There’s perhaps no installment in the nightmare franchise that has been talked about and analyzed more, than Freddy’s Revenge. It’s been called the gayest horror movie ever made, and while I won’t dispute that, I think it’s also my favorite and possibly the best of the series (that will be decided Saturday). Yes, that’s heresy, I know, but I stand by it, and will explain why as we go along.
NOES2 takes place five years after the first film, with the Thompson’s having moved out of the house, and a new family moving in. The Walsh’s including Mom and Dad, daughter Angela and teenage son Jesse are your normal, all-American family. If having your teen son wake up screaming like a girl every night is normal I suppose, then they were. The movie opens with a runaway school bus speeding down the street, into a desert and finally landing on a very unstable pile of rocks. As the bus teeters back and forth, Jesse and two girls try to keep the balance. The bus driver who turns out to be Freddy walks down the aisle slowly, laughing, hand raised, and…
Jesse wakes up screaming in a cold sweat. This is a prelude to one of many scenes where we see Jesse in his tighty whitey underwear. In spite of the nature of the dream he chalks it up to the heat and goes to school the next day. We meet his “love” interest Lisa, as well as on again off again friend Grady. Queue up the next homoerotic sequence where Grady and Jesse get into a fight and the teen has his sweatpants pulled down revealing his ass and jock strap. The coach punishes them, and while they’re doing pushups we learn that he likes going to an S&M gay leather bar. Yes, things that make you go hmmm.
Later that day he’s forced to finish unpacking his room, and we get the infamous dance sequence complete with a butt bump to close a drawer. As he gets into it and dances on his bed, with suggestive pelvic thrusts, his mother and Lisa walk into the room. After the awkwardness is over, Lisa helps him, and she finds a diary (right next to the game, “Probe”) left by Nancy the former resident. She writes about her dreams and Freddy-dreams which bear a striking resemblance to his own. Small fires start to happen, and it escalates to an attack and a fiery explosion of their parakeet succumbing to spontaneous combustion.
Lisa takes Jesse to the factory where Krueger worked, but they find nothing. That night he dreams about the burned man again, and Krueger tells him, “Kill for me, Jesse.” He starts roaming the streets and ends up at the gay bar his coach was said to frequent, and as he pours a beer (guess I.D. wasn’t as important then), his coach sees him, and brings him to the gym at school and forced to run laps. After he heads to the shower the coach is then showered with balls being thrown at him from everywhere. Two sets of jump ropes (which he’d intended to tie Jesse up with), wrap themselves around his wrists and he’s dragged into the shower, hauled up on his feet, and then slashed by Krueger’s glove. When the camera points to Jesse, we see him wearing the bloody weapon.
He’s then brought home by the police who found him wandering the streets naked. Well, to be fair, those briefs can be uncomfortable so who can blame him? All of that is a set up, however, for the centerpiece of the film, a party at Lisa’s house. It’s also the scene that has caused more outrage over the movie than anything else. Here’s where I get to say why they’re all wrong. The big complaint about this scene is that it goes against the “rules” established in the first movie. 1. Freddy appears in front of a lot of people, and 2. He’s in the physical world, not the dreamscape.
In the first movie, there were no rules that were established, only that he attacked and killed people in their dreams. Craven never made any rules as he never planned on it being a franchise, so anything was fair game. The entire point of Freddy in the sequel is he wanted to break through into the real world and kill more, hence the classic line, “You’re all my children now!” With that as his goal, it would make sense in that context, to have him run around the party. Whether it works or not is another story though I think it does.
November 1st will mark the 30th anniversary of its release. I was 20 then and saw it on opening weekend. I know it might sound a fair bit of bullshitting, but on a conscious level, I didn’t notice a lot of the gay context, and this was after my having been put for a couple of years. It’s not that we were naïve then, but more like we weren’t as jaded as we are now. It was only after renting it on VHS a couple of times and watching it with friends, that we started to notice the gay subtext. It was even further after that where I started to hear about how it broke the rules of the series. How a movie can break rules after it was made is perhaps best left to Doc and Marty.
The point is, they were trying something different, to move the story in a different direction. Given what came after it does seem the runt of the litter. However, taken on its own merits, it’s a worthy sequel, and I enjoyed it more than the original after seeing it again.
Mark Patton as Jesse is perfectly cast, and probably gives one of the strongest performances in any of the Nightmare movies. His confusion, fear, and wondering if he’s really crazy, or a killer are palpable and you truly feel sorry for him. Patton really conveys the insanity and confusion which gives his character more dimension than otherwise written.
Kim Meyers as Lisa is every bit the equal to Mark, and the two make a great pair. I found it refreshing, and at the time, somewhat daring, to have the male lead be the damsel in distress and the woman as the knight in shining armor. It was a nice twist on the clichés and very well done. As with Mark, she also brings a depth to her character that was otherwise missing from the script, and the two really worked well off of one another. Robert Rusler as Grady brings just the right amount of douchiness and friendship and has probably the best line in the movie, which taken out of context sounds really, really gay. Well, okay, even taken in context, it sounds that way too.
Jesse: “Something is trying to get inside my body!”
Grady: “Yeah, and she’s female and waiting for you in the cabana and you want to sleep with me.”
Robert Englund ups his game here, which is good, as he only appears in the movie for a total of 13 minutes! His ability certainly makes it seem longer than that, although the brisk pacing and relatively short running time help that. Here, he’s still pants-shitting scary and only has a wisp of humor that ultimately ruins the series later on.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Hope Lange and Clu Gulager as Jesse’s parents. Both are veteran actors, and really steal every scene they’re in. Clu Gulager in particular, is just so damn fun to watch, as the clueless, rather simple thinking father.
Freddy’s Revenge isn’t a perfect movie. The whole possession angle doesn’t work as well as it should because it’s not really explained very well. The dialogue isn’t award winning by any means, and it’s to the cast’s credit they deliver such great performances. Still, for me, I find the sequel, more enjoyable than the first, and am glad after decades of being maligned it’s getting some of the respect it deserves.
Also check out Jesse’s journal, written by Mark Patton for further info on his character Jesse!!