Here we are once again, with another full-on review for a film that stood out from the rest this month, but this time not for reasons of quality. Oh, god no. In fact, in terms of being scary, this film ranks so far down on the list, it almost doesn’t even make the list. But when I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, I knew I’d witnessed something that carries a lot of meaning for a lot of people, including myself. Onward!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985)
Director: Jack Sholder
Stars: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler
Country: United States
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is, in terms of story and scares, one of the worst ANOES films I’ve seen, and I think I’ve seen them all at this point. To be honest, none of them outside of the original and New Nightmare are really any good, except maybe Dream Warriors, the third film in the series. The first film established a mythology for Freddy Krueger that frankly didn’t need a further fleshing-out in subsequent films: did we need to know that he’s the bastard son of a hundred maniacs? Can’t he just be an evil burnt-up asshole who killed kids? Did we need to meet his poor mother? God, I feel bad for her, having a Post Toastie for a son like that. The series also decreased the horror of Freddy with each outing – we all know that he winds up spouting one-liners like a bad standup comic even before we get to the fifth film (that’s the one where the main girl is guided in her dreams by her own unborn child…what).
ANOES 2 picks up about five years after the end of the first movie. The Walsh family has bought the old Thompson house on the cheap, and son Jesse (Patton) ends up in Nancy’s old room. This makes him a prime target for Freddy, who apparently wasn’t exactly vanquished (this becomes a trend, you see) and is now using Jesse to carry out his killing spree. That concept alone is…well, it’s just weird. The terror of the first film is that Freddy can kill you in your most vulnerable state – your sleep, your dreams. Once he possesses someone, he just becomes another supernatural killer in a meatsuit. He might as well be Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. And not only that, when Freddy DOES show up in the movie outside of Jesse’s dreams and body, he doesn’t do anything but crash a party and fuck up some knick-knacks. He just isn’t scary. Even the film’s opening scare scene, in which Jesse is trapped on a bus that gets stuck over a hell-hole, is laughably bad. So why am I even writing about it?
Well, it’s because ANOES 2 is one of the most gay horror films I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean that lightly or in a joking sense, but if ever there was a film that worked as a metaphor for being a LGBT kid that has to hide that fact from friends and family, this is it. When I sat down to watch it (in Chicago, on a big screen, for a horror marathon), I told my companion Shelly that I’d always wanted to see it because I’d heard so much about the gay subtext within. “Oh no,” she said, “there’s no gay subtext in this. There’s just text.” When the film was over, there was a q and a with Mark Patton in which he confirmed that screenwriter David Chaskin purposely kept adding more and more of this text until it felt like Chaskin was practically bullying Patton (whose casting was supposedly intentional in keeping with the “gay theme” of the film – something that Patton has refuted) with it.
I could cite almost the entire film as an example, but there are two scenes that struck me in particular as highlighting the struggle of being closeted. One is when Jesse is brought home by the police after being punished by his gym teacher (that whole scene alone is just…wow). He’s naked, wrapped in a blanket, and soaking wet. It’s impossible for him to tell why he’s in this state because there’s no way they’ll understand, and the horror and shame he exudes speaks volumes. They ask if he’s on drugs – that’s the first thought to their minds! – as though if he said “yes,” they would understand and get him help and support him. He can’t tell the truth…it’s too unbelievable.
In another scene, Jesse goes to his friend Grady’s house in the hopes that Grady will keep him from falling asleep and thus falling under Freddy’s spell again. Naturally, as is typical of these films, as soon as Jesse loses consciousness, Grady decides to do the same, and as soon as he does, Freddy literally claws his way out of Jesse’s body. He’s the physical manifestation of Jesse’s repression, coming out of his chest to destroy Grady in bed. This floored me: in their sleep, Jesse (as Freddy) dominates Grady in a way he could never do while they’re awake. There’s always been something oddly sexual about Freddy Krueger – a terrible kind of awakening in his victims, a seduction in the violence. Where it’s hinted at in the first ANOES film, it’s practically handed over on a silver platter here.
Even though ANOES 2 is probably one of the least scary Nightmare films – one of the least scary horror films, even – that I’ve ever seen, it so perfectly summed up and encapsulated the horror of hiding your true self. I’d rank it as my third favorite of the series, that’s how much it resonated with me. I suspect that’s the same reason so many other people consider it one of their favorites, too.