Friday, August 17, 2018

Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, A (1985)

... aka: Le revanche de Freddy (Freddy's Revenge)
... aka: Morderisk mareridt 2 (Murderous Nightmare 2)
... aka: Nightmare 2
... aka: Nightmare 2 - Die Rache (Nightmare 2: The Revenge)
... aka: Nightmare 2 - La rivincita (Nightmare 2: The Revenge)
... aka: Nightmare - Mörderische Träume (Nightmare - Murderous Dreams)
... aka: Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy's Revenge
... aka: Pesadilla en la calle del infierno (Nightmare on Hell Street 2)
... aka: Terror på Elm Street 2: Freddys hämnd (Terror on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge)

Directed by:
Jack Sholder

"Isn't that the gay one?" It seems so much attention has been drawn to the gay content in this film in recent years that people just ignore the entire rest of the movie as if there aren't other things to discuss. It's even been called "the gayest horror film ever made" by people who apparently haven't explored the filmographies of Bruce La Bruce or David DeCoteau. So we'll go right ahead and address the elephant in the room. Yes, there is indeed a lot of gay stuff going on here. Some of it is subtle. Some of it is (rather surprisingly for the time) right out in the open. The grappling with same sex attraction theme does not in any way make this a bad film, nor does it necessarily make it a good one. It does however make this stand out as unique in the 80s slasher canon and that's never a bad thing.

Even though pretty much everyone who worked on this film denied the gay content was intentional (or were just completely unaware while filming), writer David Chaskin eventually came forward and said that, yes, he had all of this in mind when he wrote the script. Robert Englund apparently was able to read between the lines and has stated he always interpreted this as being about a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality. The actor even went so far as to try to ad lib something blatantly homoerotic during one scene, which was rejected by producers. Director Sholder said he was completely unaware of any gay subtext due to his own naivety at the time and how busy he was during the entire shoot. Listening to the various cast and crew members discussing this over the years is nearly as interesting as the content itself.

Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) has just moved to Springwood, Ohio with his parents Ken (Clu Gulager) and Cheryl (Hope Lange) and his kid sister Angela (Christie Clark)... and they also happen to move right into Nancy Thompson's former home on Elm Street, which still has the bars over all the windows. Even though he's the new kid in town, Jesse has already made a female friend named Lisa (Kim Myers), but he's more interested in palling around with a popular, immature jock named Grady (Robert Rusler). Grady tells him about what went down in his home five years earlier and about how Nancy went crazy after seeing her boyfriend butchered in the house across the street. He also warns him to stay away from their drill instructor-like gym teacher Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell) because he "hangs out at queer S&M joints downtown" and "likes pretty boys like you."

Like Nancy and her ill-fated friends before him, Jesse is plagued by nightmares of Freddy, only this time Freddy isn't exactly out to kill him. He makes his intentions known caressing Jesse's face with his glove and then ripping back the skin on his head: "You've got the body. I've got the brains." This time out, Freddy wants to possess a human so that he may return to life and do his thing. Breaking with the format of the original in a big way, the Thompson home is now basically viewed as a haunted house and Freddy is the ghost inhabiting it. The original's premise, with Freddy out for revenge against the people who torched him by going after their kids, is dropped altogether. Jesse is, after all, an innocent bystander who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jesse's body is eventually taken over by Freddy to the point where he can control him and force him to do his dirty work ("Kill for me!"). First up is the mean coach. After Jesse goes to the gay club in the middle of the night, the coach drags him back to the school and forces him to run laps. He's then pummeled with balls and sporting equipment, dragged to the shower room by jump ropes, has his clothes stripped off and then gets his ass whipped bloody with towels before Freddy slashes him to death.

Afterward, Jesse is found naked, disoriented and wandering the highway by police. While his mother immediately wants to put him in therapy, his hard-assed dad thinks he's on drugs and needs "a good god damn kick in the butt!" But that doesn't explain the strange occurrences in the home either. It always feels 100 degrees inside, an unplugged toaster catches fire and a parakeet goes crazy, attacks everyone and then explodes! After Jesse completely loses his battle to contain Freddy, more deaths follow, culminating in an attack at a pool party at Lisa's home and then a visit to Freddy's former stomping grounds at the power plant.

Viewing Freddy as symbolic of the confused lead's repressed homosexual urges really does make this a much more interesting watch than it otherwise would have been; certainly more conceptually interesting than most of the other sequels. When Jesse starts getting intimate with Lisa and feels "him [Freddy] coming," he immediately flees to Grady's house, sneaks in his window and jumps into bed with him, right on top of him, prompting a startled "You want to sleep with me?!" from his friend.

I've seen numerous viewers claim this film is actually homophobic but those sharing that opinion seem to think the filmmakers are trying to equate being gay with being evil. However, it's important to note that Jesse's personal interpretation of his own urges at a time when said urges wouldn't be socially acceptable is just that: a character's interpretation. There's probably nothing scarier to most teens than knowing being their true self would make them an outcast and a target for ridicule within their peer group. Thus the Jesse character viewing these differences as a "monster" that must be contained is more about self-preservation than anything else. Jesse ultimately being saved by Lisa's love for him is also used by those crying homophobia but they also fail to point out the ending, which, if anything, implies Lisa was only a temporary fix. "Freddy" still hasn't gone away.

