Despite appearances to the contrary, the horror community has always been welcoming to outsiders, maybe it is the cathartic release of blood or some other logical explanation. Sometimes this outsider appeal is reflected in the films themselves. In 1985, in an era of phobias, stifling gender norms and generally less positive representation, one franchise took a quick break to tackle them head-on, in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
After going face-to-face with the demonic serial killer, Freddy Krueger, Nancy has moved out of Elm Street, leaving the Walshes to snap up the Thompson household. All appears to be going well for the family, apart from their son, Jesse, who has been suffering from nightmares. No one in his family seems to care, but the nightmares appear to be getting more and more vivid. Is there something to do with a lingering presence in the house? These nightmares may be influencing Jesse’s behaviour as his waking moments are filled with cynics and his dreams are offering no respite, can Jesse, and his best friend Lisa, prove their doubters wrong, or will Krueger finally achieve victory?
Like a lot of people retroactively, you might notice a certain subtext in the film, I certainly did and deciphering subtext is far from my strongest suit. There’s of S&M club, complete with leather-clad gym coaches, and a couple of phrases, here and there, do help to reinforce the supposed theme. Art does lead to many interpretations, so your reading might be completely different, yet having a male protagonist for these films is a rarity. It’s hard not to feel for Mark Patton, who has to take over for Heather Langenkamp in unfamiliar territory for a male actor, and Jesse’s struggles feel relentless throughout. Still, he shows he can scream with the best of them.
For the percentage who prefer their slashers to remain broad, Freddy’s Revenge does retain the crowning elements from the first, with its trademark use of industrial landscapes accented with the oh-so-80s neon lighting, that has become the series’ hallmark. Still, Krueger keeps upping the ante. Possession is an interesting route for Krueger to explore, it certainly helps up the stakes of the character, while making said stakes feel familiar yet inspired for returning fans. His coup de grâce of gatecrashing a suburban pool party is one of the biggest highlights of the franchise so far. Offering a glimpse into the side of Kruger that surprisingly made the ghoul a hit with the impressionable youth of the time.
While audiences tend to welcome some innovation in their sequels, Freddy’s Revenge offers metamorphosis by the bucket load. A new protagonist, allows Krueger to employ a new bag of tricks, and explore issues from a new angle. Confident that the underlying core will carry its ideas forward. Freddy’s Revenge remains a sure bet, as its energetic mix of old and new, underlines how the franchise is willing to dream big with its subsequent instalments.
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