October 30, 2012

Queer Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
Director: Jack Sholder
Writer: David Chaskin, Wes Craven
Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Robert Englund

A misbegotten sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge not only fails to be as good as the original, it's an awful and amazingly homophobic film to boot.

Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) is back and this time he is no longer content to simply invade peoples dreams, he wants to recruit a someone in the real world to continue his evil work. That someone turns out to be teenager Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) who is struggling to adapt to a new neighborhood. When Jesse starts having nightmares and acting strangely, his parents think he is on drugs, but they have no idea for the nightmare that is in store for their boy.

The Queering
The original A Nightmare on Elm Street managed to effectively blur the lines between reality and waking nightmare. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an entirely pedestrian effort that I don't even think was trying to capture the nightmarish qualities of the original. I am being kind when I call sequel is a pale imitation of its predecessor. In the original, Freddy Kruger haunted peoples' nightmares. Here Freddy is going for the more prosaic, and less interesting path of simply taking over a surrogate in this world and having him do the dirty work. Boooooring...

There is however both a queer subtext and a queer text, neither or which lead to anyplace good or interesting. The explicitely gay character, the sadistic Coach Schneider, is the first to die horribly. The other, the films protagonist, Jesse, is coded, but in a rather obvious way. As I talked about in my review of the original, I wondered about the connection between the AIDS crises and the popularity of slasher films. Here, that connection is affirmed by having Jesse waking up with night sweats in imitation of one of the AIDS/HIV diseases better known symptoms.

In addition to waking up with night sweats, Jesse also displays a lack of interest in having sex with his girlfriend, ends up in a gay bar, and in one critical scene rejects the advances of his girlfriend to go hang out with a guy. However, Jesse being coded gay puts a disturbing twist on the ending. If we read Jesse as struggling with his sexuality, and I'm pretty sure the filmmakers intend for him to be read this way, then the climax of the film becomes about the superiority of heterosexuality triumphing over the disease of queerness.

Furthermore, due to Freddy's attempts to "recruit" Jesse the filmmakers end up invoking some of the most disturbingly false attacks on gay men. While Freddy in the first film simply served as a warning against promiscuous sex, here he becomes a sexual predator of a much different nature. Not only is Freddy attempting to recruit a teenager to the gay lifestyle, but his newly established queer nature puts an entirely different spin on the fact that he was an established child murderer in the first film. For no child murderer is just a murderer in Hollywood, there is almost always the implication of sexual violence. This too is alluded to by Freddy's disturbing tendency of leaping onto his victims as if preparing to commit sexual violence.

What I am getting at, is that in A Nightmare in Elm Street 2 Freddy Kruger has been sub-textually reinvented as a gay pedophile, thereby creating a film with more homophobic overtones than Cruising.

That is an accomplishment all filmmakers should have nightmares about even the possibility of achieving.

It is a nightmarish thought that a film this bad and homophobic was able to get made. No matter what street one lives on, A Nightmare on Elm Street is to be avoided.

The Rating
ZERO out of ****


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