I’m on to 1985’s A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, which came out a year after the first film, but the events of the film itself take place five years after the first film. I’m not sure if I’ve seen this one in full or not. The opening scene, which I will momentarily describe, looks familiar, but I’m not sure. Again, that’s the thing with the Nightmare series compared to Halloween: not all of the films are firmly planted in my head. Circling back to this thought now that I’ve gone all the way through the film … yep, after the bus scene, it’s all new to me.
But with the opening scene on the bus, we get to see Robert Englund (who plays Freddy Krueger) as his normal-looking self, without the infamous Krueger makeup. Naturally, though, with three kids still left on the bus, it turns out that it is him as Krueger, and he drives them off into a desert field. Where’s Keanu Reeves when you need him?
It’s a pretty horrific and effective re-introduction, as it were, to Freddy Krueger. Scratching the knives-glove on the ceiling of the bus is enough to get my skin crawling.
The horror podcast I always shoutout that talks about these films, Halloweenies, mentioned that Kim Myers, who plays Lisa Webber, looks like Meryl Streep and I CANNOT UNSEE THIS NOW! What the heck? She’s a dead ringer for Meryl Streep! Also, that podcast mentioned how everyone seems sweaty throughout this movie, and I can’t unsee that now, either. They even address it at the beginning by talking about how the air conditioner needs fixed.
Remember in my review of the last film when I was a little annoyed that they didn’t seem (again, unless I missed it) to establish that the house and the events of the film took place on Elm Street? Within 12 minutes of this film, they establish that Jesse Walsh (played by Mark Patton) has moved into Nancy’s house from the first film.
Oof, the snake bit in the classroom with Jesse also got my skin crawling. We then get another great animal bit with the pet birds going well, The Birds, on the family. It’s a great sequence particularly because I wasn’t sure if it was real or a dream, but it turns out to be reality. For now.
This is an interesting sequel because the first 38 minutes, we get some scares, as mentioned, and some skin-crawling moments, as mentioned, but the first kill doesn’t come until about 38 minutes. Usually with these horror sequels, including Halloween, they up the violence and gore. And that ends up being the only kill of the film! That’s fascinating to me. That’s daring for a sequel to go the opposite way on upping the kill count.
But jeez, the kill is rough and memorable. Jesse goes to Ron Grady (played by Robert Rusler) for help, but they end up both falling asleep, where Freddy Krueger then bursts out of Jesse like something out of the Alien, and without much in the way of preamble (Freddy sometimes will taunt or give a final line), he walks up to Ron and kills him. It’s brutal. Wow. I think it’s so effective precisely because it’s bare bones and right to the point.
“Kill for me!” – Freddy Krueger to Jesse
It’s also an interesting film because it’s a rather sparse cast. Most of the film centers on Jesse, his family and somewhat Lisa, who helps Jesse learn more about Krueger. Even Krueger himself isn’t in it much because they’re doing something where it seems like Krueger is operating through Jesse.
Finally, another way this is different from the first film and other films in the slasher/horror genre, is that Jesse is the main protagonist rather than the stereotypical “final girl.” Although, in a way, Lisa is kind of the hero in this? Because she ultimately tries to save Jesse and confronts Freddy Krueger at the end in the boiler room. If it wasn’t for her, would Jesse had been able to separate himself from Krueger? I don’t think so.
I’m not sure how to feel about the ending sequence with the pool party, where Freddy bursts out of the house and goes after all the teens at the pool party. On one hand, it’s a heck of a visual because we don’t usually see these killers just go after a dozen people at once, and also, as a result, have a dozen people witness him. But that’s the part of it that I’m not sure about. The entire film he’s trying to quite literally embody Jesse, and I assume, make people think Jesse is crazy and the real killer. Yet, here he’s going hog wild? Unless we’re supposed to think everyone is seeing Jesse and not Freddy Krueger? But that doesn’t explain the end where Jesse is obviously cleared of any wrongdoing seemingly.
There’s a gross factor to these films you don’t get with horror noted horror franchises. Like when Jesse and Lisa are kissing, and Jesse suddenly gets the disgusting Freddy-inspired tongue, or when Lisa is in the boiler room and the bite mark where Freddy bit her leg starts having maggots or bugs spewing all out of it and looking nasty. It’s another element of horror. While I think it’s more gross than scary, it still gets my skin crawling, which is a good reaction to have to a horror film. Plus, for the most part, it makes for great practical effects.
We get another teaser ending with this film, just like the first film, where Freddy shows back up at the end on the school bus. But also like the first film, I’m not sure what to make of everything. Again, was the whole movie a dream and the last part reality? Or was it reality and dreams? I do like that it’s ambiguous enough and up to interpretation.
There’s one other interesting element, mostly in hindsight in the years since its release, that’s interesting to discuss. On its Wikipedia, there’s an entire section about the film’s “homoerotic subtext.” There’s a lengthy quote from a book that explains some of the subtext:
“The film suggested an undertone of homosexuality, starting with the protagonist’s gender-neutral name. Jesse’s rarely fully clothed. He and a tormentor have a sweaty wrestling match. His coach, clad in leather, basically hits on him in a gay bar, then gets killed by Freddy, including a bare-ass spanking. Freddy emerges from Jesse’s stomach in the same forced-birth technique that made the Alien films legendary,” – Welcome to Our Nightmares: Behind the Scenes with Today’s Horror Actors
The idea is that Jesse is repressing his homosexuality throughout the film. Upon further reading, I’m a bit disgusted (to say the least) because Patton is gay in real life, but at the time was closeted, and as such, he said he felt betrayed by the addition of that subtext. If the actor was actually comfortable with it, a horror film in 1985 (during the height of the AIDS pandemic no less) being an allegory for the struggle of coming out and acceptance would have been groundbreaking and powerful. And it still can be that, but I’m rather uncomfortable with the actor at the time being uncomfortable with it.
I suppose you can read that subtext into the film; it can certainly be interpreted that way, although, what does the message of the film mean that the stand-in for what he’s repressing (his homosexuality) is … Freddy Krueger? The implications of that are also rather troubling, to say the least.
Two final thoughts on the film:
- Is it a hot take to say that this is scarier than the first film? Again, it only has one confirmed kill (I believe) on screen and I just find it terrifying. It’s a dark, unsettling, and gross film.
- Overall, because of what I just mentioned, I think I like this more than the original film? The original is hard to beat by definition, but this is scarier and I’m awed by the daring to only do one on-screen kill (and it’s the most effective kill out of either film).
What do you think? Am I crazy to put this above the original film?