30 May 2010

Retro Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)


A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
1985, 82mins, 18
Director: Jack Sholder
Writer: David Chaskin
Cast includes: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Hope Lange
UK release Date: 17th October 1986

“A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” is a classic example of schlocky sequel syndrome. The film arrived only one year after the original, and had Wes Craven benched as a producer; subbing in Jack Sholder for directorial duties. Whilst a mighty success financially, the film wasn’t liked by critics or fans, albeit it’s odd homoerotic subtext marked it out as something a little more unusual than the average sub-par slasher. Sholder’s movie also takes Freddy out of the dream world, cooking up a ludicrous and downright illogical possession themed narrative. It’s a rocky picture, with only Englund’s reliable chops and a few robust scenes to recommend it.

Set five years after the initial film, “Elm Street 2” picks up with a new protagonist in the same old house. Jesse (Mark Patton) is having nightmares in which Freddy is appearing, and more tellingly the scarred up villain is demanding that Jesse kill for him in the real world. Jesse struggles with Krueger’s request, but eventually subconsciously succumbs, Krueger using the teenager as a host body to commit his murderous deeds. Jesse’s parents become concerned about his behaviour, but its girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers) who decides to get to the bottom of the bizarre situation. Yet despite Lisa’s intervention the body count continues to rise, and Jesse seems completely infected by Elm Street’s legendary psycho.

The homoerotic undertones that permeate this feature are its most distinctive asset; “Elm Street 2” is rendered a true oddity on the basis of these themes. The film lurches from S&M fetish bars to locker room spanking, and most tellingly involves a sequence in which our hero strays away from sex with a girl to hide in a jock’s bedroom. Apparently certain members of the production staff were in on the whole thing, but director Jack Sholder was supposedly oblivious during production. These undercurrents don’t add a whole lot towards proceedings, but they offer a dollop of camp novelty, something that at least makes the film more memorable than most horror sequels.

Englund is once again fantastic as Krueger, but nobody else in the cast delivers. Mark Patton is a damp squib of a hero, whimpering through proceedings with all the pathos of a headless chicken. Kim Myers is slightly better (the film should have focused on her instead of Patton), the actress managing to arouse a sense of vague strength within her quizzical character. “Elm Street 2” really comes down to Englund and Patton, and whilst one half of the duo succeeds royally, the other is a total bust. Sadly it’s Patton, with whom the audience is meant to engage, that delivers the bad performance.

The story is poorly written and completely wastes the ingenious premise of Craven’s original. Taking Freddy out of dreams and fumbling him into a body horror story is just stupid, leaving the villain with a far less terrifying field of possibilities to exploit. There are a few well staged sequences, a murder in a bedroom springs to mind, but overall Sholder just can’t create the same sense of unease without the dream component. The plotting is also illogical and hard to fathom, especially when the twitchy finale eventually rolls around. Large portions of the picture don’t make very much sense, and Sholder’s workmanlike direction doesn’t really inject enough energy to overcome the dodgy storytelling. Adding to the picture’s woes is some truly atrocious dialogue, hardly a rarity in horror pictures, but it deserves mentioning here.

The film opens with a strong and inventive dream sequence, but upon ditching that concept for something less creative, “Elm Street 2” loses all of its limited fizz. The movie rattles along for 82 minutes at a fiercely confusing clip, before wrapping things up with one of the shoddiest final jump scares I’ve ever seen. The subtle homoeroticism evident may add a value of comic kitsch, but it can’t disguise what essentially boils down to be frighteningly inept horror filmmaking. Freddy deserves better.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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