Out of the closet, into a nightmare
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE
“The man of your dreams is back.”
Director: Jack Sholder / Writer: David Chaskin / Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Sydney Walsh, Robert Englund.
Body Count: 9-ish
Dire-logue: “Lisa, there’s a Jesse on the phone!”
Although often cited as the worst of the Elm Street franchise (a view I shared until a few years ago), Freddy’s Revenge, on a subtextual level to say the least, is actually pretty good viewing. Plus the fact that it’s so superbly 80s, even the metallic shininess that adorns the titles!
Although there’s enough evidence that this sequel was rushed into production without a lot of thought, at least the creators tried to vary the theme rather than provide a retread of the original and things begin magnificently with a creepy dreamscape that could rival some of those in #1 for effectiveness. Fears of kidnap, social inadequacy, and hell are realised almost perfectly in the sequence, which introduces us to our final boy, Jesse…
Jesse and his family have recently moved into 1428 Elm Street and their teenage son is in Nancy’s old room and already having nightmares about a burnt, claw-fingered guy who, it seems, is more interesting in getting Jesse to do his bidding rather than just slashing him to death.
Jesse soon becomes torn between what’s real and what’s in his head and his parents naturally blame it all on drugs but then some murders occur: first his high school’s nasty gym coach in an exceptionally sexual manner (we’ll come on to that later), then his buddy Grady and some poor schmucks invited to love-interest Lisa’s pool party.
There’s no dream-stalking in Freddy’s Revenge, at least none that’s as clear cut as the other films. No, “oh shit, I’m asleep!” Only Jesse needs to stay awake and sometimes that doesn’t appear to work as Freddy cuts his way out to wreak havoc whenever he feels like it.
Elm Street 2 has a reputation as ‘the gay film’ in the series. Why? Well, from electing an effeminate boy as the lead who whines to Lisa that “he’s [Freddy] trying to get inside my body,” is a good start. Then there’s Nancy’s diary that quite literally comes out of the closet with insights. The aforementioned gym teech is into S&M and catches Jesse in a downtown gay bar before escorting him back to school where the coach is then tied to the showers, stripped, whipped and slashed by Freddy before the showers spurt blood in a bizarre ejaculative gesture. It’s worth noting that furiously chewing gum has never succeeded in making ghostly things depart for future reference.
Jesse – it’s in the name! – shrieks in a high-pitched voice much of the time before Freddy literally comes out of him to take over and it eventually takes Lisa’s kiss to save the day. In effect, heterosexuality is what claims victory, re-repressing Freddy into the background and out of harms way.
There are those who criticise the film for being a ‘gay pride parade’ but it couldn’t be more the other way if it tried. 80s America wasn’t really much of a ticker tape parade for homosexuality at the best of times and the film paints quite a marginalised portrait: the thing that lurks inside trying to take over is evil and must be repressed. Quite the celebratory message indeed.
Is it worth pointing out the irony of these people who moan about diverse sexuality being explored in a film series where the central character is a child molester? I’d bet they’re the same ones who whinge when there are no tits on display. It’s OK, look, there’s an undead kiddie-fiddler instead!
Anyway, back in the black and white world of horror cinema, Freddy’s Revenge fails on several levels: there are only two ‘proper’ murders, although both are good, not enough of the skipping-rope chant, the acting is all over the place and Patton doesn’t make much of a sympathetic hero and it’s really Meryl Streep-a-like Myers who does the legwork. Freddy though, looks great and at his scariest with a sort of moist quality to his skin (ew!) and the final shock is amusing.
Who knows what writer Chaskin was trying to achieve here? Parts of it work and parts don’t, but it all looks well made and it’s certainly different and betters – at least - parts 5 and Freddy’s Dead.
Blurbs-of-interest: Jack Sholder edited The Burning and directed Alone in the Dark; Christie Clark (Jesse’s little sister) was later in Children of the Corn II; Marshall Bell was in Identity; Clu Gulager was in The Initiation; Englund appeared in Behind the Mask, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera and Urban Legend.