31 Screams in October, Vol. 2, #16: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Posted: October 16, 2015 in Movie Review
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A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Robert Englund

As a general rule, I tend to enjoy a given film more when I know the least about it. But, every so often, one comes along that I would have been better suited in knowing exactly what I was getting into beforehand. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” is one of the latter. Back when I originally sought out the Freddy Krueger series, I saw this particular one out of sequence. While that much didn’t really matter, what did matter was that I came out of that first viewing experience feeling sorely disappointed! For several years, in fact, I completely wrote this first sequel off. Later, I came to realize I’d done so because of what this movie is NOT, rather than appreciate it for what it IS. This is not to call it the best of the sequels, because that would be crazy. But I do believe that fun can be had in watching it as long as you go in with the right frame of mind.

Five years after the events of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) and his family have moved into the same house at 1428 Elm Street which was once occupied by Nancy Thompson and her mother. Jesse, as a matter of fact, now lives in the same room as Nancy once did. The house itself is largely unchanged from the first film, although the front door is now painted red (instead of blue), and it would remain so in all the house’s future appearances in the series. Jesse is having nightmares about Freddy Krueger, the same dream demon who once haunted Nancy. This time, since Jesse’s parents weren’t part of the mob who originally killed Freddy, Mr. Krueger is not out to kill Jesse but rather to possess his body so that he can kill more indiscriminately in the waking world rather than be limited to the realm of dreams. This was a change that has never gone over well with fans, and I can certainly see why, but it’s not really the deal-breaker it’s made out to be.

Jesse is obviously very confused about who this guy is and why he’s being targeted. Eventually, after a very embarrassing moment in which Jesse is caught dancing in his room (watch the scene and you’ll understand), Jesse’s girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) finds Nancy’s diary hidden away in the closet and begins reading passages from it. The diary entries pique Jesse’s interest because they talk of Nancy having similar nightmarish experiences to his. In school, Jesse is at odds and then suddenly best friends with Ron Grady (Robert Rusler). Neither young man has much use for their gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell), and Grady even goes to the extreme of explaining Schneider’s after hours activities at a gay S&M bar.

Jesse accidentally confirms this story later when he sleepwalks there and is caught by Schneider, who is in full S&M garb (as is the bartender, played by New Line Cinema exec Robert Shaye!).  Schneider then brings Jesse back to the school to run laps in the gymnasium. Oh, I’m sorry. I meant he KIDNAPS Jesse and forces him to run laps against his will when he should be sending this kid home! Also very strangely, while all this is going on, various kinds of sports equipment inexplicably hurl themselves at Coach Schneider. He can’t handle Jesse’s balls…  Schneider’s hands are eventually tied with jump ropes and he is dragged screaming into the showers by an invisible force. There, still screaming, he is restrained, his clothes removed and his bare ass slapped with a towel. I would have thought a man of his nature would have thoroughly enjoyed this sort of treatment. But I can certainly understand how receiving a couple of fatal slash wounds to the back would be a bit of a bummer for anyone. Worse still is that when the smoke clears, Jesse discovers Freddy’s glove on his hand, and screams his fool head off! Eventually, he makes his way back home through the rain and with police escort.

Lisa does a bit of investigating, which leads her to the location of the old power plant where Freddy used to work and also where he brought the children he killed (hence all the nightmares set in a boiler room that the Elm Street kids have had). The movie eventually leads us to the scene of a pool party at Lisa’s house. Jesse attends at first, but leaves in the middle of a make-out session with Lisa, deciding instead to head for Grady’s house to stay the night hoping to avoid the takeover of his body by Freddy. And if you think it’s a mere coincidence that this sequence of events has Jesse exiting a poolside changing closet to be with his same-sex (although thoroughly heterosexual) best friend, then you’d be wrong.

Eventually, Jesse does transform into Freddy, slaughtering Grady and also several of the guests at Lisa’s pool party. Finally forced to retreat by Lisa’s father wielding a shotgun, Freddy heads for his old boiler room where Lisa confronts him one last time, convincing Jesse to fight off the monster inside of him in a blaze of fire and crawl out from beneath the ashes. But as with the first film, the defeat of Freddy does not mean the end of the battle, as Freddy is apparently free to haunt Jesse’s dreams once more, showing up in an updated version of the school bus nightmare which began the film.

There’s more than enough evidence to conclude that at least some of the people involved with the project knew full well that they were crafting a story which “Elm Street” fans would come to refer as “The Gay Nightmare,” though some still claim to have been ignorant at the time. Writer David Chaskin certainly knew, as did openly gay lead actor Mark Patton. Who knew vs. who didn’t doesn’t matter. That the film dares to be different does. It’s undeniably stupid at times, and batshit crazy in other instances, but I can’t help admiring it for being so bold. It has that so-bad-it’s-good quality which has helped lift other potentially bad movies into cult status. That’s why you watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2,” not in the hopes that you’ll find a worthy successor to the first film, but because of its own uniqueness.

  1. Great review!
    I know everyone knocks this one, because boy it does have its faults, but I’ve always been a fan honestly. It’s vastly different from the rest of the franchise and has its fun, quirky (and horrifying) moments.

  2. Sylvia Williams says:

    This one does seem to be totally different from the first and would perhaps merit a look on that basis if nothing else. Great review, as always!

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