After the bloody-curdling success of 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street, a sequel was immediately green-lit for the following year. With a change of both staff and style came A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy's Revenge. Finally, Fred Krueger was back with his razor-edged glove, but this time he came literally screaming out of the closet and into our nightmares. Dubbed the "homo A Nightmare on Elm Street," it is time to dust that rhinestone fedora with some pink glitter and get ready for the gayest film since Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
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While A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy's Revenge pales in comparison to its predecessor, it has still achieved cult status due to its homosexual context. What started life as a simple slasher sequel, then turned into one of the most debated LGBT films of the time.
While lead actor Mark Patton was not out at the time, his decision to be an openly gay actor has indirectly tied into the film ever since. The team behind the original Nightmare, Bob Shaye and Wes Craven, had a notoriously strained relationship, so when it came to a second film the latter had already left. A lot of the work was left to director Bob Sholder, who has always shunned the homosexual image of Freddy's Revenge. Sholder's current defense is that he lacked the self awareness to realize any of it was gay – really Bob? Just look at the evidence:
- A board game named Probe
- A sign on the door which says "No chicks allowed"
Additionally, the main character can't perform with the girl next door, and instead bunks up with his (male) friend for the evening. Here's the dialogue:
Jesse: Something is trying to get inside my body.
Grady: Yeah, and she's female, and she's waiting for you in the cabana. And you wanna sleep with me.
Originally denying any sort of homosexual context, it wasn't until 2010 (during a documentary on the films) that screenwriter David Chaskin admitted that there were gay overtones in Freddy's Revenge. According to Chaskin, the idea of men being unsure of their sexuality added to the horror of the film, and apparently this was always intended to be a subtext:
"I think that there is a certain amount of seduction going on between Freddy and Jesse."
However, the rest of the studio execs still adamantly deny the subtext – though, is it for fear of being branded a 'gay' film?
Weirdly, another part of the film's campy quality came from Robert Englund himself as Freddy Krueger. Where the first film had a shadow-lurking boogeyman, Freddy's Revenge was the first film where we started to see the character's infamous one-liners. Whether it worked or not, Freddy's Revenge was a break in the formula, and not one they returned to. Across the next 15 years of films, the hero was normally always a heroine. Jesse gets the booby prize of being the only man to have his own full Nightmare outing.
Probing A Little Deeper
One element that was most definitely out as 'gay' was the uncomfortable S&M scene. Part of the plot (randomly) takes an insomniac Jesse to visit a gay bar after curfew. New Line's boss Bob Shaye demanded a part in the film (despite being a reportedly awful actor), and as a middle finger to the exec, Sholder cast him as a leather-clad bartender with an outfit courtesy of "The Pleasure Chest." Jesse meets with the school's Coach (Marshall Bell) and there is the infamous shower scene.
Coach Schneider is barraged with "balls," has his bare backside whipped with towels, and is eventually slain by Freddy/Jesse. When you look a little deeper into the whole "hit by balls" connotation, towel whipping is 100 percent homoerotic.
However, it is when Jesse rejects his potential new girlfriend to shack up with school jock Ron Grady (played by Robert Rusler) that things really take a turn toward homosexuality. In the documentary, Chaskin said that he thought it would be "fun for Freddy to have a human Avatar," some 25 year's before director James Cameron took to Pandora. The desired effect came off a little differently.
One scene, which took 11 days to film, had Freddy tearing out of Jesse's body. We imagine it was supposed to replicate the chest-buster scene from Alien, but what we are actually left with is what looks like Jesse with an erection. The symbolism is supposed to be the evil of Freddy bursting out of Jesse, but Englund controversially claims that the monster represents the self-hatred living inside the gay community.
This Is A Man's World
Would the film have taken the same route if it has been a woman in the role? I guess we will never know. At no point was Heather Langenkamp asked back to reprise her role as powerful heroine Nancy Thompson. Presumably the studio deciding to do a completely different story had thrown off any plans to continue Nancy's tale (until her reprisal in the third film). Moreover, Sholder said that he had no compunction to follow the template of what had come before, which became very apparent with the role of Jesse.
Patton had first auditioned for a role in the original, but lost out to the likes of Johnny Depp. As for Jesse, although Brad Pitt and Christian Slater both read for the role, Patton was picked due to his vulnerability and this could also have been the film's downfall. Where Langenkamp had portrayed the strong '80s power woman, Patton came across as a weak adversary for Freddy. Pitting the latter against a male protagonist for the first time, Englund said:
"It just made the sexual threat and the chemistry richer..but I think they had to have made 'Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2' to discover that."
There was a sense of naivety to Jesse, and fans didn't particularly warm to the geeky nerd next door. He effectively spent 90 minutes screaming on screen, and Patton himself admits that the part of Jesse would have been the stereotypical female part. Patton never thought that Jesse was written as gay, but that it was an evolution over time.
The film's third act switches the damsel in distress mantra by placing Kim Myers's Lisa as the tough Nancy-esque character. Lisa was Jesse's supposed girlfriend, but nowadays the cast acknowledge that they should have been the Will and Grace of horror.
Perhaps the biggest victim/victor of Freddy's Revenge was Patton himself. At the age of 21 he was pulled into the world's of Sholder, Chaskin, and even Freddy. To this day Patton is synonymous with the franchise's maligned sequel, but in essence you get the impression that Freddy still haunts him.
He is the world's first (self-dubbed) male Scream Queen and outpolls Heather Langenkamp on numerous horror ratings for the title. Between 1982 and 1985 Patton wrote a fan fiction-cum-journal which charted his life away from Elm Street with interesting results. On his site Patton writes:
"A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 was released in 1985; I am the star of that film. I played a character named Jesse Walsh and little did I know the effect he would have on my life. Jesse has been with me throughout my life, good times and bad… In every relationship in my life there comes a moment when the person will ask ”did you…?” after that affirmative answer I become slightly different to the person."
There is a love-hate relationship between the film and the actor, with the latter critical of the way he was handled during and after Freddy's Revenge. He may be milking his one-time appearance in the franchise just a little bit, but if playing Jesse helped Patton to come out, then fair play. His screen-time in the documentary was limited, and Patton aims to tell the story of his coming out, his life after Freddy, and his HIV diagnosis in his Kickstarter documentary Scream Queen:My Nightmare on Elm Street.
The Neverending Nightmare
I do feel that Freddy's Revenge gets a bit of a bad wrap, serving as the "pink sheep" of the franchise – a strap-line that says "the man of your dreams is back" didn't help. Craven himself is quoted as saying he found the script inferior, Jack Sholder claimed that he was never a fan of the original anyway, and even Englund said that something didn't feel right about Freddy's second outing. However, can any of this be blamed on a homosexual subtext?
Despite its flaws (in almost every way), Freddy's Revenge was a bold move for a post-AIDS era. Horror wasn't really used to gay overtones – the men were men, and the women were women, so effectively Nightmare II represents the franchise's motto to always break the mould. The previous film had dealt with the issue of child molestation during the McMartin preschool trial scandal, and the issue of homosexuality wasn't about to stop New Line.
Chaskin himself seems to lay blame at Patton's feet, saying that everything he did "amplified" the gay culture of the film. Even if the rest of the crew call dumb on the issue, Chaskin's script is what definitely makes Freddy a flamer!
Love it or hate it, Freddy's Revenge is nowhere near the best Nightmare film out there, but you would be tough pushed to find a film that is more 'marmite' in your film collection.
Personally I am still waiting for the unplanned sequel "Jesse Goes To Mardi Gras."
You can live out Coach Schneider's death in all its heterosexual glory, and don't forget to comment in our poll below: