Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’ve heard a number of Nightmare fans insisting that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is the best film in the franchise. My guess is, those people haven’t watched the second Freddy flick since early childhood, or theatrical release. No one in their right mind can view this movie today and consider it quality. I just refuse to believe that’s a possibility. It’s a horrible, horrible film that happily defecates on the established mythos right from the beginning, and continues to do so over the course of 83 long, stressful minutes.
Remember how Krueger utilizes the dreams of the children of Elm Street to commit his remorseless murder? Remember how he’s set out to make the parents who once burned him alive feel his horrific wrath by eliminating their offspring? Remember how Freddy really can’t function in our realm as a tangible force without being susceptible to standard physical punishment? Well forget all of that shit, because apparently screenwriter David Chaskin and director Jack Sholder forgot it. They say rules are made to be broken? Well, not these.
Freddy doesn’t even feel like Freddy. He delivers a couple hokey lines, and torments focal hero/survivor Jesse, but other than that, he works completely out of character. Not only does he put plenty of focus on executing grown folks who seem to have no direct connection to Elm Street, he looks physically different, he behaves different, hell, he doesn’t even sport that creepy, off kilter posture that helped make him so damned (subconsciously) frightening in Wes Craven’s inaugural picture. If we weren’t all unbelievably familiar with the franchise, the character and Robert Englund himself, we’d never even know it was the same man underneath all of that makeup.
Let me outline the story for you… a simple synopsis may help clarify my frustration with this piece of shit movie.
Jesse and his family have just recently moved into the old Thompson residence. Five years have passed (in truth only a single year lapsed between the first and second Nightmare flicks) since Nancy first tangled with Freddy Krueger, master of nightmare manipulation, creative executioner. Krueger immediately begins invading Jesse’s dreams. But Jesse’s never in any real trouble. Fred makes no attempt to harm, let alone kill Jesse, instead he essentially recruits him to be his assassin. But instead of mental influence, Freddy somehow actually physically invades Jesse’s body… well, when it’s convenient (in other words when it opens the door for some fun special effects; half of the time Jesse isn’t physically altered in anyway, which is just one of the movie’s many inconsistencies). There doesn’t seem to be any design to the murders we witness. It could be a teacher, it could be a random party goer (get ready for the strangest, least appropriate scene features in the history of the Nightmare series), it could be the expected, naïve high schooler. This leaves us never knowing exactly what the fuck Freddy even aims to do here, because he’s no longer out to avenge his own death, that’s abundantly clear. Eventually it all comes down to a battle for Jesse’s body/soul, as Lisa, Jesse’s pseudo girlfriend, must talk the love right into Jesse’s heart, which will subsequently force the physical separation between Jesse and Krueger.
Sounds like it makes a shitload of sense… right?
Don’t worry, it gets stranger.
At one point a mutant rat surfaces in the film. Moments prior to the arrival of the rat we see two dogs (I’m guessing Rottweilers, based on their body type) with human faces affixed to their bodies. The old Thompson/new Walsh residence randomly heats to alarming temperatures (presumably a result of the furnace in the basement, though it’s never made clear why this randomness occurs now, but didn’t “five” years back). Birds drop dead, some take to flight and aggressive behavior. Teenage Jesse ventures into a strange homosexual BDSM club where he orders up a beer. The local high school’s gym teacher moonlights as a frequenter of this strange establishment…
It’s just weird shit stacked on top of more weird shit which has already been stacked atop other weird shit. And the homosexual subtext of the film quickly becomes too prominent to ignore. Within twenty minutes it’s no longer subtext. The homosexual content is delivered not as undertone, but extreme, extreme overtone. If you need some examples, see the scene in which the gym teacher is discovered in the BDSM club, all suited up in a somewhat sparse leather getup. Or take a look at said gym teacher’s death, which starts with the man being attacked by… balls. A shitload of balls (I’m not making this up) that randomly fly from school racks. But that progresses right into a homoerotic torture sequence in which the very same teacher is tied up by invisible hands, stripped completely naked and spanked excessively with towels, presumably wet, before finally being hacked up by an invisible Krueger. Or, you can choose to home in on the relationship between Jesse, his girl Lisa and Jesse’s rival turned immediate BFF, Ron Grady. When the going gets tough for Jesse, he doesn’t turn to Lisa for support, he turns to Grady. In fact, he sneaks into his frienemy’s room in the middle of the night where he makes one awfully hilarious statement. “Something is trying to get inside my body.” Grady delivers the perfect response: “Yeah, and she’s female and she’s waiting for you in the cabana, and you want to sleep with me!”
I’m telling you, I couldn’t make this shit up if I chose not to sleep for seven days straight and then opted to drop two entire pages of acid. It’s just so far out there it’s truly mind boggling.
And don’t think for a single second I’m just a homophobic douchebag because I’m harping on the homosexual elements of the production. I may be a douchebag from time to time (okay, a very frequent basis), but I don’t give a damn what anyone’s sexual orientation is. It makes absolutely no difference to me what you like to do behind closed doors. Your life is your life, my life is my life. I have no issues with those who favor a lifestyle different to my own. Nor do I have issues with sharing the company of a homosexual man, lesbian woman or even bi-sexual couples. Superficial, shit concerns simply do not move my emotional needle whatsoever. But the subject of sexuality certainly does stand out in a film like this, in a universe already created by the brilliant Wes Craven, where a child molester turned monster of dreams, murders the children of those who wronged him years ago. A world where homosexuality has never been relevant in any way shape or form. Sexuality in general hasn’t ever been a target for most filmmakers of the franchise. A Nightmare on Elm Street has never followed the rules, and the old if you have sex, you die rule doesn’t ring true in regards to Krueger’s modus operandi. Krueger couldn’t give a damn what gender his victims hope to hook up with – he’s killing them to torment their parents for fuck’s sake! But David Chaskin and Jack Sholder do everything possible to press the matter, and it is so left field that it helps in no manner other than to steal away from any legitimate fear the pic might somehow manifest.
Unintentional comedy can be great, or it can be terrible. In this case, I don’t for one moment believe that the crew behind this movie were out to make it one hilarious romp with enough homosexual references to guarantee Kathy Griffin become and remain addicted to it until the end of her days. That’s not the vibe of the film at all. And the “subtext” tells a tale of incompetence more than anything else. Unfortunately, I hate to admit it, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is nothing but a series of strange scenes spliced together with an incoherent narrative to back the awkward on screen maneuvers (wait until you see Jesse break into sultry dance while cleaning his room… that’s just… something). The truth of the matter is, I wish I hadn’t revisited this film today, at a time in my life in which my views of cinema are largely analytically based (nature of the beast, I suppose). I almost wish I could go back in time and revel in my own ignorance. This is a fucking terrible movie, and one of the earliest franchise shark jumpers on the market.
On the (very slim) positive side of things, two longtime favorites of mine, Robert Rusler and Clu Gulager turn in mesmerizing performances. Sadly, they are the picture’s only saving grace. You know the movie is a stinker when it stars Robert Englund in a featured role, and he’s completely outshined by a bit character and a shallow, guaranteed teenage victim.