Cecil Laird talks Dylan’s New Nightmare

dylans-new-nightmare

One of the most exciting fan film projects in the works is Cecil Laird’s crowdfunded Dylan’s New Nightmare – a direct follow up to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

We got the chance to quiz Cecil about the film and here’s what he had to say –

Tell us where the idea came from for Dylan’s New Nightmare?

Well my team over at The Horror Show Channel on YouTube had made one previous fan film called “Sweet”, inspired by the Stephen King co-created comic book series, American Vampire. That was back in 2015. In 2017, Vincente DiSanti raised the fan film bar with his Friday the 13th fan film “Never Hike Alone”, which included original cast member Thom Matthews. Then, in 2018, Reve Rivas showed how well a fan film could be shot with his Halloween fan film “The Spirit of Haddonfield”. After seeing these two films, I decided it was time to write another one myself, only this time I wanted to raise the stakes.

So I thought for a while about what property I wanted to tackle and Freddy was a no-brainer. He’s always been my favorite horror icon, so I thought if I was going to take the time to make a fan film worth watching, I wanted it to be a Freddy film. Once I decided that, I needed to figure out where my best entry into the franchise was.

Personally, I think everybody would go to their favorite, which usually ends up being Dream Warriors, to possibly extend that story. But that’s been done in comic book form a couple of different ways at this point. So I leaned on the love of my 2nd favorite in the franchise, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. I decided that in an era where many people were reprising 20+ year-old stories (see Halloween 2018, Leprechaun Returns, I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu, etc.), my best entry point would be making a sequel to that 7th installment of the beloved franchise. I also decided that the best protagonist for the story would be Heather Langenkamp’s “son” from New Nightmare, Dylan, played by Miko Hughes. But that opened up a whole new challenge for myself!

How hard was it to get Miko Hughes involved?

It was hard in the sense that it took planning, a tremendous amount a follow-through on my part, a dash of luck, and patience to make happen. Let’s just say I played the long game on this one. I’ve actually made a series of vlog videos where I detail the whole process, from conception all the way up to shooting the teaser trailer, if anyone is interested in the full story. But I’ll give you the brief version.

We here at The Horror Show have been covering live horror events and conventions since our inception in January of 2014. The main/our favorite show that we cover each year has always been the Mad Monster conventions, held in both Charlotte, North Carolina and here in Phoenix, Arizona. We’ve covered the show long enough now that we can actually proudly call ourselves the official press of the Mad Monster Parties. Luckily for us, that entails recording celebrity Q & A’s as well as doing any on-floor interviews.

So in February of 2019, we went our to Charlotte to cover the event and we saw that Miko Hughes would be a celebrity guest. Since we knew we’d be interviewing him at some point, I decided I would conduct the interview and plant a question where I would lay the groundwork for my idea. (And the clip of this part of the interview is in that vlog series!)

At one point I asked him if he would ever be interested in possibly reprising the role of Dylan Porter in a fan film sequel to WCNN, and he actually said he’d at least read the script. So I filed the information away and finished up the interview. Then, about 2 months later, I found out Miko would also be attending Mad Monster here in Arizona in June. So I immediately got to work on that script I said I had the idea for and got it ready to present to him at the event, which I did.

When I first approached him in Arizona on the opening Friday of the event, I reminded him about the interview and my question and not only did he remember, but when I told him I actually wrote the script, he said that if he got on his flight back to LA without it that he would be pissed! So of course, a little bit later, I brought it over. He graciously took it and said he’d read it once back in LA. And frankly, I thought that would likely be the end of it. But I was wrong. The next evening, Saturday, Miko approached me and told me that since he had some time after the main event that day, he’d read the script. And not only that, but he actually really liked it and wanted to be a part of it!

From there it was a matter of keeping in touch and keeping him in the loop the rest of the way.

Tell us about the casting of Dave McRae as Freddy?

I feel as though I should again mention that this full story is in that vlog series as well, but to start, Dave was not going to be our Freddy. In fact, I had not only casted someone else at first, but actually introduced said actor to Miko at that same Mad Monster event, dressed in full Freddy garb! Unfortunately, we weren’t really creatively meshing as well as I’d hoped we would have, plus he had plenty of other projects he was working on, so we parted ways.

