is one of them. It’s admittedly next to impossible to develop a proper, Gary Oldman style fashion sense when you have been buried in the desert for thousands of years and I fully understand that his preferably bare-chested wardrobe choices were intended to exploit him as eye-candy, but still, would the real Dracula go for that Russian Gigolo outfit?
When turning into his “monster shape”, he looks like an art project that aims to mold a sculpture of the love child of Sauron and Sil (Species) with minced meat.
#4 Pinhead in Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)
Confession: I have never seen this hitherto last instalment of the once promising saga, that marked the first time when chief cenobite Pinhead was not played by Hellraiser stalwart Doug Bradley, but by actor Stephan Smith Collins.
When I saw the picture below the first time, I thought it was a photograph of a cheap Mexican Pinhead figurine knockoff. But despite the plasticky quality, it seems to be an actual screencap from the movie.
Not a lot has changed from the original design. The grid carving seems somewhat “fresher” and bloodier now, which undermines the calm morbid austerity of the character a little, but I guess that’s all they could come up with as “innovation”.
Most irritating about this incarnation is simply the new actor; there is nothing intimidating about him. Looking at Collins’ imdb-page, he does have very memorable and poignant features, but apparently not every facial structure lends itself for the Pinhead makeup. What we get is a depiction of what a young uncle Fester waking up in Tijuana after a really bad trip might have looked like.
And those Wayne Knight eyes just creep me out.
#5 “Adam” (aka Frankenstein’s monster) in I, Frankenstein (2014)
This redesign is not outright horrible, it’s just very bland and unimaginative. A few decorative scars spread over a chiseled body and voila. Seems DeNiro’s “cosmetic surgery with a chainsaw” look is done this season. Yes yes, I totally understand that this is supposed to be the “sexy version of Frankenstein’s monster”, but how Vanilla can it get? Also pretty mundane is the garb. No complaints about the coat, but the jeans/hoodie combination is maybe fine for attending the baseball game of your kids or dining out at “Applebee’s” but makes you look severely underdressed when battling hell demons. Yes yes, I totally understand that he is also the “undercover version of Frankenstein’s monster”, but the scars reveal his identity anyway, so false modesty is inappropriate and it’s high time to get a more dramatic outfit, how about some shiny black leather pants?
And please take those tribal blades back to the late 90s, the guys from the Todd McFarlane toy workshop just called.
#6 Leprechaun in Leprechaun: Origins (2014)
One of the best dressed and most eloquent horror icons was turned into an ugly and inarticulate monster. I guess the producers tried to adapt the successful Casino Royale approach for their own reboot.
#7 Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Yet another Freddy redesign. Admittedly, his new make-up (the costume remained the same) more accurately reflects the look of real burn victims, but it also suspends the fantastical note of the original character and lacks his expression and uniqueness. Much like the movie actually, so I might give this one a pass after all.
#8 Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
That time when Leatherface was turned into a sweet transvestite from transsexual Texas.
#9 Freddy (again) in Scream (1996)
Come on… they didn’t even try this time!