With the immediate success of the ground-breaking 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was not long before parent company New Line Cinema immediately began plans for a sequel. While they may have been the parent company, the father of Freddy-fright himself, the late legendary writer/director Wes Craven, chose not to participate in the production after reading the script by David Chaskin. The directing reins fell to Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies) who brought about an ambiguous approach to the narrative. Rushed into production and opening on November 1, 1985, on an estimated budget of only $3 million, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was met with mixed to negative reviews despite the mass blitz of hype going into it, including the famous FANGORIA Magazine 50th Issue cover. However, all was not lost, as Robert Englund – the man synonymous with the role of ANOES burned child molester turned dream stalker Freddy Krueger – has said that the film did very well in Europe due to its psycho-sexual subject matter. That subject matter remains prominent to this very day and is the reason why, 32 years later, Rue Morgue magazine has resurrected their CineMacabre movie nights in collaboration with Queer Fear, a Toronto based LGBTQ organization.
Keep reading after the trailer
The film, starring Mark Patton (Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and the upcoming Amityville: Evil Never Dies) as Jesse Walsh, takes place five years after the original, as Jesse’s family is getting settled into 1428 Elm Street. Unfortunately for Jesse, Freddy Krueger has decided that he can return from the dream world through Jesse’s virginal body and soul. It was an unusual and daring approach to an already established (and growing tired) formula of the girl-in-trouble slasher vibe by having a male in the protagonist role. Patton, a now openly gay actor, does demonstrate several tendencies and mannerisms that may be absent from the behavior of other lead male players, but this works here and he does it unintentionally, as the character himself is not gay. Or is he? Director Jack Sholder has stated in interviews that when viewed under the homoerotic context, the entire film resonates as a journey of self-discovery for Jesse’s homosexuality, which is why he rejects Lisa (Kim Myers, Studio 5-B, Hellraiser: Bloodline) during sexual arousal (albeit she ultimately saves him) and instead runs to the poster-boy jock/friend Ron Grady (Robert Russler, Sometimes They Come Back, Vamp) for help and protection. Upon first viewing, the homosexual innuendos did not blatantly present themselves to the viewer, even when thrown right in their faces such as the scenes containing the sadomasochistic torture and subsequent killing of the gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell, Total Recall, Virus) while a naked Jesse stands afraid and confused in the shower. Cue the highest pitched scream ever!
You Are All My Children Now
In fact, ANOES 2 takes a daring approach to the subject matter by changing the rules and dynamics set forth by Craven’s original. It is, to some degree, a total mind-fuck of a movie that could seriously be broken down and debated upon in any college or university film studies course. Aside from the symbolism that appeals to the LGBTQ community, there are other factors that ask the viewer to read deep into the material — namely the entire climax and the controversial crossing over of Freddy into the real world: was it reality or was it simply a dream hallucination caused by Jesse’s internal struggle against Freddy? Or by that time, was it Lisa’s dream – tired from the emotional struggle of her push and pull relationship with Jesse and hosting a party – that crossed over into the dream world? The entire climactic elements of ANOES 2 are some of the most iconic of the series, especially with Freddy Krueger looking upon a few dozen horrified teenagers claiming in such perverse threatening fashion “You are all my children now” (as one viewer will touch upon later on and this writer agrees).
Rue Morgue Magazine, breeding out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a staple of horror publications around the world, and had suspended the CineMacabre horror movie nights (previously written here on 40oz. of Horror some three years ago), but thought it was now time to return. Executive editor Andrea Subissati took the time to discuss the journey of bringing this subjectively followed Elm Street sequel back to the big screen.
“The decision was collaborative between myself, our programmer Richelle Charkot and Queer Fear’s Joshua Cross. Joshua had just returned to Toronto after being away for a few years and was keen to bring Queer Fear back, so I proposed the collab, and he’s the one that felt strongly about ANOES 2. I liked the idea of a sequel marking CineMacabre’s return and part of CM’s mandate is to movies that don’t get screened a whole lot, so ANOES 2 fit the bill perfectly. The next all-important question was whether or not we’d be able to secure the rights to screen it, so Richelle got right on that and set it up and gave us the date! She also took care of promotion, including hiring Andrew Barr to do the amazing poster of Freddy in a rainbow sweater, and Joshua did a great job securing the pre-show entertainment and post-screening discussion panel.”
Indeed, any promotion is important to a movie and more so a movie event of this magnitude, as it also tied into the Pride activities found across North America. The poster was a colourful take on Krueger by cleverly brightening some of his sweater hues and encompassing everything about Elm Street 2 – from its horror roots for the horror fan to the subtext adored in the gay community. Barr elaborates that Richelle “hired me to do other posters, so she decided they needed a poster for this one and I was the one to go.” Barr’s first work with Rue Morgue “was a poster for Them back last January.”
The event, housed once again in the vintage College Street venue known as the Royal, proved successful with an undeniably impressive turn-out on June 28, 2017; fans were lined up down the block with the concession dishing out popcorn and booze from the ground floor right up to the awaiting patrons in the upstairs bathroom levels. Whether straight or gay, moviegoers packed the ANOES 2 screening and weren’t afraid to voice their laughs or comments during the film – making the whole experience feel more like a grindhouse midnight movie cult viewing than a Wednesday primetime endeavor.
