31 Horror Films (2014) #29 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge Dir. Jack Sholder

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge Dir. Jack Sholder

It was Halloween in 2007, and my friends and I had gathered at my then girlfriend’s apartment to watch horror films. The films we had in the house didn't seem to tantalize anyone, so an expedition to the video store was made (this was back before Netflix). It being Halloween, the local Hollywood Video was cleaned out, so my sister brought back one of the few horror films she could find. This movie was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the Nightmare films are the “thinking person’s” slasher series. Wes Craven, creator of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a former professor know for using visceral horror to tell deeply psychological stories. The first entry in the series is a masterpiece as is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and there are some gems in between, Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors being a personal favorite of mine, but somehow I had missed this one. I didn’t even know what it was about, none of us did.

After we had settled in, we were treated to a horror film like none we’d ever seen. The protagonist was a teenage boy named Jesse whom Freddy Krueger was trying to possess. Jesse’s young form being the key to Freddy’s return to the real world. Nothing really out of the ordinary for a Nightmare film. However, Freddy’s Revenge isn’t just the first sequel in the series, through a perfect storm of filmmaker choices, this film becomes what many consider to be one of the first gay horror films.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, horror audiences were treated to a series of films wherein teenagers are murdered in various ways. The heroes of these films were often virginal young women, who made it to the end of the film through a potent mix of intellect and grit. The first film in the series featured Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson. The sole survivor of a group of friends, Nancy manages to take down Freddy Krueger using survival skills and her own courage. For the sequel, the choice to make the lead a male already spins the established themes of the film on its head. Add in Jesse’s discomfort around females, along with a nightmare sequence in which he meets his gym coach in a leather-gilded gay bar, and you have a horror film exploring some pretty new territory for its time.

I don’t mean to put more importance on this film than their should be. Nightmare 2 is ridiculously campy, featuring a scene where the gym teacher gets whipped with a wet towel by Freddy, and a hilarious scene between Jesse and his best friend that seems to be stitched together with double entendres about the two of them sleeping together. However, the homosexual undertones of the film, whether conscious or unconscious on the part of screenwriter David Chaskin, actually make the film more interesting. The plot is paper thin, offering nothing new, but watching the film as an allegory for sexual discovery makes it more palpable. You find yourself rooting for Jesse not necessary because he has to stop a dream demon, but because the act of discovering one’s own sexual identity can be an uncomfortable and difficult journey.

I can’t recommend this film as a good example of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but I can recommend it as an experiment in sexual themes not often explored in teen slasher films.

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