Ah my little grave diggers and undertakers, Halloween is upon us and it feels so good. For the second year running, Geekade is embracing the fear that lurks in the shadows of the season. Everyday we’ve got amazing horror content, but that means I’ve got to up my game.
So I welcome you to the second Macabre Movie Mausoleum of the month where I’m reviewing the first four A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Today we have the often overlooked sequel, ‘Freddy’s Revenge’. Let’s take a look, and see if this entry lives up to the standard set forth by the first, or if it deserves to be forgotten like a passing dream after the alarm clock blares.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Director: Jack Sholder
Starring: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, and Kim Myers
I hadn’t watched this movie since I had first seen back in the late 80’s, probably around 1989. First and foremost, I was surprised how much I remembered about the movie, like the opening dream sequence on the bus where Freddy traps several children before their inevitable doom. I also remembered that I didn’t like it. Perhaps I was comparing it to the first too much, or maybe I was too young to understand some of the subplots of puberty and homo-eroticism, but a bird spontaneously combusting didn’t do it for me.
Freddy’s Revenge had the tough order of following up the most original slasher movie of its time, and it was made all the more daunting by not having Wes Craven behind the camera anymore. In a bold move, the victim of the film was Jesse Walsh, a teenage boy, bucking the trend of teen females. It may not seem like a big deal now, but at the time this was a drastic change, especially during the birth of the ‘final girl’ craze. None of that is to undermine the largely homoerotic overtones.
Although the movie was released only a year after the first, it takes place five years later, and follows Jesse Walsh and his family as the move into the same house as Nancy from the first movie. Unsurprisingly, he’s plagued with nightmares from early on, and he finds Nancy’s diary in his room. Another element that is meant to raise tensions in the house is that the house’s thermostat is broken and it is extremely hot. I understand the subtext of Freddy being burned alive, and living/working in the boiler room, however I’m not sure what a parakeet spontaneously combusting has to do with the story.
The movie does a better job of making you guess what’s a nightmare and what is reality, it makes you wonder what is Jesse dreaming about, and what is Freddy influencing in ‘reality’. In a clear nightmare, Freddy approaches Jesse, telling him that he needs Jesse to kill for him. After five years of non-action since the first movie, Freddy’s powers aren’t as strong as they were, and he needs to feed of Jesse’s fear. This results in Freddy emerging from Jesse’s body as he goes through painful transformations. Jesse’s friend turns into his girlfriend, and his enemy turns into his best friend. While making out with his girlfriend his body goes through a painful change. All of this is a not-so-subtle allegory for the pains and changes of puberty.
After being caught ordering a drink at a gay bar by his gym teacher, Jesse is taken to the gym locker room for punishment, when Freddy emerges and kills the gym teacher. Jesse is then shown with the iconic knife glove on his hand. Jesse walks into his sister’s room late at night to find her jumping rope in a white dress singing the Freddy song (my year round ringtone), and is startled when he finds the glove on his hand again.
At a pool party at his girlfriend’s house, Jesse and Lisa begin kissing and it seems they’re about to consummate their relationship when Jesse’s body begins to go through the painful changes mentioned above. He leaves his girlfriend to go to his friend’s house where he confesses to killing the gym teacher. He pleads with Grady to watch him sleep and wake him up if he begins to have a nightmare. Of course, Grady falls asleep himself, and Freddy emerges from Jesse’s chest and proceeds to skewer Grady before disappearing. Jesse flees before being caught.
He returns to Lisa’s where he tells her what’s going on. She believes his fear is giving Freddy power and he needs to overcome it. Unable to contain it, Jesse releases Freddy who begins killing the party guests, and is about to kill Lisa, however whatever remains of Jesse, prevents this. Following Jesse/Freddy to the factory where Freddy worked, Lisa proclaims her love for Jesse and kisses him through Freddy’s lips, which enables Jesse to break free from Freddy’s control, killing him and putting an end to the nightmare once again.
Sometime later, Jesse, Lisa and her friend, Kerry are riding the school bus which evokes memories of Jesse’s first nightmare of the movie. Freddy returns by stabbing through Kerry’s chest.
For the second week in a row: The nightmare is not over, Freddy lives!
This movie is a beautiful mess, and I’m glad I revisited it with a more mature mind (or at least older). There are so many things right with this movie, like having a male ‘final girl’ before it became trope, or having Freddy Kruger use the fear he instills in Jesse as a catalyst for his return. But for everything the movie did right, like revealing the slightest details of Freddy’s origin without giving too much away, the movie had its faults. In today’s culture of openness and acceptance, it’s easy to see how poorly the movie handled the homoerotic elements. Not to mention beating the audience over the head with the puberty allegory.
The story was there, Freddy using someone to kill for him to re-gain his power. Hell, the story was good enough that they reused it later in the franchise. Unfortunately, the execution was not up to par. The ham-fisted way everything was handled greatly hurt the quality of the movie, but with all of that said, it doesn’t belong to live in the bottom of the horror pool.
And while this is a small point, I like that the title lives up to the plot. Freddy is looking for revenge for what happened in the first movie. Simple, yet effective.
Typically, I like to end with a trailer for the movie. However, for this go around I leave you with possibly my new favorite scene from any horror movie, Jesse dancing to “Touch Me (All Night Long)” by Wish featuring Fonda Rae as he cleans his room. Pure 80’s gold, and this might be why I was obsessed with this song for long and not knowing why.
For more from the author, check out AzarRising