Freddy’s returned, in what may be his darkest film of all time. It’s certainly the gayest.
This film has gone through possibly the most transformations in public opinion that I’ve ever seen. When I entered the horror scene in 2005 it was relatively despised, barely spoken about. If it was watched, it was a curiosity, given even less attention than the inferior sequels later in the series. Since then, I’ve seen critics who praise this as one of their favorite slasher films. At the very least, most nowadays can agree that it sticks to Freddy’s darker origins and is at least worth a watch. It’s hard to tell if this is due to previously quiet fans of the film gaining more of a voice on the internet, or if the change is due to an enlightenment of society regarding homosexual subtext.
Freddy Krueger has a brand new game plan: to find a young, nubile body that he can enter and have his way with. Freddy soon begins to exert his influence on the real world, almost as if flexing his muscles, on those who challenge or otherwise irritate Jesse. Freddy begins to kill by possessing Jesse, which he can do whether Jesse is asleep or wide awake. The effect of Freddy taking more lives in this movie than in any other leads to these deaths being uncharacteristically distant for someone who so enjoys stalking his prey.
The effects of this film are largely the same as the first, though they’re put to use that pushes for them to be much better. The budget for Freddy’s Revenge is almost double that of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which is to say, still a pittance for a Hollywood film. In order to avoid constructing costly cinematronics, many of the effects are stop-motion. Besides that, even well-lit scenes keep Freddy largely in darkness, which make the budget painfully obvious. When Freddy bursts from Mark Patton’s chest, though, I am unsure whether to give the director props for using this Alien effect in a new way or to scold him for unoriginality.
The effects begin to pick up by the end, making Lisa’s fight with Freddy seem like a dream sequence from the other movies, but the rest of the film detracts from this. Where in any other film related to the series would include several scenes of Freddy stalking his prey, playing with them and letting fantastic dream imagery take over, this film largely avoids that, keeping it grounded as much as possible in the real world. Toward the end, the dream world starts to merge with the real world and everything looks fantastic, though at that point, the script starts to distract from the visuals, making a fan feel sickened at what Freddy has been reduced to.
The script is like that. Freddy’s one liners are more like somebody trying to come up with a one-liner on the spot than any actual wit. This may have been due to the darker tone, but it still feels out of place, as though David Chaskin didn’t quite have a handle on Freddy’s voice. Some scenes also feel a bit out of place, such as the scene focusing on Jesse and Ron insulting Coach Schneider, which result in the film feeling a bit strange and wobbly at times. I wouldn’t say that the screenplay was terrible for Chaskin’s first film, but you can certainly tell that that’s what it is.
Robert Englund did an outstanding job as Freddy, as always. Mark Patton’s portrayal as Jesse would have been more effective had the character been a bit more aggressive to show more of the transformation throughout the film, and Patton himself has said that had he been more familiar of David Chaskin’s intentions at the time, he would have done more with the character. The expression on Kim Myers’ face as Lisa implies that she was either distracted throughout, or high. Rob Rusler portrays Ron Grady fairly well as a homophobe, although he doesn’t do much to get across his apparently close friendship with Jesse.
The first movie is well blended into this, using the same house and making several references to the events of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” as they pertained to Nancy. Freddy’s glove is in the same location in both movies. However, there is no mention of Krueger’s personal history and death, and Freddy’s powers have changed drastically. His ability to teleport after possessing Jesse’s body comes perilously close to the “no shape-shifting in the real world” rule has become established in further sequels. It’s likely that the differences between Freddy’s powers between this film and the original is the reason why the sequels largely disregarded it.
There is also a step away from the first movie, not against continuity, but against repetition. The opening dream sequence is only that: a dream. Jesse doesn’t get hurt at all, even though Freddy’s modus operandi to this point would have left him in a body bag. Jesse also falls asleep in class, remarkable only because he does not have a boiler room-related dream.
Discussing the homosexual undertones in this movie is a mess – not because the end result is a mess, but because it sends a message that can be interpreted in two completely different ways and because there was an utter lack of communication regarding them during filming. While writer David Chaskin claims that all of the gay themes were intentionally written into the script and Robert Englund responds to interviews with an “isn’t it obvious?” attitude, director Jack Sholder claims that all of the clearly homoerotic visuals in the film were completely unintentional and star Mark Patton has stated the belief that Jesse wasn’t intended to be gay, he just ended up that way.
In any case, it’s all there. Jesse displays numerous behaviors that are generally attributed to gay men, not to mention the sadomasochistic gay bar and the shower whipping. Freddy interrupts him from making out with Kim Myers, so he flees to spend the night in Ron’s bedroom. While this is all a functional tale of a young man coming to grips with his sexuality, it also has the unfortunate implication that his orientation is the result of his possession by Krueger (who certainly interferes with any scene Jesse spends with Lisa). To further this metaphor, Lisa is instrumental in defeating Freddy – curing Jesse from his possession once and for all – and Ron is nowhere in sight.
While I may hold some grudges as a fan of Freddy and the Nightmare series, the dark portrayal of Freddy as he messes with Jesse’s mind and the return of the killer himself make this movie great. While the message may have gotten a bit muddled, it was still an extraordinary effort to include such underlying ideas as the ones featured here. Still, once you’ve seen the darker possibilities of the ending, it’s hard to unsee them, tarnishing what is otherwise an ingenious and unique piece of cinema.
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