by Sean McTiernan
This movie picks up where the first left off. That’s a lie, I think it happens a few years later. Anyway, Freddy exists in dreams, kills people when they sleep and the more you fear him the stronger he gets. You know the story. At least, I hope you do. If not this probably isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense. Even if you have seen the first one, this might not be what you’d expect. This is an odd sequel. It manages simultaneously to be the most-maligned Freddy movie and yet the one that Elm Street nerds want to talk about the most.
Why is it bad? Well, it has little respect for the lore and tends to generally be a bit crap in every direction. I mean the pool party scene is famous but in the scheme of what people like about like about the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies, it’s not exactly in gem in the franchise’s crown. People love the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise on a level that can be scarier than the films sometimes, because of the elaborate fantastical deaths based on the innermost feats of the victim, often making use of the physics-defying dream logic. Or they just like gore and bad puns. I’m having an Up With People sort of a day though, so let’s pretend it’s the first one.
Well, having Freddy jog around a swimming pool, shouting at teenagers and looking weirdly bow-legged is certainly not that. It’s more like a re-enactment of what happens when someone’s grandad drinks too much, realizes he hates his grandkid’s friends way more than he initially believed he did, gets some garden shears and decides to Sort It Out.
Honestly: the whole film is kind of lackluster and when it’s not being lackluster, it’s just being lame. Witness the scene where a man is menaced by an exploding parakeet. Why then for years have horror nerds brushed the Cheeto dust from their mouths (these are my people, I can make jokes like that) and debated this particular Nightmare On Elm Street more than any other? Because, put simply: it’s a mad gay movie, yo.
This doesn’t go for all horror fans in general, but dudes who like nerd out over the slasher franchises tend, sadly, to be the same type of guys who find being gay and gay sex to be inherently hilarious. Either that, or they’re film school dudes who demand subtext in everything. I’ve seen people of both stripes do logical somersaults and announce “Well this is clearly a parable for being gay” or that “straight up, that one dude wants that other dude’s dick” depending on which group you’re dealing with. So when I heard “Nightmare On Elm Street 2” was the “gayest horror movie ever,” I assumed it was just somebody with horn-rimmed glasses who was really into the symbolism of water or something. But then I watched it and well, it doesn’t exactly put the sub in subtext.
In “Nightmare on Elm Street 2” the lead is a male teenager named Jesse. He’s a wrestler. His family moves into the house where a lot of the original “Nightmare On Elm Street” took place and he gets Nancy’s room. In her closet, he finds her diary containing her secrets about the nightmares she had. He has the revelation he’s having the same dreams as Nancy, runs to his parents, they have a big fight and he leaves. So a dude comes out of a closest, shouting about how he’s becoming “Nancy” and his parents get mad at him. This, bizarrely, is about as subtle as this movie gets.
It’s really everywhere. Jesse’s gym teacher stares at him working out only to later run into him in a gay leather bar. From there they end up in back in the school gym (obviously) and the teacher ends up nude, getting pelted with wet towels and attacked by his own (basket) balls.
Then there’s his relationship with the most chaste woman in horror movie history which often sends him running to his friend’s house in distress. One such instance leads to this exchange:
“Something is trying to get inside my body.”
“And you want to sleep with me?”
That’s not exactly flying under anyone’s radar. These scenes continue to pile up: Freddie’s claws rip out of Jesse’s girlfriend’s breasts or the “Risky Business”-esque dance scene where Jesse holds a phallic object in front of his crotch while wearing the worst sunglasses ever. Not that either of those things are inherently gay themselves but, well… just watch.
This permeates all the way down to even small aspects of production design. Jesse has a board game called Probe that you can see in his closet in many of the scenes. Oh and he’s got a “No Chicks” sign on his door. A “No Chicks” sign… right there on his door.
So yes, enough gay content to have horror fans camping (I’m not even really trying at this stage) on their keyboards for hours in hysterics. How could so many disparate elements converge to make such a thoroughly mainstream horror movie so thoroughly gay?
Oh, the writer and production designer put them there on purpose, that’s why.
Although this recommendation is for “Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” I must send you also to “Never Sleep Again,” the four hour documentary on the entire franchise. And specifically around the hour mark where David Chaskin more or less says “oh course it’s supposed to be like that.”
Even better is his indignant explanation that it was “supposed to be subtext” but the director Jack Sholder had “a subliminal thing going on in his mind where he didn’t realise it but everything he did amplified it.” Even though the movie was intentionally written in such a way, according to the documentary, most people involved in the film seemed to have no idea. Seeing director Jack Sholder cry complete ignorance to the movie’s gay overtones intercut with the naked gym teacher being smacked with a towel… “either we were incredibly naive or incredibly latently gay.”
It’s interesting also to hear from the actor who played Jesse who happens to be gay but wasn’t out at the time. He points out that he was playing the part that was normally reserved for women in 80s horror and describes himself as the “first male scream queen.” Apart from the dance sequence, which remains as horrifying today as it was back then, he joins David Chaskin in wondering how few of the working on the movie noticed what was going on. Then follows a montage of various members of the cast professing complete ignorance of any of the over-or-undertones that were going in to the movie.
Rober Englund, who plays Freddy, also holds forth on what Freddy could possible represent, focusing particularly on Freddie literally bursting out of Jesse near the end of the movie. But Robert Englund more or less thinks him pulling on a Kurt Cobain jumper and a scary glove is the most interesting thing ever to happen to acting so it’s important to take whatever he says with a truck of salt. Seriously, he’s probably somewhere right now telling a camera that “Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead” is the best cinematic allegory for the Nanking Massacre he knows of.
So when I know when one usually thinks of gay horror movies you think either “Top Gun” or Clive Barker making somebody wear a leather cape. But if you want to see a really weird cultural artifact and witness a breathless exercise in obliviousness, then check out Nightmare “On Elm Street Two.”
Oh and the original tagline was “The Man Of Your Dreams is Back”.
Sean Mc Tiernan is 21, his favorite rapper is E40 and he wants to assure you he does sometimes go outside. He has a blog and a twitter. So does everyone though. He also has a podcast on which he has a nervous breakdown once an episode, minimum.You should totally email him with your questions / insults/ offers of tax-free monetary gifts.