Monday, October 26, 2015

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

Despite my love for both of Wes Craven's Nightmare movies, before starting this series I had never seen several of the other Freddy Krueger movies, including the first A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, Freddy's Revenge. Weirdly enough, the one thing I had gleaned about the movie recently was that it was full of homoerotic subtext, so other than expecting it to be terrible, that was really the only preconception I had going in. Both of those preconceptions turned out to be accurate, and even focusing on the movie entirely as an allegory for homosexual self-loathing doesn't make it any more interesting to watch.

Well, okay, maybe it makes it a little more interesting to watch, but overall, this is still a pretty terrible movie. First of all, none of the characters from the first movie (expect Freddy, of course) are present, and even worse, the basic premise of the first movie, the thing that makes it scary, is almost completely thrown out. Instead of killing people in their dreams, Freddy is attempting to possess the body of teenager Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), whose family has moved into Nancy's old house (although it doesn't much resemble the house from the first movie), five years after the events of the original Nightmare. Freddy appears to Jesse in Jesse's dreams, but the killings all take place in the real world, where Freddy is somehow able to manifest using Jesse's body as his vessel. So staying awake is no protection against Freddy, and Freddy has supernatural powers even outside of dreams.

Jesse's efforts to resist Freddy "coming out" are one of the main sources of the homoerotic subtext, which screenwriter David Chaskin and star Patton (who is gay) have said was included intentionally, at least on their parts. Jesse also ends up at a leather bar with his macho gym teacher (Marshall Bell), and then later in an S&M-style torture scene as Freddy slowly emerges to kill the teacher. Jesse seems far more interested in his hunky best friend Grady (Robert Rusler) than in his whiny girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers), whom he can't kiss without Freddy emerging to freak him out. And Patton's performance might charitably be called flamboyant, although it's really just bad, and mostly not in a fun, campy way.

The subtext is partially a result of the haphazard plotting, since certain moments that occur side by side don't necessarily connect unless they're viewed allegorically. It's hard to argue that as a strength, especially when everything above the subtext, from the performances to the set pieces to the storytelling, is so ineffective. Freddy is less of a presence than he was the last time around, and his kills aren't particularly creative or intense. There are one or two creepy images (a pair of dogs with human faces were pretty unsettling), but overall the movie isn't scary, and it ends with a cliffhanger that, instead of playing up the ambiguity as in the first movie, just emphasizes how inconsequential everything that preceded it really was.

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