A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Revenge on who? Isn't the first movie his revenge?

Revenge on who? Isn’t the first movie his revenge?

Once your eyes are opened, some things come into a wonderful new focus. As a kid, I watched “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2” and thoroughly enjoyed it, a different turn from the “hey, Freddy is after some other group of kids this time” that I’d been trained to expect from slasher movie sequels. Then, after watching the excellent documentary “Never Sleep Again” about the series, which said outright “it’s about homosexuality” I was like “oh, of course!” It’s slightly embarrassing that I didn’t notice it before, how obvious it was, but you, dear reader, will not have that problem thanks to this review.

 

Star Mark Patton has had an interesting life. He was an out gay man while living in New York early in his career, but when he moved to Hollywood found it a very homophobic place – some of the stories are terrible (like certain agents posting people in gay bars to get blackmail material on up and coming stars with other agencies); and was forced to largely go back in the closet, despite playing a gay character in “Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” and…well, more on his character in this movie later. He found the homophobia so bad that he quit acting altogether, becoming an interior decorator, but since appearing in the documentary “Never Sleep Again”, has started making appearances at conventions and discovering how beloved this movie is with the LGBT community. Well, some of them, it’s sort of ridiculous to say “all” LGBT people like anything. He’s been living with being HIV+ for some time, too, but is controlling it and is healthy and well.

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Patton plays Jesse, a teenager whose family move into Nancy’s old house on Elm Street (she’s still alive but has gone insane). Five years have passed since the events of the first movie, apparently, but it’s sort of stupid to say part 1 was set in 1981 as there’s posters for stuff which happened after that on everyone’s walls. Still, nowhere near as stupid as the Friday the 13th timeline! Anyway, he develops a relationship with Lisa (Kim Myers, “Heavy Metal Summer”), who he drives to school…despite her living in a gigantic house which is presumably nowhere near Jesse’s normal suburban home. I never understood that bit.  Anyway, Jesse starts being plagued by bad dreams, featuring that burned child murderer we’ve come to know and love – Freddy must have been weakened or something by Nancy in part 1, as he needs Jesse to kill for him.

 

Jesse is an interesting character. The initial dream sequence has him looking like kind-of a sad sack, the sort of character who’s the terminal outsider; but during the movie, he takes no crap from anyone, befriends jock Grady (Robert Rusler), attracts Lisa and seems a bright, outgoing sort of chap. He does get on the wrong side of sadistic gym teacher Coach Schneider (ultimate “that guy” actor Marshall Bell), and the way Grady just off-handedly remarks about how the Coach is gay and goes to S&M bars is the first really big clue that there might be something bubbling under the surface here. But he’s basically powerless to stop Freddy, relying on Lisa to save the day with good old heterosexual love, so…er…who knows?

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Director Jack Sholder was presumably the only guy available (although he did make the fun “The Hidden”). Everything’s nice and tight here, even if there are a few bits where you wish there was a bit more explanation; but perhaps we ought to blame scriptwriter David Chaskin – who apparently worked in the New Line advertising department – for that. He absolutely packs the movie with gay subtext (my favourite line, Jesse talking about Freddy: “He’s inside me, and he wants to take me again!”) which allegedly the director was unaware of…but there’s just no way! It can’t have escaped his notice that every time Jesse gets close to Lisa, he starts hallucinating Freddy or an attack happens; or that Jesse walks through town barefoot to have a beer, and just by accident ends up in the leather bar. To his shame – and according to IMDB, so this might be apocryphal – Chaskin blamed Patton for playing the part “too gay” when the movie started attracting notice and denied putting any subtext in there, although he finally admitted to it during “Never Sleep Again”.

 

Wes Craven wanted no part of this sequel, because he didn’t want it to become a franchise (and indeed pushed for part 1 to have a happy ending), but it’s head and shoulders above any slasher sequel. It’s certainly not without its problems – first up, I don’t understand why Jesse and Lisa are friends in the first place, if he’s just moved to town; and then there’s a bit where Freddy attacks a pool party full of teenagers, while they’re all awake. Heck, no-one dies in their sleep in this movie at all! Freddy appears to be able to manipulate reality, which when you think about it makes no sense at all. Well, even less sense than the average movie of this sort.

