A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is the stepchild of a franchise that went on far too long. It’s derided, dismissed, and exclusively categorized as a blatant homosexual allegory. Which it is. But it still works, and it works quite well. Elm Street 2 is weirdly isolated from Wes Craven’s original film and the films that came afterwards, but it deserves credit for trying something different with the narrative and pushing the character into new creative territories. The arguments against the picture may be valid, at least to some (most); but for me, the departures from the “rules” and the lonely isolation of this first sequel set it apart from the franchise in interesting ways.
Any devoted horror fan is well aware of the homosexual undertones in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. There is even a documentary about openly-gay actor Mark Patton, and his feelings on becoming a gay cultural icon following this film’s release. In fact, “undertones” is probably the wrong description, an indication the gay metaphors are somehow hidden. They are not. The story of Jesse (Patton), a friendly teenager struggling with his own sexual identity, is basically at the forefront of the film if you look even a little. Jesse is an affable youth, he has friends and seems to get along okay in school, and he has a young lady friend, Kim (Lisa Webber), who couldn’t spit game at Jesse any harder. But Jesse cannot romantically connect with Kim the entire time, especially in a later scene where a make-out session goes horribly wrong and, for comfort, he goes to his studly friend Roy’s bedroom to stay the night.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and, like I said, we all know the gay tropes.
Jesse and his family have moved in to Nancy Thompson’s family’s old house, as Nancy has been committed to a mental institute (set up for Elm Street 3). This opens the door for Freddy to prey upon poor, weak, confused Jesse. Krueger attempts, and ultimately succeeds, at possessing Jesse’s body, therein allowing him to infiltrate the real world and kill away from the dreamscapes. The central complaint around this film is the rule-breaking director Jack Sholder and screenwriter David Chaskin employ, namely in the pool scene where Freddy materializes in the real world to slash some throats. This rule breaking isn’t unwarranted or out of nowhere, it has been set up the entire film, a film which has been blending and confusing the lines of dreams and reality the entire time.
Consider the insanely unusual scene where Jesse visits the red-light gay nightclub and finds his sadistic coach there dressed in leather. The coach then takes him back to the gym to run and shower where coach is strung up nude and murdered? What an odd, unusual scene, but it’s played to be as such. Is it a dream, or no? There is no definitive evidence to suggest either way. The entire narrative structure plays with the rules set forth in the original film, confusing exploding birds and night sweats with boiler room monsters and Freddy’s influence on reality. It bounces back and forth with verve and dedication.
Robert Englund’s Freddy only appears in 13 of the 87 minutes of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, a steep decline from the original and merely a hint of how he is thrown at us in the increasingly campy “post 3” films. Freddy is still an evil monster here, not a corny self parody. His makeup is also decidedly different here, as Kevin Yagher replaced David Miller in the makeup department. With very little to work from, beyond of a few still photos, Yagher opted to sink in Freddy’s eyes further, darken the makeup, and broaden the cheekbones to accentuate the burn-victim aspects of the character. That, and the brief, dark glimpses of Krueger give the character a more mythical, ominous note.
In my mind I have always separated the first three Nightmare on Elm Street films from the rest. With the bookend Wes Craven directorial efforts of 1 and 3, and the attempts to subvert expectations in part 2, this feels like a true trilogy. Once Renny Harlin tackled part 4, The Dream Master, things went downhill quickly into farce and Freddy became a hokey one-liner machine. In 1 and 3 and, yes, especially in Freddy’s Revenge, Krueger is a menacing and sadistic force, capable of pure evil. And the homosexual allegory at play is also worth noting here as well; it is a time capsule of a film, worth revisiting with a fresh perspective.