The Cultural Significance of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2
The sell-out crowd demonstrated that while the film may be a somewhat forgotten sequel in the lineage of the Elm Street franchise, its cultural significance may live on longer than Freddy Krueger himself. Subissati gave a very good point in that “Oftentimes, you can’t tell the cultural significance of a movie until a few decades pass and you can look back in retrospect with more clarity, and ANOES 2 is a perfect example of that.” Barr himself reveals that “it was the first Elm Street I ever saw back when it came out on VHS. One of my friends said you have to see this movie, so I saw that movie.”
The film is nothing short of a culture shock when you look at that timeframe – the Halloween series was on hiatus, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was still in pre-production, Friday the 13th had killed Jason – so what exactly was New Line to do to give their Elm Street sequel an edge? To see so many people turn out to a screening of the film shows that time heals all wounds, as Subissati continues, “One thing I noticed when I was chatting with people in the lobby is that most horror fans saw ANOES 2 when it first came out and dismissed it as an oddball misfire in the franchise. The original ANOES is so inventive and seminal that most audiences weren’t expecting something so different in the first sequel. I certainly hadn’t picked up on the film’s queer elements the first time I saw it in the ’80s but they’re unmistakable now.”
One of those people in the lobby showed more balls than were used in the coach’s death scene by showing up to this event in the guise of Freddy’s famous later on-screen nemesis Jason Voorhees. The man behind the mask – so to speak – was Toronto resident Skyland Fisher, who has his own similar outlook on the sequel saying “it [has] definitely the most ’80s feel of any Nightmare on Elm Street Film. The clothing style. The music style. It has this whole feel that says this is the 1980s. I almost can’t put it into words. It has the most iconic scenes of the series, in my opinion, like when [Freddy] goes ‘You’re all my children now’ and the whole pool scene; it was incredible. Also the whole him coming out of Jesse’s body, like cutting him open and everything, amazing scene. [It’s] iconic to the franchise.“ No doubt, before CGI dominated and subsequently ruined the horror genre, the practical effects headed by Kevin Yagher were on point, from Freddy’s makeup, the aforementioned Freddy-evolving-from-Jesse scene to the school bus perched high upon a hellfire pit. Whether or not the script was strong, the direction was resourceful, or the acting was believable, the special effects presented here were those of a time now forgotten by most modern filmmakers, and they prove to be some of the most extraordinary of the series.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is one of those films that I find important, even if I don’t objectively love to watch it.
Make no mistake that ANOES 2 tries to upstage neither its predecessor nor any of the successful entries in the series, such as Part 3, Dream Warriors, which is perhaps the biggest success and highlight of the franchise. Subissati even admits “ANOES 2 is one of those films that I find important, even if I don’t objectively love to watch it. The first film is a landmark in horror and probably my personal favorite of the bunch. In terms of watchability, ANOES 3 is the real crowd-pleaser, so I guess I love the first three films for completely different reasons!” Fisher backs up her statement, adding that ANOES 2 “hammers [the gay subtext] home in the most hilarious way. I like the franchise in general but kind of stopped liking it after Part 3. It hits its high point then slowly declines from there. 2 is probably my third favorite. I like the first one the best and third is the one after that I like most. I would say [Dream Warriors] was so iconic [in relation] to Part 2 because Wes Craven returned in a capacity and also the return of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) brought up the game. They added in new elements like the Dream Warrior powers.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, Barr isn’t hesitant to say that “for the longest time, [ANOES 2] was the only one that I had seen. I didn’t see another one until 4. And for the longest time, those were the only two I saw.”
Regardless of your orientation or sexual preference, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 symbolizes what continues to be a fundamental element of the horror genre that many critics discard, in that it brings together fans of all types, with no negative bias or prejudice; working together to maintain a piece of beloved art. While certainly Rue Morgue Magazine, Queer Fear and any organizations of the type, work together or independently to revive life into forgotten favorites, it is important for all of us in the horror community to never discard a film upon its initial viewing because somehow, somewhere, elements may just play a more prominent role in our society ruling on a fundamental basis beyond our imagination. Maybe that is truly Freddy’s Revenge: exposing us to our own realities; forcing us to admit that even in horror, acceptance and change are necessary.
For more information on Rue Morgue Magazine and CineMacabre horror nights, visit: www.rue-morgue.com
For more information on Queer Fear, visit them at: queerfear.tumblr.com/
For more information on Freelance Illustrator Art Mercenary, Andrew Barr, visit his website: www.moviemonsters.blogspot.com
Very special thanks to Andrea Subissati, Richelle Charkot, Rue-Morgue Magazine and Marrs Media Inc., Andrew Barr and APB Art, Skyland Fisher, The Royal, Amy Rusan, Joshua Cross and Queer Fear, the LGBTQ community, and to all of the horror fans around the world who keep our genre alive.