Directed by: Jack Sholder
Written by: David Chaskin
Starring: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Clu Gulager, Kim Myers, and Robert Rusler
Reviewed by: Wes R.
“Something is trying to get inside of me!”
The year was 1984. The Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises were already several entries into their respective series when there came a new kid in town: I of course speak of Freddy Krueger. Rare is it in someone's lifetime that a horror character is created that has such a profound and lasting impact on the genre. It certainly isn't likely to happen again in my lifetime. With a healthy box-office take and a character that people were already dying to see more of, it became very clear to New Line Cinema chief Bob Shaye that there needed to be a sequel to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and that there needed to be one very quickly if they were to remain competitive. Thus, New Line eventually came to be known as "the house that Freddy built". And so it was A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge that paved a new direction for the future of Bob Shaye and New Line Cinema.
Jesse (Mark Patton) and his family have moved into Nancy Thompson’s old house on Elm Street. Things are quiet at first. He gets picked on at school, his dad’s kind of a hardass, and his girlfriend is a great deal more masculine than he is. Soon, however, he begins having terrible nightmares of a razor-gloved maniac Freddy Krueger. During one of the nightmares, Freddy offers Jesse a grim deal: Freddy wants to use Jesse’s body in order to kill teens on Elm Street. Naturally, Jesse fights this, but soon, he ends up sleepwalking (even to places across town) and wherever Jesse goes, soon, there will be another sliced and diced victim of Freddy’s. Can Jesse stop Freddy before his friends and possibly his girlfriend fall victim to Krueger’s blades? Can Freddy be stopped at all?
Nightmare 2 is a great Freddy movie. I really don’t know why so many consider it one of the worst. Many can’t seem to get past the sub-plot of Freddy entering the real world (as opposed to being bound by the dream world) and that’s a fairly valid argument. It was an ill-conceived idea. When you take Freddy out of his element just to have a more visual boogeyman (ala Jason and Michael) on-screen, he does lose something. He becomes your Average Joe serial killer instead of a powerful murderous spirit. But see, I don’t look at it as Freddy being "real" in the real world. I take the whole possession of Jesse thing as I would in any other demonic possession flick. Once Freddy’s spirit leaves Jesse, it’s still a spirit, but it’s also visible to the partygoers and is still fully capable of causing them harm. I liked how they portrayed the true evil and troublemaking nature of Freddy. At times, it was almost like a ghost film, in the way that a lot of bizarre, unexplained things happen in the real world to coincide with Freddy’s possession of Jesse: a pet parakeet explodes, a swimming pool boils, and a whole locker room full of gym equipment attacks a coach. This poltergeist-like activity lends an additional supernatural layer to the character and it easily displays how much more powerful Freddy is than Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. So really, the whole "Freddy in the real world" doesn’t really bother me too much. I would’ve rather seen Freddy interact with some of the other characters though. Jesse is pretty much the only character that has nightmares in film, and he really isn’t all that interesting of a character on his own. One missed opportunity in this field: Grady's nightmare. How awesome would it have been to have seen Freddy enter the dreams of a cocky 80s type jock who at one point in the film, claims to have been grounded because he "pushed his grandmother down the stairs"?
Maybe it’s just me, but I truly consider Clu Gulager’s performance as Jesse’s Wall Street Journal reading father, Ken Walsh, one of the all-time under-appreciated cult figures in all of horror. Gulager would go on to a much more widely remembered role in Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead. Here, he plays more than just Jesse’s skeptical father. He brings a world weary, cynical slant to his brief scenes that really drive home the "he thinks Jesse is on drugs" moments. His reaction to the parakeet exploding is truly the moment his character won me over. Does he go headfirst into believing in the supernatual like a less stable person would? No. He seeks answers. He blames the wife for buying "cheap seed" to feed the birds. And you know, that very well could've been the case. I find it suspect that of all the things in the house that Freddy could have possessed that he chose something inside a cage (of course, some of the more hardcore Nightmare 2 conspiracy theorists claim that Freddy also possessed Jesse's sister's "Fu-Man Chews" cereal at the beginning of the film.) At any rate, I may be reading too much into the Ken Walsh character, but the fact is: Clu Gulager rules and he’s simply awesome in this film. Perhaps my affection for the character stems from my "The Further Adventures of Ken Walsh" fan-fiction series, I'm not sure. The cast is overall very good, though not as likable as the cast from the first movie. You’ll see familiar faces like Robert Rusler (Weird Science) and Hope Lange (Peyton Place) as well as impressive newcomers like Kim Meyers and Mark Patton. Of course, Robert Englund is the true star of the film. Here, his Freddy swagger and line delivery were showcased much better than they were in the first film. In the first film, Craven made Freddy scary. Here, not to demean Jack Sholder, but Robert Englund was the mastermind behind Freddy's terrifying presence.