As for Dave Mcrae, I’d actually met him personally at the Halloween H40 convention in Pasadena in 2018 when we were there to cover the event for the channel. I had seen plenty of Dave’s videos and was a fan so I approached him. Turns out he had just recently seen a satire video I’d made for the channel called PETA vs. Michael Myers and so we chatted for a while about YouTube and horror and I invited him onto the channel to do an interview.

Fast forward about nine months later and I needed a new Freddy. Luckily, I’d already been thinking to myself, before my first actor’s departure, that it would have been great to actually have tried to get Dave Mcrae for the role. About a week later, my opportunity came. But I wanted to make sure Dave would really be a good fit. So I reached out and asked to finally set up that interview.

Dave nicely agreed and so much like my Miko interview, I prepared a bunch of questions, with one specifically thrown in to suit my needs. I decided to ask Dave, since he is a professional voice actor, to do his versions of 3 different well-known horror voices, as though Hollywood came knocking at his door. I asked for his version of the Scream phone call voice, his version of what Michael Myers might actually sound like if he spoke, and finally, what his version of Freddy Krueger would sound like.

He obliged, and when he did his Freddy I knew that I needed to get him for the role. So after the interview I spilled the beans and told him what was up and asked if he’d be interested. Luckily, he very much was!

What can you remember about first watching New Nightmare?

I remember it pretty much blowing my mind when I saw it at age 14! Here it was, another entry into my favorite horror franchise, but not only that, Freddy was trying to cross into our world! That raised the stakes higher than ever for me, and was also the first experience I can remember having with “meta” storytelling. To see Heather playing a version of herself, Robert playing himself, and even seeing Bob Shaye and Sara Risher, it was like getting an amazing peek behind the curtain of my favorite slasher. To top it off, Freddy Krueger is credited as himself at the end, which was such a fun thing for me to see. I thought, “They can DO this?!” I absolutely loved it.

Two other things struck me when I first watched it as well. The first was the fact that it was a return to a much scarier Freddy, which I was pining for after Freddy’s Dead, much like everyone else. The second was that Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is the only horror movie my late father went with me to go see. He was a doctor and had little time to even go to movies, let alone a horror movie, so the fact that he made time to go to this one with me just made the experience all the more special and one I’ll remember forever.

How does your film move the New Nightmare story forward?

My story picks up 25 years after the conclusion of the original New Nightmare, however, there is a bit of backstory that happens off-screen during that time. If you recall, before Heather and Dylan end up facing Freddy at the end of the film, they are both at the local hospital because of issues Dylan has been having. The hospital fears child abuse and is actually interviewing Heather about what might be going on when Freddy kills Julie down the hall, scaring Dylan into leaving the hospital to go home and get Rex.

After that, Heather rushes out after him with, leaving the hospital and authorities with an unexplained dead body and many questions. Then the rest of the film happens and Heather and Dylan end up defeating Freddy in his world and falling out of his bed back into our reality, presumably now safe. What we didn’t see, however, was that when Freddy “exploded”, his essence flew into Dylan’s mind just before they escaped his nightmare world.

Immediately after the fade-to-black of the original film, however, the story continued. There was a pounding on the front door of Heather’s house as the police arrive, demanding answers. Unfortunately for Heather, she has nothing to say but the truth, blaming Freddy. Ultimately this gets her thrown into a mental hospital (as she feared due to the mental issues that run in her family), leaving Dylan to go into foster care.

Now, 25 years later, Heather is still locked away in the mental hospital and Dylan is now in his 30’s living as an actor in Hollywood, following in the footsteps of his mother. Unfortunately for him, Freddy has been lying in wait all this time, slowly gaining strength by feeding on Dylan’s nightmares throughout the years. And now, Freddy is finally strong enough to make his move…

Is New Nightmare your favourite sequel in the Elm Street series?

Oddly enough, it’s my second favorite sequel and my second favorite in the franchise! I actually like ANOES 3: Dream Warriors the most, then New Nightmare, THEN the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. My reasoning there basically boils down to which ones I’d watch again first, and that’s usually the order. I just have the most fun with Dream Warriors, but I think WCNN is an amazing culmination of a fantastic series led by the man that started it all. The first is amazing and classic, of course, but I just like the other two a tad bit more.

