Movie Review: “A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge”

   It was inevitable that, following the success of “A Nightmare on Elm Street“, a sequel would follow and in 1985 “A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge” hit cinemas and theatres worldwide. (*Spoilers abound)

   Wes Craven had no part to play here (he had no interest in his story having a sequel), so directorial and writing credits went to Jack Sholder and David Chaskin respectively.

   Only Robert Englund returns as a cast member (this is his least favourite of the series) and we’d have to wait another two years before we could find out what happened to Nancy Thompson and her father.

   Picking up five years from the events of the first film, 1428 Elm Street is now being resided in by the Walshes; Mum (Hope Lange), Dad (Clu Gulager) and their two children, Angela (Christie Clark) and teenage son Jesse (Mark Patton).

   Opening with a dream sequence (as these films always do), a school bus speeds off the road and ends up teetering on a column of earth as the ground falls away and the fiery pits of hell are revealed. The bus driver (played by Englund if you look carefully) turns into Freddy Krueger and, just before his glove strikes, Jesse wakes up screaming and, as screams go, it’s a belter.

   We cut to the rest of the family at breakfast as young Angela asks quite calmly “Mommy, why can’t Jesse wake up like everybody else?”

   It should be noted that during this opening scene as the credits roll and an ominous score begins that this is the only film in the series to not feature Charles Bernsteins familiar theme at any point. Christopher Young takes up the mantle here and the score isn’t quite as good though Young would go on to compose an iconic theme of his own in 1987 with his work on “Hellraiser

   Soon after, we meet Lisa (Kim Myers who really does, as has been often noted, look a lot like a young Meryl Streep) who Jesse drives into school. Lisa, as we find out, is from a reasonably wealthy family but, in a refreshing twist on the oft used trope, never plays the stereotypical “rich girl” that appeared in so many movies around this time.

   Another character we meet early on is Ron Grady (Robert Rusler), a classmate of Jesses who, again, subverts a stereotype (the “jock” in this instance) and avoids coming across solely as a bullying meathead which is often how these characters were written.

   The only other character of any real substance is the gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell) who, when not getting his jollies by forcing Jesse and Ron to do excessive push-ups, is hanging out in a local S & M establishment.

   Jesse’s nightmares continue as, one night, he, literally, bumps into Freddy who rips the skin from his own scalp revealing what lies beneath as he states “You’ve got the body….I’ve got the brain”

   Following one of the most cringe inducing moments in cinema (Jesse, finally gets around to tidying his room which he begins by putting on a slice of 80’s pop cheese and “dancing” around his room) he is joined by Lisa who finds Nancy’s diary in the wardrobe and a description within of a man that Jesse already is far too familiar with.

   After an incident involving an exploding budgerigar (the house gets so hot that plastic melts and small birds become aggressive before spontaneously combusting) Jesse has another nightmare.

   In this one he finds himself in the S & M bar frequented by Coach Schneider and, upon being discovered there is taken back to the school gym to run laps. Tired and sweaty from this exertion, Jesse takes a shower. As he’s doing so an invisible assailant begins to launch a variety of sporting paraphernalia at the Coach before dragging him to the showers, stringing him up by the wrists, stripping him bare and whipping his buttocks with a towel. From the mists of the steam caused by the piping hot water Freddy Krueger emerges and kills the coach as blood pumps from the other shower nozzles. The steam begins to clear and reveals Jesse, naked save for Freddy’s glove on his hand.

   He screams….but not from waking from this nightmare as this has just happened….for real.

   The cops bring Jesse home, having found him walking the streets au naturel (no glove thankfully) and, upon going to school the next day, Grady tells him that Schneider was hacked up in the shower.

   “Freddy’s Revenge” is not considered one of the better sequels. Whatever the reasons (and there are many that can be discussed), most of these can be attributed to lore.

   Although we only had one film preceding it, some lore had already been, generally, established.

   In a nutshell, Freddy Krueger, a wrongfully, un-imprisoned child murderer was, in dreams, stalking and killing the children of the parents who burnt him alive and, if you died in the dream, you were dead for real.