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There’s also the ending, which I guess is just another dream in the mind of the presumably hospitalised Jesse. It seems like a happy ending, but how is that even possible? Jesse killed those people, whether or not he was having a Freddy-inspired psychotic break, and there’s no way they’d just bandage him up and let him go back to school. When you have dreams and reality butting heads in movies like these, there’s a tendency to just handwave away weird plot holes as being dreams, but I think that’s a cop-out. Ultimately, it’s just too confusing.

 

It’s a fascinating movie with a number of fairly hefty problems. Like “Carrie”, it uses the confusion teenagers feel about sex as a driving force, but with the gay themes pushes way further than “Carrie” ever did; it has lots to like (and not just because of my youthful crush on Kim Myers) but it’s all so muddled as if they established a set of rules but kept ignoring them – which I suppose, taking part 1 into account, they did.

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Rating: thumbs in the middle

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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

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Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

 

Mark has been reviewing a lot of classic slasher films in recent weeks. It has inspired me to look at the remake of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’. I’m a sucker for masked horror villains, but there’s something extra sinister about a maniac running around with a burlap sack on his head. It’s a lot more terrifying than a hockey mask.

The original ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ is a cult favourite, and one of those horror films all the more terrifying because it is based on a true story. In a little American town called Texarkana, the Phantom killer murdered five people in 1946. The killer was never caught.

The great thing about Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s remake is that it is able to directly reference both the 1976 original movie, and the murders which inspired that film in ’46. Cleverly there is a nod to a real life tradition of outdoor screenings of the film which occur on Halloween. The whole movie has a jerky, jittery retro feel which faithfully continues the lineage.

Texarkana is a traditional town which hasn’t caught up with the rest of the world, it is the kind of place where the majority of the town still attend meetings and the church is regularly full, particularly in light of a spate of murders which occur, reminding the town of what happened in 1946.

After a showing of the ’76 version of ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’ a young couple named Corey and Jami go to a secluded spot. The couple kiss and fumble before they are disturbed by what they think is a peeping Tom who is watching them from the bushes. They then see a man wearing a sack on his head. It’s the phantom killer! The couple lock the doors but it’s all to no avail as the phantom attacks. The phantom kills Corey and sends off Jami (Addison Timlin), to spread the message about what he has done.

Addison Timlin is good as the plucky & resourceful scream queen who overcomes her trauma by trying to connect the dots between who killed Corey and who was behind the murders in 1946. Jami is a strong young woman who is determined to make the use of our second chance in life. In many ways she is portrayed like a cross between the characters of Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers in ‘Scream 2’. What I mean by this is that there is an element of poise in her character, and not your typical helpless pretty girl frantically running away from the murderer.

The gore of the film is wonderfully overdone, blood sprays all over the place as the Phantom continues to prey on young couples. The Phantom, and indeed this film is rather progressive, there is even a couple of gay men who are brutally slain in a scrapyard. This scene, perhaps overshadowed by the violent use of a trombone, should not be overlooked. It is progressive in the sense that it acknowledges that Texarkana, and in a wider sense horror movies, are not just populated by heterosexuals.

It is great also to see a horror movie with a well-developed supporting cast and not just nameless victims. Newspaper archivist Nick (Travis Tope), a cynical veteran policeman played by Gary Cole, the son of the director who made the ’76 film Charles B. Pierce Jr (Denis O’Hare) and Anthony Anderson as Lone Wolf Morales all add so much to the film. It’s also not entirely obvious who the Phantom is, with a host of possible suspects, and this makes the big reveal a genuine shock. Though I felt the reveal was a bit of a rush job, it’s a minor gripe about an otherwise gripping retro flavoured slasher movie.

– RJW

7/10

 

 

The Town That Dreaded Sundown on IMDB