A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 sees Jesse and his family moving into a new home on Elm Street. While settling in, Jesse learns that Nancy Thompson previously occupied his new home. When Jesse finds Nancy’s old diary, he learns that a man named Fred Krueger stalks the dreams of the Elm Street children and that if he kills you in your dreams you are dead for real.
This installment marks Wes Craven’s departure from the franchise. Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark 1982) directs A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and David Chaskin (I, Madman) pens the screenplay. The duo is clearly not on the same page and that is evident when watching the film.
The primary problem with Chaskin’s screenplay is that it disregards almost everything about Wes Craven’s original film that made it a success. He blurs the lines of when Freddy can get to the children of Elm Street. Fred starts out in Jesse’s dreams and then begins to take over Jesse’s body and makes him do his dirty work. How Fred is actually able to do that is a bit unclear. There are a lot of other gaps in logic in this film as well.
If this entry is taken as a standalone effort, it can be enjoyable but as a part of the Nightmare Franchise, this film doesn’t fit in. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is like the Halloween III of the Nightmare franchise, in that it was universally panned when it came out for deviating from the series’ roots. But like Halloween III, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has developed a cult following consisting of fans that appreciate the film for what it is. I would argue that Halloween III is the vastly superior film but both received similar criticisms upon release and both have come to be appreciated in time.
A lot of fans hold A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 up as the worst in the series but I think that title is well earned by Freddy’s Dead. Nightmare II at least manages to offer up some legitimate scares and occasionally manages to maintain a dark and creepy tone. Freddy’s Dead is campy, poorly written, and has no scares to speak of.
One of the worst scenes in this picture is the barbecue sequence. It is completely unnatural for Freddy to be outside of the dream world, let alone chopping up victims and making the pool water boil at a high school kegger. A close second is the bird scene. A crazed parakeet attacking Jesse and his family has no real bearing on the rest of the film and the entire sequence should have been cut from the picture.
As for the performances, most of them are pretty overacted. Mark Patton is highly dramatic in most of his scenes and the rest of the cast also tends to lean toward the melodramatic end of the spectrum.
Even though the script is a mess and the acting is questionable, the effects in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 are fairly cutting edge. The scenes where Jesse transforms into Freddy are very well executed and the scene where Freddy escapes from Jesse’s body is particularly well done. The production didn’t spare any stage blood either. The red-tinted corn syrup flies like crazy. While the effects in this sequel certainly don’t top the original, they aren’t an embarrassment either.
Now to address the elephant in the room: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is indisputably the most homoerotic entry in the Nightmare franchise. There is a lot of inside humor going on that not everyone was aware of. Jack Sholder had no idea of the film’s homoerotic overtones until after the film was already in the can. But, David Chaskin penned the screenplay with the underlying idea that Jesse was struggling with his sexuality and his battle with Fred Krueger is a metaphor depicting that internal conflict.
Further supporting the assertion that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has ample gay overtones: Jesse has a gender ambiguous name, runs away from his girlfriend when she attempts to initiate sex, and runs into his gym teacher at a gay S&M bar. The scene where the gym teacher is stripped naked and whipped with towels is impossible not to be taken as homoeroticism. Moreover, there is no female nudity in the film but there are plenty of shots of naked men.
If you have somehow gotten through life without watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, you need to check it out and make up your own mind. You may be surprised to learn that it actually isn’t the worst film in the series. It’s definitely the most bizarre but its numerous quirks help make up for some of the films various missteps. If you don’t have the Nightmare collection on Blu-ray, you should consider picking it up. It features the best transfers available of each film and is decked out with special features.
Director(s): Jack Sholder
Writer(s): David Chaskin
Stars: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Clu Gulager, Marshall Bell
Studio/ Production Co: New Line
Budget: $3 Million
Length: 85 Minutes