It was not only unusual to have a male protagonist in one of these things instead of the virginal final girl trope, but it was also unusual for that lead male to give such a full-blown dramatic performance when depictions of quiet male composure even in the most horrifying of circumstances were typically the norm in horror. Patton gives it his all and is on 10 in the hysterics department much of the time, though considering what's actually happening to his character that was pretty much the only way to go. I'd even dare to say that Patton's performance is clearly the best lead performance in any of the Elm Street films. Being gay himself, the actor appreciates that the film eventually found a cult following but has mostly negative things to say about what the film did to his career. He's even made a documentary about this and Hollywood homophobia called Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street, which hasn't been released yet.

The subtext in Freddy's Revenge wasn't really examined thoroughly until recent years so it had no bearing on the film's reception and box office back in 1985. This was critically more or less viewed as you standard lesser sequel upon release. The reviews weren't good but it was financially successful and made more money than the original during its theatrical run. In fact, if one discounts the werewolf comedy Teen Wolf, it was the top-grossing horror film of 1985, outperforming the likes of Fright Night (another film frequently called out for its homoerotic content), THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and the fifth Friday the 13th installment.

Also in the cast are Melinda O. Fee and Tom McFadden as Lisa's parents, Sydney Walsh (To Die For), Lyman Ward (Ferris Bueller's dad), Allison Barron (NIGHT OF THE DEMONS), JoAnn Willette (who co-starred with Heather Langenkamp on the TV series Just the Ten of Us), Kerry Remsen (Pumpkinhead), Brian Wimmer and Steve Eastin. Producer Robert Shaye also has an uncredited cameo as a bartender in the S&M club. The score was by Christopher Young and this also features some fun special effects by Kevin Yagher, Mark Shostrom, Bart Mixon and others, including a great bit where Freddy rips out of Jesse's body. Rachel Talalay (who went on to direct Freddy's Dead) was the production manager.



Lord Crayak said...

Despite its flaws, this is still my favorite in the series after the original.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

As of right now it's probably my fourth favorite behind the original, # 3 and New Nightmare but this latest viewing has made me appreciate it more and it's definitely not one of the worst in the series like some people say. In a way, it's more in the spirit of the first (despite altering the "rules") as it's mostly serious in tone.

spookyx3 said...

i haven't seen any of them in decades. will fix that soon. i saw #2 way more than any of the others 'cause it was the only one i had on home-video for a long time. right now my ranking is #3, #1, #2, and NEW NIGHTMARE... besides freddy-mania peaking in '88 i couldn't understand why #4 was the most popular one; too much rehash, kinda bland. FREDDY'S DEAD was cringe-city; awful. #5? who knows. better than #6, anyway.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

When I was a kid, Dream Master was perhaps my favorite but I think that had a lot to do with it being one of the first horror films I ever saw in a theater (back when they let 7 year olds into R rated films!). My ratings have changed a bit on these rewatches, with the original and #2 moving up and #4 falling. 3 has stayed about the same. At one point I probably had Dream Warriors tied with the original but after giving them another look I think the original is a bit better. I never liked Part 5 much but it's definitely better than the God awful Freddy's Dead and the remake.

spookyx3 said...

oh, FREDDY'S DEAD was truly embarrassing. i thought i might be able to wring something out of DREAM CHILD after reading (screenwriter) leslie bohem's '89 FANGORIA interview again a few years ago. bohem's an interesting guy -- in the backing band for sparks at the time of ANGST IN MY PANTS, also fronted gleaming spires (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3qVfe0uh4w).

spookyx3 said...

big hit of nostalgia from this one. everything came flooding back. was anticipating action and dialogue throughout until the factory finale, which i'd forgotten. mark patton and kim myers were good together, two of my favorite characters in the series. one of craven's suggestions to writer david chaskin was to feature lisa more. 6/10 might be a little high for what many (wrongly) consider the worst sequel, but it felt good to reconnect with #2.

david chaskin, 1985 (!): "i'd love to see a movie with freddy versus jason. i think freddy would kick his ass. i mean, jason wouldn't even show his face. it'd be like GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER. maybe there'll be a series of japanese freddy-rip-off films, like GODZILLA VS. FREDDY. i'd like to do THE BRIDE OF FREDDY, that'd be a good one. robert englund and i talked about part three, and we decided that it should definitely be a prequel and we'll show freddy's boyhood, putting the eyes out of frogs and sticking firecrackers up cats' asses, how he had a terrible childhood and an overbearing mother." -- FANGORIA #50.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I will try to get around to Part 5 sometime here soon. I just need Amazon Prime, Hulu or one of the services I use to put it back up. With Halloween fast approaching I expect someone will. I'm sure as heck not going to pay to sit through it again! lol

I saw Freddy's Dead in the theater with the 3D glasses. Even as a Freddy loving kid it was such a disappointment. The 3D wasn't very impressive either, which rubbed salt in the wound. Then seeing it as an adult I was, as you say, embarrassed for them.