   You can pick apart elements of this, but the sequel veered so far from this early lore (and what followed in subsequent films ignored, pretty much anything that happened in Part 2) that you can understand the haters.

   This was the first Elm Street film I saw followed by Part 3 then, finally the original then 4…5..etc which is far from ideal and left me confused a little after I saw the first film.

   So, Freddy has possessed this kid and is having him kill the Coach because…..? What connection does Schneider have to Elm Street or the parents who immolated Krueger? The only reason Schneider’s dead is because Jesse has issues with the Coach and Krueger is acting upon that dislike. So, Freddy isn’t using dreams anymore to kill; he’s using a vessel…..etc etc.

   Life goes on and, despite her boyfriends issues which are becoming increasingly evident as Lisa investigates who this “Fred” that Nancy mentions in her diary is and the murder of Coach Schneider she goes ahead with a big party at her house.

   Jesse attends and, as they’re making out, he begins to lose control as Freddy starts to take over, a long gnarly looking tongue, flopping from Jesse’s mouth.

   Panicking, Jesse flees and seeks refuge in the house of Grady who, shrugs off Jesse’s fears though allows him to crash out on his armchair.

   Jesse wakes, in the throes of obvious distress and a woken Grady watches as the knives emerge from the tips of his friends fingers and the skin on his arm splits.

   To his due, Grady doesn’t stand there and watch (as so many in horror movies do as they watch horrific transformations occur right in front of them) and tries to get away but the door refuses to open.

   In one of the better scenes of the film (taking into account its budget and when it was made) Freddy emerges from within Jesse and kills Grady before reverting back to the teenager who, once again, flees and returns to Lisa.

   Moments after confessing to the occurrences Jesse begins to be taken over again and transforms, once more, into Freddy who attacks Lisa as party guests gather at the window to gaze within and see this happening.

   Freddy, now in the waking world once more, charges at the window and smashes it before disappearing.

   It is mildly frustrating that a film that’s already contradicting what was partly established in the previous entry then contradicts itself as Freddy (established to be in the real world to some degree) teleports.

   If he’s Jesse as well then he shouldn’t be………!!

   Gotta stop! Too easy to criticize elements of the story and, if you dig into almost any film you’ll be able to find fault.

   Moving on…..

   Freddy reappears and begins slashing at the helpless party goers and the scene culminates in a rather cool moment where, shrouded by fire, Freddy raises his arms to an audience of terrified teens and declares “You are all my children now”

   A shotgun wielding Mr. Webber (Tom McFadden), Lisa’s father chases Krueger away and he disappears once more.

   Lisa knows exactly where he is heading having done the research on Freddy and heads to the power plant where he took his victims for the final showdown.

   Will her love be able to save the day and bring her boyfriend back?

   Yes it will, but she’ll have to lock lips with Freddy before his body catches fire and his face melts and he can finally be vanquished.

   Of course the film has one final scene that indicates that the nightmare isn’t over and Freddy is definitely still around. It’s set on the school bus in a similar scene to the opening which brings us full circle to the end of the movie.

   It’s easy to be disparaging to this film as it is, for me, one of the weaker entries in the series but, overall, it’s not a terrible watch if you take it on face value alone and treat it as a standalone horror movie with little in common with other films in the series (especially the lore which is at its most flexible here).

   The homo-erotic subtext, which went over my head when I first saw this back in ’85/’86 is obvious now even without knowing that the writer put it in deliberately (the director was completely unaware of this) but has no bearing on the film (and, yes, it shouldn’t matter if it does) but it is an interesting tidbit of trivia that can change the way you might now view the film.

   The acting is pretty decent throughout though few characters are given much material to work with anyway and Englund continued here with a far darker approach to the character than the next 4 films would contain.

   Next up is my favourite of the sequels (as it is for many fans of the franchise) but I will leave you once more by, again wishing you all a goodnight and….. sleep tight.

 

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