How ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2′ Nearly Derailed the Series
After the original A Nightmare on Elm Street became a horror blockbuster, its sequel, released Nov. 1, 1985, nearly derailed the entire franchise.
Among the film’s many problems, the absence of creator Wes Craven, several questionable choices by its screenwriter and an initial casting decision which could have dramatically changed the entire Elm Street series.
Released less than a year after the titular movie came out, but set five years after the events in the original took place, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge centered around the high school character Jesse Walsh, played by Mark Patton, whose family moved into the house where Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp) was terrorized in 1981. Jesse is stalked by Freddy Krueger in his dreams, and soon realizes it’s very similar to what the former teen resident experienced when he discovers Nancy’s diaries.
Unlike the first film though, Jesse is less chased by Freddy and more overtaken by the monster, who first instructs him to kill and then becomes a literal part of his body, resulting in a battle for the physical human form where the bad guy is ultimately defeated. It’s a weird take on the possession motif, one that turned Craven off so much – along with other aspects of the storyline – that he declined the offer to direct.
Watch the Trailer for 'A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge'
Losing Craven was one thing, but in a potentially disastrous misread by producers, it was decided that Robert Englund wouldn’t be brought back to play Freddy after the actor, emboldened by the unexpected blockbuster the original turned out to be, asked for an increase in pay going into the sequel. New Line Cinema turned him down and instead decided to put someone else under a simple mask of the villain. However, just a few weeks into production, it was clear Englund's absence hampered the project and a deal was worked out for the actor to return.
The most interesting aspect of Freddy’s Revenge though, was to eschew the traditional final girl element, and instead go with a final boy in Jesse. Upon closer inspection, that wasn’t the only thing out of place for the times, as the film was filled with an overload of homoerotic subtext courtesy of screenwriter David Chaskin. Be it when Jesse twerks to close his dresser drawer during a whimsical dance sequence, ends up in a gay bar with the gym teacher – who also happens to be decked out in S&M gear and is later whipped while tied up in the school shower – or rolls on the ground in a fight with his baseball teammate until his pants are pulled down…there’s a lot. Analyzing even further, it becomes apparent that Freddy trapped inside Jesse’s body is a metaphor for his sexuality trying to get out, and the movie is him fighting to suppress it.
This was a period in the mid-80s where the AIDS epidemic had the gay community unfairly maligned and stigmatized, giving Chaskin the idea to use gay subtext to play into the homophobia of mainstream audiences and therefore instilling a deeper level of horror. The writer denied this vehemently for years, saying it was the Patton’s fault, even as the actor became more vocal about how the overt themes of homosexuality destroyed his career.
Last year, Patton starred in the documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, detailing the effect the role had in him landing future acting gigs. Now openly gay, he wasn’t at the time when it was pretty much a death knell for any male actor in Hollywood to be out of the closet. Patton finally did get to confront Chaskin in person for the doc in a pivotal and poignant sit down.
Watch the Trailer for 'Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street'
“I find it really interesting that over the course of 30 years you’ve denied this, that you had written this as a gay movie,” Patton says. “You would say it was subtext, but at first you denied it was any subtext. And then you decided to get out from underneath it and you took the attention off yourself and placed it on somebody else. Everybody knew that it was a gay movie.”
Chaskin comes clean and apologizes for any hurt he may have cause by writing the film the way he did and the damage it has done. And Patton has since become more comfortable as Freddy’s Revenge has become a cult classic and a touchstone in the LGBTQ community while he’s become a gay horror icon.
Still, the movie itself isn’t very good and if often cited as the worst in the series. There are gaping plot holes, no clear-cut protagonist and a cheap ending sequence showing Freddy wasn’t really defeated after all. Sixteen months later, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors landed in theaters with Langenkamp back and Craven co-writing the story for what many consider the best entry in the franchise, righting the ship and making sure Freddy would continue to haunt the dreams of teens for years to come.