1985 in Film – A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Release Date: November 1st
Box Office: $21,163,999

This piece by Scott Jeffery was originally posted on his movie blog Film Dribble which is awesome and is one you should regularly read

Let’s level with each other, Freddy’s Revenge is not the best Elm Street movie. It looks pretty cheap, nothing happens for ages (the house is too hot! An unplugged toaster catches fire!) and then when it does happen it’s silly (pet birds attack!), or inexplicable (human-faced dogs!) or makes no sense within the mythology established by the first film (Freddy’s appearance at a pool party full of very much awake teenagers) or even within its own narrative (most of it makes no sense at all). Also, it’s really rude when he ruins that pool-party, he didn’t even bring a bottle of wine or some nibbles and then his behaviour is boorish, aggressive and, frankly, murderous.

Still and all, Elm Street 2 is definitely not the worst Nightmare movie, and it’s certainly the most interesting. That’s because Elm Street 2 is THE GAY ELM STREET. Seriously. The plot – such as it is – of Elm Street 2 has the family of teenager Jesse Walsh (played by Mark Patton)move  into Elm Street. The events of the last movie were five years ago (though the film itself was released just a year earlier) but Jesse is troubled by bad dreams and weird happenings. Eventually he stumbles upon the diary of the first film’s heroine, somehow miraculously left at the back of her closet, and he learns about Freddy Krueger. The kicker is that Freddy wants Jesse’s body (we’ll get to that) so he can kill a bunch of teens again. The title implies that Freddy wants to kill the kids for revenge, but seeing as he killed the teens in the first film as revenge it’s really Freddy’s Extra Revenge. Anyways, Freddy is somehow able to possess Jesse’s body while Jesse sleeps and then takes it out for a ride and kills some folks.

The first proper death is that of Jesse’s gym teacher, who Jesse (whose body is possessed by Freddy?) finds at an S and M bar called “Don’s Place”. Jesse is literally in his pyjamas ordering a beer (which I guess might be normal in S and M bars?) when his leather-clad gym teacher notices him. The weirdest part comes next, when the gym teacher apparently takes Jesse to the school gym and forces him to run laps then to get in the shower. It’s not clear what his plan is but at one point he has gym ropes so I guess he’s going to do some freaky shit to Jesse? Kill him even? Either way, he’s a pretty bad teacher. I would have taken the kid home to his parents and been all like, “why is your kid in an S and M bar, ordering beer while still wearing his pyjamas?” So I guess his parents are pretty poor too. Kid just can’t catch a break. Anyways, Freddy kills the dude by tying him up in the showers, and whipping his ass with a towel until it bleeds. Also slashing his back open; but it’s the floating towels ass-whipping that you remember. All of this psycho-sexual fear and fascination with male on male sexuality becomes fully articulated later on when Jesse bursts into the bedroom of his best bud and exclaims, “I’m scared, Grady! Something is trying to get inside my body”!

Now even if it was just that fact Freddy needed Jesse’s body we could probably read it as having some homosexual subtext. In fact, the writer of the film says in the FOUR HOUR (!) documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy that he had intended that subtext, but then the film-makers made it just plain text. Seriously, this thing practically opens with a shot of Jesse’s sweaty young torso before it moves on to some male on male wrestling/pants-pulling action. There are also some deeply Freudian moments. In one scene Jesse has a snake (read: PENIS) wrapped around him. Later, in the pool party scene, a bunch of frankfurters (read: PENISES) explode. Then we have the dance-number/room-tidying montage which features Jesse  bumping a drawer shut with his butt and culminating in him holding some popper thing like it’s his dick and firing it off. It’s as weird as it sounds. We also see that his room has a sign on the door reading “No Chicks” and a single board-game in his cupboard named, I shit you not, Probe.

By the way, maybe some of you have happy childhood memories of long, hazy 1980s afternoon spent playing Probe with your loved ones. If so I apologise.

Heh. Probe.

All in all, Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is bonkers, but full of energy and good fun. There’s some neat practical effects too; the first transformation when Freddie’s head presses itself out through the skin of Jesse’s stomach, or those weird, entirely unexplained human-faced dogs. Robert Englund’s Freddy still manages to be genuinely frightening at times as well, having not quite descended into the self-parody of the later films. Director Jack Sholder later went on to make The Hidden, a genuine B-movie classic, and some of that spark is on display here. There is also something genuinely intriguing about seeing the traditional female role in a horror played a dude which leads to all kinds of sub textual (though mostly absurdly on-the-nose) thematic resonances. Like I said, it’s not the best Elm Street, it’s not the worst Elm Street, but it’s for sure the most interesting Elm Street.

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