Monday, May 30, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

I have not been 14 years old in a quite a while, so when I describe A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) as "gay," I'm not using the term to mean lame or bad. When I say the movie is gay, I mean it has a strong, strong homosexual angle. Forget subtext, this isn't sub-anything. If this movie were any gayer, it'd have an account on Grindr.

The original Nightmare on Elm Street was a sleeper hit (see what I did there?), and looking at it's first sequel, it's apparent New Line Cinema had little idea of what they had on hand. Wes Craven is gone, and the subsequent film really doesn't seem to fit with its predecessor or any of the other entries in the series. I strongly suspect that director Jack Sholder and writer David Chaskin wanted to make an entirely different movie but somehow had to make it fit under the Elm Street umbrella.

Instead of haunting the dreams of several teenagers to kill them, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund of course) instead invades the dreams of one teenager, Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), so he can take over his body and resume his murderous ways. Or as Freddy commands Jesse, "Kill for me." The question I have is why. This didn't seem to be an issue for Freddy in the original. He seemed able to enter dreams as he wished and to kill the dreamers. Why is it suddenly a plot point that Freddy, who was exposed and vulnerable when brought into the real world previously, wants to enter the real world to wreak havoc?

Craven's movie was very much about the sins of the father, how the crimes of the older generation will have drastic consequences on the children of the future. Craven also explored how the suppression of the truth can be harmful and how reality must be faced.

By contrast, Sholder's film re-envisions Freddy as a heavy-handed metaphor for homosexual panic, leading to a lot of innuendo heavy dialogue from Jesse about how, "He's inside of me, and he wants to take me again." When Jesse and his girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finally begin having sex, Jesse finds himself unable to perform as Freddy takes over, so he races to the room of his buff, briefs-clad friend Grady (Robert Cusler) in a panic and asks to stay with him.

"Something's trying to get inside of me," Jesse stammers. Grady replies, "Yeah, she's female...and you'd rather sleep with me!"

Let's not even get into all the phallic imagery; or how after every encounter with Krueger, Jesse wakes up in his underwear all hot and bothered, covered with sweat; or how Jesse encounters his gym teacher (Marshall Bell) late at night in a gay bar, the coach forces him to run laps at the gym, and Freddy kills the teacher by pelting him with tennis balls and basketballs, ties him up with a jump rope, strips him naked, and whips his bare ass with a towel before killing him.

As a horror film, the movie is a disappointment. The rubber reality terror generated by Craven is sorely missed, replaced by half-baked imagery that is supposed to be frightening but isn't, like the dogs with human faces, the exploding parakeet, and the pool party massacre that involves electrified fences and boiling water. Freddy's powers are so ill-defined, poorly established, and inconsistent, it's hard to care. The only standout sequence is when Freddy emerges by bursting through Jesse's chest and peeling off the skin of his arm to reveal the finger knives.

The strength of the movie is Englund as Krueger. He's not yet the game show host of later entries. This one keeps him in the shadows, the burn makeup is well done, and he's not cracking corny jokes just yet. He's still just a mean, nasty, sick bastard who enjoys killing people and scaring them before he kills them. Of course, this only makes me wonder why he wants Jesse to do his dirty works for him.

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