The odds of a long running franchise not having the odd duff installment is practically zero. It’s a simple case of odds and averages and the continuing adventures of Freddy Krueger is no different with a couple of rotten eggs dotted amongst the batch but where stinkers like Freddy’s Dead and the dreary reboot were bad on release and bad now, the curious case of Freddy’s Revenge proves to be the exception to the rule.
Quick history lesson: after the sleeper success of the original Elm Street, director Wes Craven was jettisoned by New Line head honcho Robert Shaye and a quickie follow up was rushed into production leaving the creative side of the project somewhat in a state of flux. The only returnee from the first film was, obviously, Robert Englund as the dermatology challenged Krueger and a whole new story was cooked up but without Craven’s hand on the wheel the plot details got a little sketchy. However, while the finished product played fast and loose with the rules established in the first picture and was criticized for it’s weird plot turns, a whole new life awaited the movie when re-appraised and it was found that a rather timely metaphor was, like Krueger, lurking within and waiting to emerge…
Jesse Walsh and his family has just moved to Elm Street and the moving pains are plentiful; the young man is being picked on at school, the house is unseasonably hot and sweat soaked nightmares of a razor fingered madman plague his sleep. A rare lifeline is local rich girl Lisa who has the hots for him even though their friendship seems mostly platonic but she is a source of support when Jesse’s nightmares start to spill into reality. You see, the house he’s moved into once was the home of Nancy Thompson, a young girl who we know went head to head with the dream stalker at the cost of all her friends not to mention her own mother but now Freddy’s bad with a different and highly illogical plan to possess Jesse and use him as a doorway between the real and dream worlds. Perfectly timing his “big push” to coincide with Lisa’s pool party a bloodbath seems inevitable but can Lisa help Jesse find the strength to fight off his urges and expel Freddy once and for all?
That metaphor I mentioned earlier, the one that gave the movie a second life? It turned out that A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2 was hiding a big gay LGBTQ analogy in plain sight that when spotted, is impossible not to see (I know there’s more letters in that acronym now and apologies to anyone left out). It’s all there and it sure ain’t subtle. Freddy here is seemingly a metaphor for homosexuality as Jesse starts to question his very identity as his parents fret about what to do with him (not having a scene where his parents enquire if he’s tried NOT being a host body for an undead serial killer is a seriously missed opportunity). Admittedly as clumsy as all this allegory is, it’s still pretty cool to see. The concept of making the realisation that you’re gay the insidious villain of the piece works as the fear of your sexuality that can be experienced when you realise you’re different is cheekily represented by a cracking Krueger who literally “comes out” of Jesse when he’s in the bedroom of another boy and is full seductive mode, “grooming” Jesse to be a conduit for him. It’s all very tongue in cheek and isn’t meant to be taken either seriously or literally, especially when the metaphors reach critical mass with the murder of a sadistic school Coach with Jesse running into him in an S&M bar (no, seriously) and then when back at school he’s slashed to death but not after being stripped naked, strung up in the showers with skipping ropes and lashed across the buttocks with floating, snapping towels. Tying for most “gay” scene in the movie is watching Jesse tidy his room while gyrating around on his bed while using a popping toys as a stand in for his penis… how did I not see any of this when I first watched it?
Copious and amusing homosexuality references aside (not that there’s anything wrong with that, to quote Seinfeld), the film is a glorious mess with random and frequently ridiculous concepts flying all over the place – do you find the idea of a possessed budgie inherently terrifying? How about a toaster that bursts into flames despite not being plugged in? Ooooh! Scary-darey, am I right?
Playing more like a possession movie in the vein of Amityvillie II than the supernatural slasher stylings of the original, Freddy’s plan has virtually no logic behind it, I mean the guy is basically omnipotent, right? So why the fuck is he wasting his time screwing around with some confused kid with the most androgynous scream in horror movie history. Also, Krueger’s ability to manipulate the world from the other side makes not one iota of sense but when he spectacularly erupts from Jesse’s body, literally sloughing off his skin like an unwanted shawl, it’s deeply impressive nonetheless.
Englund’s second go round as Krueger is solid and the increased wisecracks are delivered with gusto and malice (the body and brain line is perfect) but it’s Mark Patton as Jesse (filmdom’s first male scream queen by all accounts) who turns in a suprisingly affecting performance amongst all the random silliness and whose private life somewhat mirrored his character’s journey (Patton himself is openly gay and donates a lot of his time to charities).
Frequently daft, wilfully inconsistent and sporting all the delicacy of a massage performed by mallet, Freddy’s Revenge has persevered over the years by being different and giving a voice to minority not usually addressed openly in movies at the time, even if most of the cast and crew didn’t even realise it…
It may not be a classic in the traditional sense but fittingly in this case, being different is a virtue…