Sunday, February 8, 2015

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

The homoerotic content of this movie has been discussed to death, I think.  But it's hard to avoid it when you get an opening scene that serves as a synopsis for everything that this film will contain.  A bus trip to school turns into a surreal nightmare as the vehicle plows across the deserts and eventually lands precariously on some phallic rock formations.  Stay on the pole and live, yield to the hole and die.  


This is Jesse's nightmare.  He's new in town and has moved into the house where Freddy nearly slew Nancy last go-round.  The set and wardrobe choices in this movie are something else.  This sequel manages to somehow be more tragically soaked in the eighties than the original Nightmare.  Bad haircuts and shoutingly-loud shirts abound.  But it's an alternate universe version of the eighties, as you can tell by the popularity of Fu Manchu cereal (way to reach for that gag, movie).  Importantly, probably, it's the pre-AIDS eighties and I think we're gonna have to talk about the gay stuff after all.


Jesse is placed in scream queen position for most of NOES2.  He wakes shrieking from nightmares, is pursued by Freddy, and finds himself in scenes with Freudian symbols.  He also has to deal with the usual teen travails, like a coach who likes to "hang at the queer S&M joints downtown".  He begins to make friends with a girl named Lisa, but, you guys, this movie goes pretty far beyond celebrating homosexuality.  It gets downright intolerant of women at times. 


When we meet Lisa, Jesse opens a door and she has her back turned.  It's not the door that has a NO CHICKS sign affixed, though.  Plus the portrayal of wives in this movie is notably ugly.  They don't actually do much of anything, but they generally look extremely haggard and wear dresses that are like Cracker Barrel tablecloths.  The film even retroactively attacks Nancy by making her indirectly recite bad dialogue through her diary.  Go have a vagina somewhere else!


The homosexual subtext is one of the only reasons that this film stands out.  In plenty of ways, this is a typical Elm Street sequel, with retreads of the original's scenes and poorly-conceived screenwriting.  One of the other things that sort of works are the non-Freddy scare scenes.  These walk the line between complete idiocy and godhood, like when a bolt of lightning directly strikes the dishes in the drying rack.  Or when a parakeet knocks over a heavy lamp and terrorizes the family before immolating out of nowhere.  This leads to a golden Clu Gulager line: "I mean, animals don't explode into flames for no reason!"


That's the level of scripting that we have here.  There are poor lines and poorer lines of thought, as when the movie foolishly tries to insert some comedy during the pool party scene.  The dad loves Benny Goodman and forces these kids to listen to it!  "Lol"!  At least the color choices in these scenes are superb, as the eighties were apparently a golden time for stop sign cosplay.


Sometimes the effects work, but they often don't and that's a killer for a bigger-budget horror film like this.  Any effect can look dumb in a screengrab, but the scene below doesn't work any better in real time and is preceded by an awful eye-inside-the-mouth effect.  


Not that we're talking scads of effects in general.  Freddy's pretty flaccid in this one and few of the kills reach for the Looney Tunes level of absurdity that would happen later in the series.  It's all very dry and unfun, and the end comes with Lisa and Freddy arguing like siblings in family therapy.  Lisa kisses Freddy and, soon after, he dies, like the Wicked Witch of the West.  A strange film with so-bad-it's-greatness in spots, but far too often a typically unimaginative cashgrab.


**1/2

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