Mark Patton - Jesse Walsh
Kim Myers - Lisa Webber
Robert Rusler - Ron Grady
Clu Gulager - Ken Walsh
Hope Lange - Cheryl Walsh
Marshall Bell - Coach Schneider
Robert Englund - Freddy Krueger
Year - 1985
Score - 2 Howls Outta 4
In 1984 as the slasher era was getting diluted to the point where the films became less and less effective, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE HILLS HAVE EYES director Wes Craven knocked one out of the park by creating an original and innovative slasher about a serial killer who kills you in real life if he kills you in your dreams called A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The film made a pretty good profit and showed that the slasher sub-genre still had life in it. And since the film was successful, it was evitable that a sequel would be made to continue Freddy Krueger's story.
There was a problem though: Wes Craven, who had directed and created A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, wanted no part of any sequel. He had never intended the film to start a franchise and was forced by New Line Cinema to add an open ending to the original film [he wanted a clean happy ending for the original]. Craven also didn't like the idea that New Line had presented for the sequel, having Freddy manipulate the lead character into killing victims for him. So Craven walked away [but would come back to write and produce A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS in 1987], letting producer Robert Shaye take charge of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE to be released a year after the original. Instead of having Freddy invade people in their dreams, Freddy was given the power to possess the protagonist and take control of his body whenever the urge to kill got to hard to ignore. Yeah...that doesn't really sound like Freddy Krueger's M.O., does it? It didn't matter, since the film made more money at the box office than the original, showing the industry that everyone wanted a piece of Freddy Krueger. But is the film any good? Was it rushed into production? Is it worth being part of the franchise? Does the film make you want to go to a leather bar?
The Walsh family moves into the old Thompson house on Elm Street. Son Jesse (Mark Patton) has been having really weird nightmares of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Even though his classmate Lisa (Kim Myers) really likes him and he has become decent friends with one of the cooler kids in school, Grady (Robert Rusler), Jesse can't get these nightmares out of his head. One night, Freddy attacks Jesse. Apparently, Freddy wants Jesse to do his killing for him by possessing his body to do it. While Jesse struggles to keep Freddy contained, Freddy has ideas of his own and does everything he can to gain full control for his plan to come into fruition.
Out of all the films in this franchise, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE has the most mixed reactions from its audience. Some really enjoy this film. Many hate it and don't even consider it a true sequel. I, however, am stuck in the middle with this one. I agree with those who consider this the Black Sheep of the Krueger saga. It doesn't have much to do with the original. This film is never mentioned again in the rest of the series, as if it never happened. It really doesn't fit in with the mythology of Freddy Krueger. However, there are things about this film that I actually enjoy. So for me, the positives and negatives balance each other out.
Let me just get the pink elephant in the room out of the way and just say it: YES, this film is very homoerotic. Known as the "Gay NIGHTMARE", FREDDY'S REVENGE definitely has an aura of homosexuality throughout the film. It still amazes me to this day that director Jack Sholder and screenwriter David Chaskin claim that they didn't mean for the film to have a homosexual overtone. So you're telling me that random heterosexual people just happen to walk into gay S & M bars with their shirts open, whip their naked gym coaches with a towel after tying them with jump rope, and leave their hot girlfriends who are ready to give it up for them to run into the comfort of a male friend who doesn't really like them all that much to begin with? Yeah and I'm Fred [The Cat]!
Seriously, these two guys are only saying this to make their work on this film sound better. "Oh, I didn't intend to make this film about a boy who's using Freddy as a way to release his homosexual feelings onto the world!" Yeah, you two are such geniuses. Look at me bowing to your greatness, dillholes.
I actually know a lot of people who won't watch this film anymore because its "gay". Ignorance is surely bliss, isn't it? Sure alot of people still can't deal with the concept of homosexuality but I actually think this film benefits from it. I actually appreciate the fact that this horror sequel is a lot deeper than many will give it credit for. Would you rather see just a carbon copy of the original? Not me. At least with this film, having Freddy represent all the pent up feelings that Jesse was struggling with by hiding in the closet is quite refreshing. I'm sure a lot of gay people felt this way. The gay overtones don't bother me one bit and it's actually quite funny that not only the actor who plays Jesse (Mark Patton) is really gay, but it took the love of a woman to set him "straight". Remember: the producers of this film want you to believe that homosexuality is bad and heterosexuality is pure and good. Really really classy.
I also got to give kudos to the Special Effects team on this film. Really creepy and well done stuff. The reveal of Freddy's brain is still cool after all these years, as is the scenes where Freddy actually crawls out of Jesse's body through his stomach. It doesn't really look cheaply made, giving those scenes a level of surrealness and tension. I also liked the dogs with the human faces on them, plus that mutated cat with the big teeth. The murder scenes are actually quite tame in this one compared to the original [even though the body count here is a bit larger] but I didn't mind it. Just a really nice job and nice use of the budget as well.
