I love the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and 1994’s New Nightmare is a fine, meta slasher movie that begat Scream. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors also has a ton of 80’s charm and cheese and some of the series’ most iconic moments (“Welcome to prime time”, et al). But that’s where my experience with Elm Street ended. I had no interest in the 4th through 6th entries, as every horror fan knows when a franchise has entered lazy cash grab mode, usually at the 4th movie. The 2010 remake I’m not considering part of the series and I think I speak for everyone when I say that.
But what about the 2nd movie, Freddy’s Revenge? I was vaguely familiar with the existence of the notorious “gay” Nightmare on Elm Street movie but had never seen it, and lo and behold, it’s currently the only one available on Netflix. While I didn’t find it quite as gay as its reputation had me believe, there was definitely obvious subtext (“I feel like something’s trying to get inside my body.”) and even more overt homoerotic content (leather daddy gym coach gets stripped naked and towel whipped in the school showers). But the infamous gay angle in Freddy’s Revenge wasn’t nearly as interesting as the fact that the movie makes no god damn sense whatsoever.
It all mostly stems from the central concept. For some reason, Freddy’s M.O. is totally different in the 2nd movie than in every other appearance before or since. Instead of tormenting and ultimately murdering teenagers from inside their own dreams, he tries to take possession of a single boy and uses him to murder random people in the real world. No explanation whatsoever is given for this approach aside from the subtitle of the movie. Freddy’s angle has always pretty much been revenge, but why these people? And why use Jesse (the main character)? There’s an extremely hokey connection with the first movie there, as Jesse’s family has moved into the Thompson family’s old house and Jesse, of course, resides in Nancy’s old room (leading to one of my favorite old horror movie tropes, “we got such a great deal on this house!”). But there was nothing special about Nancy Thompson in the first movie, other than the fact that she happened to be the one to figure out how to defeat Freddy. Before that she was just another potential victim of his revenge spree.
Throughout the film, Jesse has nightmares presumably involving Freddy, but we don’t always see them. This is the second major point of confusion in the film – it’s never clear when we’re watching a dream versus real life. The movie seems to be implying that Freddy takes control of Jesse’s body when he’s asleep, but later, on numerous occasions we see Freddy quite literally emerge from Jesse’s body while he’s fully awake and in view of other people. When a murder occurs, sometimes it’s revealed to have been Jesse using Freddy’s glove, other times it’s Freddy himself.
The infamous gym coach-leather daddy bar-shower room scene is loaded with this kind of nonsense. It starts with Jesse waking up in the middle of the night, going downstairs and seeing strange lights outside. He goes to investigate and suddenly finds himself in a seedy urban downtown environment. He walks into an equally seedy bar and orders a beer from the leather daddy bartender, who doesn’t bother to card the high school student. Suddenly his obnoxious gym teacher appears in a leather vest and orders him to run laps in the school gymnasium and then hit the showers. Seems like a pretty classical nightmare scene doesn’t it? But then, in the same scene, the gym teacher is murdered by Jesse/Freddy, and the police subsequently find Jesse wandering the streets naked and deliver him back home. All this happened in the real world!
At school the next day, in the aftermath of the murder, nobody seems to be concerned about who tied up and slashed the gym teacher in the school showers, even though the police JUST found Jesse nude, in a daze, wandering around the vicinity the night of the murder. And it only gets crazier. As Freddy starts gaining more control over Jesse, he first murders one of Jesse’s school buddies in full view of his parents, then makes his way to a pool party where he quite literally runs amok, murdering random teenagers as the surrounding crowd tries to flee. Freddy doesn’t seem to have the slightest concern that he just left literally dozens of witnesses alive when he casually walks away from the scene (through a wall of flames no less). None of these events have ANY repercussions whatsoever.
We have to talk about the ending. Now, the single biggest flaw in the original Nightmare on Elm Street is the nonsensical, tacked on, producer-mandated “twist” ending that opens the door for a sequel. It was so obviously cobbled together by people who have no business writing screenplays, so obviously a half-assed ploy to set up Freddy’s return and so obviously conceived from the notion of “wouldn’t it be crazy if Freddy did THIS?” instead of considering the implications on the story itself. And Freddy’s Revenge has pretty much the exact same ending.
After the power of heterosexual love enables Jesse to break free of and ultimately defeat Freddy, he’s back to his normal self, heading back to school, when he boards the bus with his girlfriend. They, along with a frizzy-haired 80’s movie girl buddy, sarcastically joke about the success of the previous night’s pool party. You know, the one where a supernatural monster appeared out of nowhere, murdered a bunch of their friends, and vanished in a burst of flames? Major bummer! In the middle of this conversation Freddy’s clawed arm bursts through the frizzy-haired buddy’s chest, and they all scream as the bus careens into the desert and Freddy’s laughter is heard.
This ending doesn’t make any more or less sense than the ending of the first movie, but unlike the first movie, you can’t look to everything that came before it and find some modicum of internal logic. If you were so inclined, you could perceive everything that happened on the night of Nancy’s final battle with Freddy as a dream she wasn’t aware she was having, with the ending being nothing but a continuation of that dream, implying that there’s really no way to defeat Freddy for real. But in this movie, there’s never any consistent cues as to what you’re witnessing, dream or reality. You could rightly ascertain that the pool party massacre was real life, as scenes are shown from other characters’ perspectives when Jesse’s not around (people don’t dream in third person omniscient).
Character behavior makes no sense throughout the film. In the first movie, as soon as the first murder occurs, the police are immediately all over it, and they take into custody the only person present at the crime scene, as the police naturally would. But in Freddy’s revenge numerous unexplained murders appear, often with several witnesses, and the police are nary even present. I understand not wanting to let logic interfere with the story, but come on, how do they explain that pool party scene?!
Freddy’s victims are all completely random, just people who happened to be around Jesse at the wrong time. He seems to have no agenda with these killings, other than to cause mischief. Even his personality is more “class clown prankster” than “sadistic killer”. He goads Jesse into doing his bidding by chanting “Kill for me! Kill for me! Kill for me Jesse!”.
The whole possession angle isn’t a bad idea in and of itself. Done with care it could have been an interesting way to mix up the Freddy Krueger mythology a little. But there was so much confusion, so many plot holes at the script level, and so much ludicrous character behavior that it was impossible to take anything that happens in the film at face value. The next movie in the series, Dream Warriors, kind of put things back on track, but thinking about it now, in the ending of that film Nancy Thompson’s father battles Freddy’s animate skeleton in the real world while Nancy battles him simultaneously in the dream world. This whole series doesn’t make a lick of sense.