Review by Leo Goldsmith
Posted on 30 October 2006
Source New Line DVD
Features: 31 Days of Horror
Coherence and internal logic are not notable attributes of the Elm Street series, and this is apparent from the first of the many sequels to Wes Craven’s original film. To be sure, this has much to do with Craven’s unfortunate departure, but this enables a series of wildly divergent interpretative shifts in the franchise, beginning with this film. So, what becomes interesting about A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 is what it retains, what it discards, and what it alters from its source-text, and in turn, what is subsequently perverted (or in this case, largely discarded) in subsequent installments.
Superficially, Jack Sholder and his team have retained a great deal from the original film: the Thompsons’ house on Elm Street, complete with scary basement; Freddy’s predilection for trapping kids inside moving vehicles on their way to school; a lecherous gray tongue. But this installment stands out for a number of reasons. Most obviously, it is the only entry not to feature the otherwise oft-repeated, cheese-synth score from the first film, using instead a queasy string-based soundtrack cribbed from The Shining.
Crucially, however, the film also takes a unique interpretive stance on the Freddy Krueger mythology in suggesting that Krueger is a demon capable of possession, that he inhabits the bodies of sleeping teenagers whom he uses to kill people. This is retroactively applied to the original film, offering the rather conventional interpretation that he simply makes people do things. Hapless Jesse Walsh, whose family has recently moved into 1428 Elm Street, is Freddy’s vehicle here, and every once in a while, a random lightning bolt will appear and cause Jesse to do strange things. As Freddy puts it, “I need you, Jesse… You’ve got the body; I’ve got the brain.” Krueger then pulls back part of his own scarred cranium to reveal this brain, which is, for some reason, throbbing.
In Freddy’s Revenge, Jesse’s body and the strange things that he is impelled to do with it are of major concern. This is, after all, the “gay” Nightmare film, and the question of uncontrollable urges (which this film succinctly, if conventionally carries over from Craven’s original) is here quite unsubtly rendered as a battle of opposing sexual preferences. Just some of the more obvious homoerotic pleasures on offer: a visit to an S&M bar, a snake in the crotch, sweaty boys wrestling in the dirt, and some violent, bare-ass towel-whipping. And just to drive the point home, Jesse voices a good deal of concern about Freddy’s desire to get inside his young body, as he does to his buddy Grady:
Jesse Walsh: Something is trying to get inside of me.
Ron Grady: Yeah, it’s female and it’s waiting for you in the cabana, and you want to sleep with me.
This female is the plucky Lisa, who eventually teams with Jesse to fight Freddy and whose good, clean, straight love for her beau helps him to vanquish his possessor, however temporarily. This “love conquers all” finale is another of the film’s more disappointingly conventional qualities, along with its blatant rip-off of The Birds (the single innovation being an exploding parakeet) and the totally perfunctory sequel-teaser at the ending. But these instances of generic laziness are more than balanced by Jesse’s girly shrieks and all else that marks the film a work of high camp, even if Freddy himself often seems little more than an annoying nocturnal emission that will inevitably ruin a pool party.