Chaskin managed to call that one! Been awhile since I've seen FD but I seem to recall them having flashbacks to young Freddy's childhood in that... and it definitely didn't do much to help matters any (kind of like the 'young Michael' crap in Rob Zombie's awful Halloween remake)! I don't even know how they managed to tie that all in with the nun mother's rape at the asylum or if he was Freddy's stepdad or what.

spookyx3 said...

all i remember about FREDDY'S DEAD is the dumb cameos (tom arnold & wife, alice cooper...); also one scene where krueger's pulling stoopid faces behind a deaf kid's back or something. the, IIRC, comicbook tone must have come from higher-ups, i can't believe the director (who'd been there since #1) actually wanted that. you ever see GHOST IN THE MACHINE? i'm wondering if that's worth checking out.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I have not seen Ghost in the Machine since I was a kid and remember next to nothing about it except for one scene where the ghost locks a guy in a room and turns it into a giant microwave. I think it went the same lame comedy / jokey tone route as FD.

spookyx3 said...

now all anyone ever talks about is the subtext when we kinda just saw #2 as a scary worthy sequel.

englund addresses some of the early criticisms in '86:

'i rather liked NIGHTMARE 2's beginning, it's pretty wonderful. and it _is_ a dream, we have returned to the dream. i love the sexual innuendo in NIGHTMARE 2, the freudian implications that freddy explored, exploiting the adolescent sexual hormones as it were. however, i doubt the teenagers who go to see the movies walk out discussing the relative merits of jung and freud with what they've just seen. although, i know it affects them -- it affects them on a subliminal level. i love that. i love the androgyny of jesse, mark patton's character. i love the way freddy plays on that.

'i also liked the ideas of freddy being a manitou and needing to come out of jesse -- it set up that effects sequence -- but somewhere along the line we got into, 'now we have to tell the story again, rediscover it through the diary.' ...

'on the other hand, i think it ends really strongly, too. i love the classic nature of the return to the factory, the boiler room. i love the way it was shot and lit, with some german expressionistic lighting. i love the burning of freddy. i love the soundtrack. i love the kiss -- all those implications of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, of kissing freddy to get jesse back.

'i was never fond of the party sequence. i'm fond of it in a punk sensibility -- freddy trashing the suburban mall kids -- but i wish it would have gone further. in the script, people were literally boiling in the pool. girls come up from the water and they're burned as bad as freddy -- a minimalist bikini full of burnt scar tissue cleavage, a bobbing pink shrimp of a nubile girl in the shallow end. i think the film needed that, but they didn't do that effect. it just didn't go far enough there ... i hate freddy chasing people. after he does all these other things, i hate him chasing somebody through the house. but at the time, you don't always put your foot down ... you'll agree because you're only talking about one second of film here, but one second can strain the credibility. so i'm not really happy with some of that sequence ... i love 'you are all my children now!' and 'help yourself, fucker!' i love throwing that kid into the weber kettle and having the fire shoot up -- that's brilliant. i wouldn't want to sacrifice any of that. but the party should have mutated slower and then gone even further with what the mutations were ... however, because of the time budgeted ... and the amount of people involved, we just didn't go far enough.

'this is not criticizing anybody. i was there. i know how hard that stuff was ... i remember a memo coming down: 'more blood at the party.' ... jack sholder was building that sequence with subtle things from his wonderful sense of humor. he knew he was working up to pretty awful stuff ... what they saw coming back from the dailies was just the subtle stuff. they didn't realize that jack was going to go for the punctuation, the horror, later. so, he just started popping in anything he could give them which would live up to the scare stuff and we got rushed there. ...

'though the sense of freddy being a manitou looks good on paper, once you get it going, and you get your effect on film, the one thing you've neglected is 'where's the dream?' we have to get back to that because the dream opens so many doors to style. maybe some of the kids could have fallen asleep or taken quaaludes or something at the party, and then freddy could have gotten into their dreams and made them go berserk and hurt their friends. but the idea that freddy manifested himself through jesse sort of did make sense and sort of didnt.'" -- FANGORIA #58.

spookyx3 said...

> full-blown dramatic performance ... quiet male composure ... the norm in horror.

patton pushes really hard with meyers at the house after grady's death. last time i thought she might be stifling laughter in that scene (going back again to look, i determined she wasn't). his freak-outs really add to the film for me. too many characters shrug off supernatural events so easily. he's experiencing ultimate terror, damn right we should see him coming apart.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Agreed. I do really like Langenkamp (well, in the first movie and New Nightmare at least) but I've still got to give it to Patton for the best acted lead in the entire series. Sucks he was made the butt of a joke for so many years. Very undeserved. And even though Meyers is basically in a supporting role, I still liked her more than most of the Elm Street female leads. Still haven't gotten around to Dream Child but, from my vague recollections, Wilcox was better in that than she was in Part 4 though the film is overall worse.

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