Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
Rarely are the second entries in long running horror franchises as good as the first one; we all know that. But also rarely are they such a horrendous tread downward in quality that you would swear it was a much later entry. Most horror sequels don’t get super bad until they reach the fourth or fifth movie, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is an unfortunate exception.
Not only is this movie poorly written and a snore to sit through it also does everything it can to violate our understanding of Freddy’s lore. The first movie made it clear that Freddy Krueger can only inhabit your dreams and can only enter the real world when pulled out by the dreamer. In Part 2 Freddy has several scenes where he roams freely in the world of the awake and it is for no apparent reason. He is not pulled out or anything, he just sort of decides to come out of the dream world and into our own.
This movie supposedly takes place five years after the first one which would set it in 1989. This makes little sense when the later movies clearly take place in the mid eighties. This is just like Friday the 13th Part V all over again. If you remember in that movie it is nearly a decade since the previous film and yet the 80’s are alive and well even though for all intents and purposes we should be in the 90’s considering when these stories are supposed to take place. While I could say this is just a fault of slasher movies being their typically dumb selves this would not be true. Horror movies that continually revive dead villains by the mystical power of box office returns is not a new thing and most horror sequels like to be set years after the previous movies for some reason. I mean, take for example the classic Universal Mummy movies; if you went by how long a time later each one of those take place from the previous ones you would be forced to believe the final film in that series took place in the 1970’s. While I was not alive in the 70’s I am confident enough to say that most people were not wearing 1940’s garb at the time.
And while I may bitch about this there are even stupider flaws in Freddy’s Revenge that make the dubious timeline negligible.
The main character is a teenager named Jesse who moved into Nancy’s old house with his family. He and his girlfriend discover Nancy’s old diary in his closet and they read about her experiences with Freddy. While his girlfriend laughs it off Jesse believes the memoir because he himself has been having nightmares about Freddy. In these dreams Freddy tells Jesse to kill for him and many of these dreams end with him waking up somewhere away from his bedroom. Jesse becomes concerned that he may be being forced to kill for Freddy while sleep walking and it becomes confirmed that this is true when Freddy forces Jesse to murder a gym teacher in the school showers during after hours.
I must stop to say that I don’t get what it is that Freddy is trying to do in this film. In the previous movie and in the majority of the other sequels he is always stalking and killing children of the parents who killed him years ago. Freddy would have no beef with this gym teacher and Jesse’s family are newly moved into Springwood which means his family had nothing to do with Freddy Krueger’s death. Freddy is killing just for the fun of it in this movie. Revenge has nothing to do with it.
After forcing Jesse to kill a few more people Freddy suddenly emerges from Jesse’s body in a weird and honestly one of the few creative special effects sequences in this movie. This process effectively transforms Jesse into Freddy Krueger with the spiritual essence of Jesse laying dormant within the emerged Freddy. This is how Freddy comes into the real world and it makes no sense since he never does it again and he never tried it with Nancy, Glen, Tina, or Rod in the previous movie. If he can do this why doesn’t he do it more often? If it is simply because he is physically vulnerable in the real world then why does he do it at all in this one? Either way it makes no fucking sense.
Freddy then proceeds to crash a teen pool party slashing and slicing and dicing several partyers before abruptly leaving almost as quickly as he arrived. No reason is given. Everything Freddy does in this movie is so brainless. No rime or reason to it all. And I am serious that it is brainless even though Freddy does literally show his own brain to Jesse in a scene. He can show it all he wants, but I will be more impressed when he starts using it.
Eventually Freddy has a showdown with Jesse’s girlfriend in a warehouse where she brings Jesse back to the surface by appealing to his good side. When this happens Freddy is once again defeated and sent back to the dream world. I don’t know how my readers may feel, but I personally think Freddy being defeated by the power of love to be pretty fucking retarded.
But I think the thing I hate the most about this movie is not the lore contradictions or the stupid story. Rather the worst thing about this movie is that it doesn’t have very many creative dream sequences. One of the most visually appealing things about the A Nightmare on Elm Street series were the environments and sights shown in the dreams of Freddy’s victims. The labyrinthine boiler rooms, Gothic church ruins with creepy stain glass windows, infernal pits, and horrifying creatures that only 80’s practical effects can provide. Here we get only two really interesting sequences. The aforementioned scene where Freddy emerges from Jesse’s body is beautifully gruesome and there are these two dogs at the opening of the warehouse with creepy human faces sort of like that spider creature from The Thing. This is all we get and the rest is sadly lacklustre. This is an overall dull Freddy movie.
Before concluding this review I guess I should mention the purported homosexual subtext to the film’s plot. It’s been overanalysed to death by better reviewers than I am, but I did not wish to ignore it entirely.
The film is laced with subtle indications that Jesse is a closet homosexual who is overcompensating by dating his girlfriend in the movie. In one scene he almost has sex with her before having his tongue hideously transformed by Freddy. He leaves in a rush leaving her frustrated and confused. He then heads to a male friend’s house in the middle of the night, climbs through his window, wakes him, and tries to tell him what is going on. Some reviewers trying to play the armchair psychologist claim this is a subtle analogy of Jesse not being able to achieve sexual arousal toward females. Whether this analogy is hitting the nail on the head or not I think the most clear indication of a gay subtext is in a scene when Jesse leaves in the middle of the night and orders a beer at a bar. Everything inside the bar has a very strong S&M vibe and he encounters his gym teacher there who catches him ordering a drink and forces him to run laps in the school gym as punishment. It is mentioned earlier in the film by a student that the gym teacher was a homosexual who went to gay bars and so the evidence continues to pile up regarding Jesse’s own sexuality. If the gay subtext is there and not mere coincidence (which I doubt) I do not believe that is to say A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 is homophobic. I think the writers were trying to use the Freddy mythos to create an analogy for a homosexual male reaching puberty and discovering himself. This doesn’t, of course, redeem the film in my eyes, but it does add more to the movie’s legacy than simply being a shitty Freddy movie that goes against the lore.
Overall do I like this movie? No, I do not. It is boring, uncreative, and inconsistent. It contradicts the previous film and is further contradicted by following entries. It is even mentioned once in this movie that Nancy went insane after seeing her boyfriend killed by Freddy. However, Part 3 in the series ignores this completely when we see Nancy working at a hospital perfectly healthy. Of all the Freddy movies in the series this is the one that you can skip and lose nothing for it. Even Freddy himself won’t acknowledge this movie. In Freddy’s Dead there is a scene where he is counting off the various methods in which people tried to kill him. The power of love is not mentioned once.