I mentioned in a previous review about how I like to discuss the more oddball entries into horror franchises. They all have a film where you think "wait a minute...", and you question it and then when it's all said and done, you look at the series as a whole, and that one oddball kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. Now, the Elm Street series, in all honesty, is full of oddballs. All of them, even the original to an extent, are abnormal, especially when compared to other important franchises like Halloween of F13th. Those movies feature silent and menacing, masked killers, basically just bent on revenge. With Freddy, he was a different kind of character. Even when he was supposed to be scary, he still had an element of humor and off the wall vibe to him. A bit of a court jester, he would crack jokes, he would immolate himself for shock factor, he would cuss out his victims, he would shapeshift into various things, from a giant worm to a killer motorcycle. As beloved as the original was, you had to wonder where they were going to go with a sequel, especially when Wes Craven didn't want to be involved. Would they try to make Freddy scarier? Funnier? The general opinion is that they went more the humor route, but to me, that's what makes him different. You'd never see Jason yelling "Welcome to primetime, bitch!" as he kills a girl by slamming her head into a tv screen. Part 2 is certainly an oddball film, one that's gained cult status, and in hindsight, is actually a pretty relevant time capsule.
I had the wonderful experience of going to the HorrorHound Weekend horror convention last month, and there was a huge focus on the series. One of the highlights for me was the Part 2 panel, lead by Mark Patton, who plays Jessie, our protagonist. Immediately, that's a bit different because in those days, and those movies, you ALWAYS had a strong female lead. That's just how it was. They famously became known as "Final Girls", because they would always be the one that lives and defeats the killer. It was very enlightening to hear Mark talk about the subcontext of this movie, and everything that stemmed from it. Many people consider this to be the most homoerotic horror movie made, but in a funny way. Some people say it was intentionally written that way, others say it was just happenstance. While this entry, for me, tends to hover around the middle of the list as far as how I rate the series, it's importance can't be understated, both as a piece of pop culture entertainment, and in how it apparently set the tone for the entire rest of the series.
Jessie is the typical teenage outcast. Shy, awkward, quiet, gets picked on at school. His family has just moved into the house that Nancy lived in in the original. He's constantly having nightmares, like the one the movie opens with. Riding to school on a school bus, the driver (in cameo by Robert Englund), and the driver continues speeding and driving past his stops out into a desert, only to be revealed as Freddy Krueger, then he wakes up. He stays terrified, wakes up drenched in sweat, screaming every morning. He becomes friends with a girl named Lisa, with whom he's oddly distant with, but that who he relies on to help him figure out exactly what is going on with this house. Nightmares aside, other weird things have started happening. Appliances turn themselves on and catch fire, even their parakeet becomes evil, attacks them, then bursts into flames, in what has to be my favorite scene of the movie. Through research, they find out about Freddy and his history and what he did. But Jessie feels there's something deeper and darker at play here. He has a dream, where Freddy confronts him, with Freddy saying he needs Jessie's help. This is somewhat of a complaint of mine because that seems to be the Macguffin in nearly every Elm Street movie. In all of them, people have forgotten abou them, so Freddy has to murder someone so people will remember him and he can gain his power back.
We've seen a few innuendoes up until now that put a focus on the homoerotic aspect I talked about. We've seen it in how Jessie screams in a very feminine way, we've seen it in that infamous scene where he's singing and dancing up in his bedroom, and now we see more during one of his dreams. For really no reason at all (unless subconscious), in his dream, he walks into a gay S&M bar. If that doesn't make sense, he runs into his gym coach, all leather clad. The coach grabs him and takes him to the school, and it's no mystery what was going to happen. It's actually very disturbing when you look at the fact that this is a teacher doing this to a student. They would NEVER do something like that today. In this dream, the masochistic coach is nearly killed by flying balls (obvious euphemism?), and I'm talking the soccer and baskt kind. Then he's tied up in the shower, clothes ripped off, then has his naked ass popped repeatedly with towels. I'm not making this up. Then, in the dream, Jessie transforms into Freddy, then brutally slashing and killing the coach. We then see Jessie kind of come to in the dream, then realizes he's wearing Freddy's glove and that he killed him. The next day, we find out the murder really happened. So we begin this interesting idea that Jessie isn't necessarily just bringing back Freddy by his fear, he's slowly turning *into* Freddy.
One of the other blatant jokes that fans laugh about is there is a moment where Jessie and Lisa start making out, and Jessie starts a physical change, gets scared and leaves Lisa, and goes to his guy friend's house, and Jessie tells him that he's scared and needs to spend the night with him. That kind of writes itself. After another murderous transformation, Freddy invades a pool party with a ton of teenagers swimming and drinking, and famously declared "You're all my children now!". This scene in particular, is a pretty massive point of contention with not only fans, but the logic of the character himself. Freddy always killed people in their dreams, that was what made him scary. But here, he is a physical character in a physical space, and just starts butchering these teenagers. I've never really had a big problem with the scene, but I understand how it messes up the mythos and logic. Hoping to figure out how to defeat Freddy, they go back to the power plant where Freddy used to work pre-serial killer days. What they thought they would find there, I don't know, but we'll give it a shot. While there, Jessie fully transforms into Freddy and it's up to Lisa to save the day. I will say there are some pretty striking visuals in this sequence, as Freddy, visually, probably looks scarier than he ever did. His make up was different in every movie, some scarier than others, and I always thought this one had the scariest looking Freddy. In the end, we our heroes defeat Freddy and we all think it's over, but what would an Elm Street movie be without a final twist? We see our kids on a school bus, and the driver won't stop or slow down. Uh-oh.
So is this film good? Yes. Great? No. But I think it was put into a precarious position. Having to directly follow up the insanely successful original, and having to essentially set the tone for the series here on out, I think it did a fair job. Just like every movie, it has it's pro's and con's. But like I said, the movie is often looked at for the overtly sexual and more so homoerotic context, as that was pretty groundbreaking at the time. It was taboo to have a gay actor in a main role like that, *especially* in a horror movie, and you always have to appreciate something like that anytime it tries to push a boundary and break down a wall. The kills themselves were some of the lamest of the series, exploding parakeet aside. And that's one thing you should always count on with Freddy, original and wildly inventive kills. Instead, here, he is just stabbing and slashing people. Mark Patton actually just finished making a documentary about this, and his experience, and his life since then. After speaking to him personally about it, I'm very interested in such a unique account of something so odd. I'm proud to say that he finally hit his Kickstarter goal right at the end, which was just to be able to have the rights to use actual movie footage in the doc. I'm not sure when it'll be coming out, but keep an eye out. In the meantime, just go watch the Elm Street series and see what you think sticks and what doesn't. It's definitely a unique view when you look at it from a certain perspective.
"Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2" gets 7 Exploding Parakeets out of 10!