I also thought the direction by Jack Sholder was good. Not as good as Wes Craven's but it didn't bother me at all. The possession scenes were shot well. The pacing was quite good. Nice dreadful atmosphere Sholder placed in the film. Plus the low-key lighting and creepy score by Christopher Young [who worked on HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2] was pretty well done. Not much to say really but not much to complain about either. So I'm happy with Sholder's work here, even though he reportedly couldn't stop laughing during the Jesse "tongue" scene with Lisa. That scene took hours to shoot because of it. It wasn't that funny.
I wish I could say the same about the characters in the film. Sorry, but I couldn't really identify with any one of them. Jesse was my biggest issue and he was the main character. If he's gay, that's fine. I think that's actually a great move, especially for an 80s horror movie! But he isn't a strong character I can really connect with. I know he's struggling with Freddy possessing him and making him commit some bad stuff. But he doesn't even bother fighting Freddy's control until the very end of the film! He's also written in a stereotypical way, which is kind of annoying. Why should I care about him? Hell, I wanted Freddy to take over his body completely so I wouldn't have had to see him again. That's shitty screenwriting, people!
And then there's Lisa. Lisa, Lisa, Lisa...she has got to be the most sympathetic woman I have ever witnessed in my life. I'm still scratching my head over her attraction to weird and twitchy Jesse. She really wants this dude as her man? Why, to push him around? And when he showed up with blood all over his body, she didn't even flinch and throw his ass out! I don't know about you, but if the girl I'm digging starts to slowly act crazy and walks into my home covered in crimson, I'm calling the cops and slapping a restraining order on her ass! She's more desperate than those housewives on television! I'm not knocking girls who have a deep understanding for the guys they have feelings for. I mean, it's great that she wasn't such a mean girl about Jesse's situation. But it's pretty far-fetched. I mean, how could she understand? She wasn't having dreams about Freddy. She was perfectly fine until Jesse brought the drama into her life. So her logic was a bit off I think. I don't know any teen girl who would be this understanding, unless they live near a creek or a hill with one tree.
And I gotta say, kudos to Nancy Reagan for tormenting children everywhere. Just because your child is acting weird doesn't mean he or she is on drugs. That's not parenting. That's being an ignorant prick. Remember that. And isn't it rich that the school coach is well known to frequent S & M clubs? Boy, sex laws sure have changed since 1985!
The acting was pretty good, I gotta say though. Despite the writing for Jesse at times, Mark Patton did a good job playing him. He hit the right emotional notes that were needed and convinced me that he was either nuts, or just plain possessed. I just wish his character was written better, which is no fault on Patton at all. He did what he could with the role and I commend him for that. Kim Myers looked like Meryl Streep but didn't act as good as her. Still, she was good as the supportive girlfriend. I wish I knew girls like her. I would be able to cheat on her all the time and she'd still be with me. Only in the world of cinema. Robert Rusler is the best actor here since he has the best dialogue. Plus he seems like a cool dude. Liked him in WEIRD SCIENCE. Liked him here as well. Clu Gulager and Hope Lange were convincing as the parents. Very credible work. Marshall Bell as the Coach was okay. All he did was scream and get his ass spanked by a towel. It's worth a decent paycheck, I guess. And of course, Robert Englund returns as Freddy Krueger. He has a little more screen time than in the first, but he's still creepy and mean at this point. Great job.
One more thing before I end this review: I hate the ending to this film. Not that I don't like "happy" endings but just how it happened is what bothers me. The love story between Jesse and Lisa was barely established in this film. Yeah, they seemed to be digging each other but LOVE? LOVE?? Really? Lisa LOVED Jesse? Jesse LOVED Lisa? Even though they barely knew each other that long? Before they even kissed? Before they even discussed having feelings for each other? LOVE? Really? You know, it wasn't convincing at all to me. Lisa getting rid of Freddy because she loved Jesse was a bit too much to deal with.
GEEK ALERT: It worked in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER between Xander and Dark Willow [Season 6 Finale] because it was established for 6 full seasons that Xander and Willow had a bond that no one would be able to break. They had true friendship. They loved each other on multiple levels. That was totally understandable how love could stop evil from going on. :END GEEK ALERT
Here, we never get to that point where you go, "Oh, they're definitely in love with each other. Of course their love will destroy evil in the end." If any one of you got that, I must be a heartless, bitter human being.
THE FINAL HOWL
I know I'm gonna read and hear different opinions on this film, but A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE isn't as bad as a lot people claim it is. However, it isn't that great either and a big disappointment from the original. Quite honestly, you can skip this film and go into the DREAM WARRIORS without missing any information. But I do think it's worth a look if you haven't yet. The effects are decent and if you can get past the homosexual overtones [which one shouldn't have an issue with anyway], you may appreciate the symbolism of Jesse and Freddy Krueger.