Where Freddy was largely kept in the shadows in the first film, here we get to see him several times throughout. While that is usually a recipe for disaster when it comes to sequels, the tone of Nightmare 2 is perfect. Freddy is still scary this time out, it’s just that he’s not overexposed as he was in the films that followed. We see him just enough to appreciate his menacing appearance and presence, but not enough to become bored, comfortable, or jaded. Though he does say the occasional jokey line, he does so with such a sinister tone of voice (thanks to Robert’s performance and a great job by the sound mixers) that it doesn’t make you laugh at all. In a latter day Nightmare film, a line like "You are all my children now" would've had Freddy slapping his own knee and laughing obnoxiously at his own comment. Here, the line is chilling. What people who criticize the humor of the series seem to forget is that Freddy has always said one-liners, even from the main beginning. It's all in the direction Robert was given by the directors in regard to the line delivery. I think A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors struck the perfect balance, but I also appreciated the darker tone of this one. It was very much in line with the first film. I must also give credit to make-up artist Kevin Yagher for doing a superb job with Freddy’s face, as well as the other visual effects in the film. Freddy's make-up in this film is probably among my favorites of the entire series. Scary and grotesque. Truly a "male witch."
A lot has been made about the supposed homosexual undertones of the film, and I must admit... there are numerous instances where certain actions and comments could easily be taken in a different manner. For instance, we have Jesse’s bedroom featuring a sign that reads "No out of town Chicks", although at first glance, only "NO CHICKS" can be seen... then, there’s the leather bar sequence (featuring a cameo by New Line Cinema head, Bob Shaye)... and then, of course, all the "something's trying to get inside my body" type dialogue that can easily be taken in more than one context. Director Jack Sholder claims that he in no way intended for the film to be taken in that manner, nor did he knowingly create the undertones. I myself cannot comment on this from the point of view of a gay man, but as a straight man, I've watched this film for years and had no idea of the other connotation until I began visiting message boards where the topic was always heavily debated amongst fans. My official stance: There are plenty of things you can take out of context with the film, but it neither helps nor hinders the viewing experience. If you want to watch the film as a great "gay horror film", good for you. If you’d rather not, that’s fine as well. Jack Sholder did a terrific job on the film. He impressed me a few years earlier with his atmospheric slasher, Alone in the Dark. Christopher Young’s score is great and quite memorable (as most of his horror work is), but I’m not sure that it completely fits the Freddy universe. On a score CD with tracks from each of the films, it is easily the most out of place with the rest of the series. It does its job well, but I think perhaps it would've made a much better theme to another horror/fantasy film. He does manage to utilize some of the cues and themes from Bernstein's score for the first film occasionally, though.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is a highly underrated entry in the Freddy saga. I've probably given it more coverage than a lot of reviews and sites do, but you know what? I really like this film. A lot. I think it's often overlooked by the more fun and flashy third and fourth entries in the series that followed it. The fact is, Freddy was still scary and mean here, the tone was still dark, and there are many memorable sequences within. I easily prefer this to Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare or A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. If you’ve not watched this one in a while, I strongly urge you to give it a second chance. My heart says this one is "essential", but realistically, I know it's far from perfect. I know you probably already own this one, so head over to your DVD or VHS shelf, dust this one off, and enjoy it for the fun and scary ride that it is. Buy it!
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