The crowdfunding went well for the film, how much will you be able to do with the final fund?

Yes, we ended up raising a bit more than $31K, so not too shabby at all for our first crowdfunding campaign ever! And for that, we will definitely be able to make the entire short. There may be a bell or whistle or two that we may need to shave off, but quite frankly, I’m SO attached to everything, I’m working on other ways to complete the budget so we don’t have to—and thus far that process had gone well, so we should be good to make our full vision!

How has it been working with Rene Rivas and Vincente di Santi on the project?

It’s been great so far, and I don’t expect that to change! I brought Vince into the project hoping he’d be willing to help out in even a tangential fashion, but luckily he liked the idea and the crew so much that he opted to take on a more hands-on producorial role than I think he even initially intended. He has not only given his creative thoughts on the script, but he has also recommended numerous people that have now joined the team in an official capacity, including Nora Hewitt, who won the ninth season of Face/Off on Syfy. Then, when it came time to shoot the trailer for “Dylan’s New Nightmare”, Vince came out and was on set almost the entire time, helping out where necessary and just being available as an overall guiding force. After all, he’d already done this before numerous times with other fan films.

As for Rene, it’s been great working with him as well. Rene has a very creative eye behind the camera, as demonstrated on many of his past projects. His camerawork on “The Spirit of Haddonfield” was exemplary and I knew once I saw it that I would need to work with him at some point. Luckily, once I sent him the script for “DNN”, he was immediately interested in coming on board. He’s a real perfectionist on set and will do what it takes to make sure he got the best shot possible, even if it means setting up all the equipment almost by himself at 4am to re-shoot an exterior he wasn’t happy with. (True story!)

Even having only gotten through the trailer so far, working with them both has been everything I hoped it would be, and the end product is going to be all the better for their involvement!

When are you aiming to release Dylan’s New Nightmare?

We are looking to try and shoot the film in April, which would allow us enough time to get it edited for either a late summer or maybe even a Halloween-time release in 2020. That’s the goal!

Rex is also back for the film, did it help that him and Miko come as a pair?

Actually, Rex wouldn’t have happened at all without Miko. In fact, Rex wasn’t even in the first draft of the film’s script, let alone having an entire trailer written around his return! He only ended up in the script because of Miko. After his first read-through of the script, that Saturday night at Mad Monster Arizona, he asked me if I had thought about using Rex in the film. I had told him it had run through my mind, but I didn’t think it would be feasible because I had no clue where to get one. Miko then told me that he had actually been allowed to hold on to both a damaged and an undamaged Rex from the original WCNN production, and that he’d be willing to let us use them for the film!

Once he told me that, I massaged the script a bit to allow Rex to fit in a neat way, even though he won’t necessarily be playing as prominent a role in the film as he did in the trailer.

There is talk of another Elm Street movie, where would you like to see it go?

If I told you that, specifically, I’d reveal another fan film idea I have, so I’ll be safe and say something maybe a bit unpopular—I think they should try another reboot. The last one made some critical errors, which really sunk the ship in script form so the movie never even had a chance. But if they get someone who really knows the character and just “gets” how to do Freddy right, then you’d have a situation more akin to the well-received Hills Have Eyes remake instead of the response like the first NOES remake got.

And by the way, if Robert is not going to return to the role, I’d much prefer a really talented unknown take over the role than some known actor. That was close to the case with Robert and if he can embody the character, then I have to believe there’s someone out there that could embody the role as well.

Does Robert Englund have one more performance as Freddy in him?

I think, due to the nature of Freddy being a character in prosthetic makeup, he could have multiple more installments in him. I think, frankly, he got tired of sub-standard material to work with. It became diminishing returns for him, creatively, so he hasn’t gone back. He knows it takes a good story and I think that if they did a Halloween 2018 deal, where they made one movie that both Robert and the public like (and it makes money for the studio), then I think he’d be willing to do two more to complete a would-be trilogy.

If Robert did return, though, I’d want it to be a return to the previous stories, rather than a Ghostbusters 2020-like passing of the torch to a new Freddy or something. Personally, I’d want to see him up against Alice and her son Jacob one more time, since she got away!

Follow Dylan’s New Nightmare on IndieGoGo.

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