FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 19, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE (1985)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is a fascinating film. I mean, a sequel to the wildly successful first Nightmare was no doubt a given. But who could ever have predicted that...this would be the direction they'd take the series in the second film? In other series, the crazy ideas are held onto for a bit: Halloween III, for example, or Jason Goes to Hell. One would expect that Nightmare 2 would feature, you know, something rote, just more nightmares and more dead teens. We get nightmares and dead teens, sure, but Freddy's Revenge takes the entire rule set established by its predecessor and tosses it in the furnace. So brash!

A new family has moved into the Thompson home on Elm Street and it's not long before teenage son Jesse (Mark Patton) is experiencing lots of topless, sweat-inducing nightmares.

Freddy doesn't want to kill Jesse, however–rather, he wants Jesse to kill for him. Via some sort of possession. I guess so that Freddy can cross over from nightmares to the waking world? He's just sort of around in this one, terrorizing teens and the like, some sort of supernatural being made flesh. And The Old Thompson Place is kind of haunted? It's all a bit jumbled and nonsensical and unexplained and as I said, it throws out virtually all the rules from Part One. But let's face it: anyone who's seen Freddy's Revenge knows that all of that is secondary to the most engrossing thing about it, and that's holy shit this movie is so gay.

I'm far from the first person to acknowledge this, but it's sort of impossible to discuss the film without talking about it as an allegory about a young man figuring out that he likes other young men. It's so full of subtext that it's basically just text. It wouldn't be wrong to call it Tom of Finland's Revenge, you know?

"He's inside me and he wants to take me again!"

I mean, where to start? There's the way Freddy tenderly strokes Jesse's face as he tells him how much he needs him. You know. For killing.

There's Jesse's weird relationship with Grady–they antagonize each other in gym class until finally Grady pulls Jesse's pants down and they tussle on the ground...and they spend a lot of time together doing push ups. You know. As punishment.

Jesse has more chemistry with Grady than he does with his ostensible girlfriend Lisa. While he keeps Lisa at arm's length, Grady is the one he turns to when he really needs to talk. (There's a kind of heartbreaking moment in a scene in the school cafeteria where Grady essentially asks Jesse out–just to a movie to, like, get Jesse's mind off his troubles–and it's promptly lost in the chatter as Lisa and her friend arrive at the table.) The most telling, of course, occurs during the pool party late in the film. Jesse and Lisa are finally, maybe going to do it...but Freddy interferes so Jesse freaks out and flees. He flees straight to Grady's bedroom and they have this exchange:
"Something is trying to get inside my body!"
"Yeah, she's female and she's waiting for you at the cabana...and you wanna sleep with me."
I mean, is it so crazy to read this all as super gay? Have straight teenage boys ever really into Limahl and Tina Turner?

This is just the tip of the big gay iceberg, y'all! There's also Jesse really subtly getting...attacked? confronted by?...a snake that coils up from between his legs.

There's the sole board game that Jesse owns, the one he keeps in the closet, natch:

There's Jesse waking or maybe still sleeping but either way, he finds his lamp or whatever that is all melted and looking like a dripping phallus. Next to (and onto) a copy of On the Road.

And then there's the boys' gym teacher, Schneider, the one who's rumored to be into "queer S&M stuff." The one who really is into queer S&M stuff, as Jesse finds out when his nocturnal wanderings lead him to the local bar for gays and weirdos. Ol' teach is sporting a leather vest (of course) and takes Jesse back to the school to take a shower...and of course the teacher dies, but not before he's assaulted by balls and jock straps thrown in his face. And not before he's stripped naked, tied up in the shower, and whipped with a towel.

While a couple of nameless males are quickly killed at the pool party, the only characters of substance that are killed throughout the film are Grady and Schneider. If this is the tale of Jesse figuring out his sexual identity, it's rather significant that he murders only the person he loves but isn't "supposed" to and the "pervert" he doesn't want to be.

At the film's end, Jesse is "saved" by choosing heterosexuality. Lisa's declarations of love literally defeat Freddy, the man who's been trying to take Jesse away from her, the man trying to lure Jesse to the dark side. But this is a horror film, so this is quickly followed by a Horror Movie Coda™ that shows the nightmare isn't over. The allegory extends right up through this ending: Jesse's battle still rages within him because you can't just choose a sexuality and live a life that goes against who you are. I mean, you could, but it's a super bad idea. Just look what happened to those kids at the pool party!

Speaking of the pool party, this nameless, dialogue-less girl with the hair rules so hard.

Other stray thoughts:

I love love love that Grady has posted a sign to make it clear that NO NERDS are allowed in his room.

I also love love love that in this film, Nancy has become something of an urban legend, the girl who saw her boyfriend get murdered, was locked in her house by her mother, and went crazy. I want an alternate version of Freddy's Revenge where Jesse has to find Nancy to learn what she knows and Nancy lives in a big, creepy house and everyone's afraid of her but she's just an ass-kicker who doesn't have time for your shit. Basically she's like Christine in The Convent.

Finally, while it has no bearing on anything beyond being a complete and total clusterfuck of an eyesore, I thought you guys might enjoy the absolutely hideous menu screen of my DVD, as it's quite possibly the worst one I've ever seen. You're welcome!


Nicholas Kaufmann said...

I feel like the queer subtext is the only thing that makes A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge interesting at all. In every other way, it's a failure of a film. The way in which it treats the original film is particularly head scratching. The events they mention in part two aren't what we saw happening in the first film. It's almost as if this is some weird alternate-universe version of the Elm Street mythos. (Yeah, I just said "Elm Street mythos," I know, I'm absurd...)

Stacie Ponder said...

I don't think "mythos" is absurd at all! Any one of these horror series, no matter how goofy or silly, has its own mythology and set of rules and the such. And yeah, NoES2 it. Or ignores it. It's so weird. And bold for trying something new (especially when the series was only about 20 minutes old), but it ultimately doesn't really work. And yet I don't completely hate it, even if I don't consider the subtext. Maybe it's the exploding parakeet.

CashBailey said...

Freddy appearing at the pool party was something Wes Crave (R.I.P) strongly objected to. It violated every rule that had been established.

Of course, they didn't care.

CashBailey said...

Off-topic but Stacie, did you ever review AMER?

I just watched it. What's all that about then?

Stacie Ponder said...

I haven't seen AMER yet! It's not streaming and I'm waiting for a price drop on the BR (I hate paying more than 20 bucks unless it's a Criterion or a super special edition or something) and the wait is killing me!

smogo said...

It's my favourite of the series, probably because I'm a sucker for possession movies. Thanks for giving it a fair and entertaining assessment, even if ultimately you think it's a failure.

I find it's best to watch Part 2 first, then the first film as if it's a prequel. That way it's like there are no "rules" for Part 2 to break, plus you get the two Nancy films in a row.

Dean said...

Just for the record, it wasn't a parakeet that exploded -- it was a peach-faced lovebird. (More subtext there? . . Hhhmmm.)

Unknown said...

Ha! Finally! I found another person that noticed that pop-punk chick with the spiked hair and purple bikini. She does, as you said, rulez so hard. Wonder who she is or she's been in any other flicks. She's mad hot!