A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
By David Kempski
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is not a good movie. It commits the worst of horror movie sins by being slow and boring. There are some positive reviews on IMDb, but it’s the second worst rated Elm Street movie, charting just above Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, the entry that features cameos by Roseanne and Tom Arnold, a Freddy version of the Nintendo Power Glove, and a third act in 3-D. Despite this, Freddy’s Revenge is one of the bravest, most unique slasher films of all time.
The most talked about aspect of the movie is the homosexual subtext. This film stars Mark Patton as Jesse. In slasher films, it’s unusual to have a male lead in the first place. It’s not only unique for the Nightmare franchise but for all three major slasher franchises – Nightmare, Friday the 13th and Halloween -- saving only Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, in which Thom Matthews plays Tommy Jarvis in the last of a loose trilogy of films featuring the character.
Freddy’s Revenge features a scene where the sadistic Coach Schneider is seen dressed all in leather in a S&M bar, then is stripped naked, lashed in a shower, pelted with sporting balls, has his ass snapped with a towel, and only then does Freddy appear for the requisite knifing. In a later scene, protagonist Jesse is just about to have sex with his girlfriend Lisa, when he feels an attack of the Freddies coming on, and he turns to his best male friend Grady for help. It is only then that Freddy literally emerges from Jesse’s body to kill Grady. Even at the end, normality is ostensibly restored when Jesse is saved by a kiss from Lisa, in a subversion of gender roles, where Lisa is the “prince” that saves Sleeping Beauty from her slumber.
In Never Sleep Again, the documentary about the making of the Elm Street series, screenwriter David Chaskin says all this was purposely put into the film. Inspired by the burgeoning cause of gay rights, he imagined how scared a young man coming to terms with his sexuality might be. The fact that he snuck it into a major horror franchise is the most unbelievable part. According to the same documentary, no one else working on the film was aware that this stuff was barely beneath the surface.
Sequels, from a commercial point-of-view anyway, should be easy to make. To cash in on the success of the first film, just keep the formula and add more of everything: more superheroes, more explosions, or, in the case of horror movies, more kills and more gore. The fact that this movie was rushed into production and was released less than a year after the first would make it seem like it might follow this get-rich-quick equation.
This film is a little more psychological than the first. If not that Freddy was an already established horror figure, we might not be too sure that what Jesse is experiencing is real or not. The closest analog might be Psycho II, where Norman Bates leaves the mental asylum after 23 years, but as murders occur around him, starts to wonder if he is slipping back into madness. In the same way, it’s not so much the external, physical threat of Krueger but the threat to Jesse and his sanity which drives this story.
But another reason Freddy’s Revenge is so brave is in its decision to not get as big and wild as sequels tend to go. In fact, you could argue that it is almost smaller. At least until the wrong-headed pool party scene where Freddy escapes Jesse’s body and enters the real world. The website GeekTyrant lists the official kill count for this movie at 10. If accurate, eight of those must happen in that pool scene. In the entirety of the rest of the movie, there are only two kills, the first one happening 36 minutes into the movie. Neither are particularly gory. Nothing even close to Johnny Depp getting sucked into a bed and being spewed out.
Lastly, Freddy’s total screen time is restricted to just 13 minutes of an 87 minute running time. For you math nerds, that just 14% that features newly minted horror icon Fred Krueger. Hell, even one of the best horror sequels Aliens gave you more aliens.
Some may look at all these things and say that these are just the reasons why Freddy’s Revenge is so terrible and they might be right, but it seems worthy of admiration and respect that so many new things were tried in a genre that’s known for its blatant repetitiveness. While it will never be a classic, Freddy’s Revenge is nothing if not courageous and fascinating in its distinctive place in the horror movie world.
- David Kempski
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