Directed By: Jack Sholder, Written By: David Chaskin, Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myres & Robert Englund.
In 1984, Wes Craven, director of Last House on the Left, changed the face of the slasher genre forever with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Adding something new to the already tired stalk and slash formula by bringing a metaphysical spin to the mix.
The premise of the story, as if you don’t already know, see’s the teenagers of Elm Street haunted by the spirit of murdered child killer, Fred Krueger. The twist being that Freddy exists in the realm of dreams, so providing that the teens are awake, they are perfectly safe. Falling asleep however proves to be both reckless and fatal.
Unfortunately, as everyone knows, sleep is inevitable. Try as hard as you might to stay awake, eventually, sleep will overpower and consume you and once you drift off, you’re in an exceedingly vulnerable position.
I have a great deal of love and affection for Wes Craven’s masterpiece, but it’s not that film that I will be discussing today. Instead, I shall leap ahead one year to 1985s much-debated/misunderstood sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
ANOES2 is the film that took the series in a slightly different direction and wistfully, many fans of the original were not impressed. Well, allow me to court a little controversy here, as I roll up my sleeves and wade into battle because Freddy’s Revenge happens to be my favourite of the sequels for reasons that I shall explain below…
Daring to be different.
With A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) having already established its rules, it would have been very easy for the makers of part 2 to churn out something analogous and safe. Sure, the idea of death coming to you in your dreams and knowing that sleep is inescapable is a terrifying prospect. So, is losing control of yourself to a point where you become a danger to those closest to you. This is exactly what befalls our protagonist, Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton).
Having recently moved into the house previously owned by the Thompson’s from Part one, Jesse begins to have nightmares. The film starts with one such nightmare involving a school bus and an all too familiar driver, in the shape of razor fingered fiend, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). So far, so same old, same old…
Well, yes, but only in the beginning. Elm Street 2 shakes things up by having the plot become less about dream stalking and more about possession. As dreams bleed into reality and Freddy’s grip on Jesse tightens, the more out-of-control Jesse becomes until he himself can no longer separate the nightmares from the reality.
It makes perfect sense that Freddy would be looking for an alternative method for getting at the Elm Street kids. After all, he had his ass handed to him at the end of the first film by Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), who exposed the flaws in his plans before using them to defeat him. After such a crushing beat-down, It stands to reason that Fred would take a different tack.
This movie is rife with metaphors relating to the unique facets of life and growth and getting a grip on one's own self-identity, and I will touch on most of those metaphors as the review continues. The one that applies most at this juncture is that growing up is hard and it’s weird. As we develop, and hormones kick in, things get very bizarre and confusing. It’s safe to say that we all, for a spell at least, lose control of ourselves during this stage in our life. I’m not 100% sure if this was an intended metaphor, but it’s certainly what I took from it.
The most insidious of Freddy incarnations.
In later films, Freddy somehow morphed into the Elvis of horror icons. Looking back, while I can see how it came to be, I’m not sure why it happened. After all, Fred Krueger was a child killer. A fictitious one, sure, but a child killer none the less. We wouldn’t see fit to send our kids off to school clutching a lunchbox with Ian Huntley’s grinning picture emblazoned across it. Yes, I know it’s hardly the same thing, but I’m exaggerating to make a point.
Anyway, getting back on topic, Fred Krueger is never meaner than in this movie. It’s true, and I’ll try to explain myself.
His abuse of Jesse, compelling him to kill his friends and then stand back mocking as Jesse has to deal with the horrific ramifications of what he has done, is just plain cruel and malicious. In the other entries in the franchise, it’s basically Freddy vs whichever unwitting teen has haphazardly wandered into his dream world. In Freddy’s Revenge, it’s about him using the unwitting teen to carry out his nefarious handiwork. Imagine losing yourself briefly, only to come round and find that you have slaughtered your friends or family. Freddy is a bastard in this movie and all he can do is
stand and cackle while Jesse deals with the ramifications of being the one with blood on his hands.
While I love Charles Bernstein’s score for the original film, Christopher Young knocks it out of the park. He delivers the best Elm Street soundtrack to date and how it never appeared in any other film in the series baffles me. The use of odd sounds including Whale song gives the score a creepy, surreal feel. It’s haunting and if dreams really came with a soundtrack, this would most likely be it.
I will only touch on this briefly as it’s been debated to death. I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 when I was around ten years old or so, so the homo-erotic subtext flew clear over my head. It was only as I watched it later in life that it dawned on me that something deeper was afoot.
Obviously, now, as a forty-something (I’m not telling you the exact figure) year-old man, I understand that ANOES2 is very much an allegory for a young mans struggle to come to terms with who he really is. Realising that you are someone who in all probability will come under scrutiny and fierce disapproval by those closest to you must be a terrifying time in any young person's life.
I like to think that as time goes by; we move towards a much more accepting world. Although we still have very far to go, as there is still plenty of ignorance and prejudice left to tackle. I always shy away from using the word tolerance. As it‘s an ugly expression. I tolerate Slugs. I hate the slimy bastards but I tolerate them because they are there whether I like it or not. If you describe yourself as tolerant of other people, whether it be regarding their race, sexuality or gender, you’re actually just admitting that you’re a bit of a dick. I got off topic again. Rant over…
As I was saying, the 1980s were a world away from where we are now and while things are still very far from perfect, coming to terms with who you were back then, especially when you knew that you were going to face some fierce backlash, must have been a scary thing to face. It’s a situation that moulds perfectly to fit a horror movie.
This all brings me nicely to my next point.
Mark Patton as Jesse Walsh.
Say A Nightmare on Elm Street to anyone, and besides Freddy, people immediately think of Nancy or Alice (Lisa Wilcox) or any member of The Dream Warriors. Jesse Walsh is Criminally overlooked, and this is a great shame. Especially considering the superb performance put in by Mark Patton.
Jesse really goes through the wringer in this movie. Everyone is dying around him and Jesse is slowly realising that it might very well be by his hand. This, in turn, leads him to step back from getting too close to anyone. When he does, things go very bad. Case in point, Ron Grady (Robert Rusler). I bet that sleepover doesn’t seem like such a great idea now, hey?
Things go from bad to very fucking bad for poor Jesse and Patton conveys this with undeniable aplomb, going from on the edge to over the edge, perfectly. Jesse becomes a nervous, broken wreck and we the audience feel it.
The chemistry between Jesse and ‘love interest’ Lisa (Kim Myers), is fantastic too. Lisa seems to love Jesse unconditionally and had Jesse’s story of played out beyond the movie, I like to think it would have been Lisa who was there beside him when he eventually came out. Especially, given that his old man’s reaction would most likely have been to suggest that all he needed was “a good, goddamn kick in the butt.”
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is in no way a perfect movie. It certainly has its faults. Exploding parakeets anyone? And what the fuck was with those guard dogs with human faces.
It does, however, deserve to be regarded more highly than it is. I know the film has its fans. I’m one of them and will always defend this movie against those who can’t see past its changes to the Elm Street formula. Sure, the film branches off in a direction different to the one that Wes Craven set up, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
Anyhoo, this is all just my point of view. As always, all opinions are welcome in the comments section below. Until next time, "You’re all my children now."