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Nightmare On Elm Street 2 is probably the least heralded of all the Kruegerfests, and rightfully so. Compared to the rest of the series, Freddy's Revenge displays a severe lack in scares, gore, and yes - even the main man himself. I found the movie pretty watchable on the whole, but can easily understand why fans collectively aimed their assholes at it before taking a shit. If you erased this one from the continuity entirely, nobody would know the difference.
That said, it's not completely deserving of the criticism. Freddy's Revenge doesn't have the overall style of it's sibling films, but it's nice to watch if you're half-asleep and don't really feel like paying too much attention to what's onscreen. The main problem is evidenced simply by looking at the timeframe between the first two films' releases. Coming out just a year later than it's predecessor in 1985, Freddy's Revenge was a low-budget rush job. Had the flick done poorly at the box office, the other sequels might not exist. Fortunately, thirty-million dollars worth of moviegoers came, saw, and conquered in the US alone. Despite poor reviews, Freddy's Revenge almost recouped its entire budget in the opening weekend.
Though vaguely connected to the storyline of the first film, Freddy's Revenge was swept under the rug when it came time to script the rest. That's no big deal - if you really look at the first flick, it's a pretty bad movie underneath all the sentimental beckoning. For a lot of people, the series didn't 'start' until Dream Warriors anyway. Today, we take a look at Freddy's first sequel endeavor, a movie that indulges quite unabashedly into the realm of boiling hot swimming pools and birds that explode in mid-flight. Really. There's a strange metaphorical undertone to the movie as well, but we'll touch on that as we move along. To those of you who skipped Freddy's Revenge for his more championed releases, here's what you missed...
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Meet Jesse Walsh, not-so-typical high school kid who just moved into the ol' shack at 1428 Elm Street. Uh oh. Yeah, it's the same house where Nancy was tormented by Freddy in the first flick, and wouldn't you know it, the guy stuck around even in death. Jesse's haunted by bloody dreams filled with Krueger and flesh wounds, evidenced by the film's opening dream sequence where Freddy takes over Jesse's school bus and claws everything in sight.
So, every time a scene calls of Jesse to wake up, it's accompanied by him screaming with such a womanly touch that you'd swear he was about to rip off a fake mustache and yell 'gotcha!' In passing, I had viewed Jesse's travels within the film as at least a tad homoerotic, but it wasn't until reading the vast amounts of reviews online that my beliefs were confirmed: apparently, the unspoken theme of Freddy's Revenge is Jesse's attempt to come to terms with his own latent gayness. Yeah. I wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't so widely theorized, but in truth, there's a hell of a lot here to support the claim. Of course, if that's what they wanted out of the flick, more power to 'em. Actually, if you keep that little twist in mind as you're watching, the movie becomes infinitely more interesting. Since most people would hate to sum up Freddy's worth as the guy who helps troubled teens come out of the closet, it's no wonder that fans rarely talk up this particular sequel.
Jesse's love interest is Lisa Webber, local hottie with a weird nose. She's the only one in the film who can hit her lines without making you consider smashing the television in protest. Despite Jesse's eccentricity, Lisa displays much interest in getting her face in his pants. Supporters of the 'gay theory' mention that Jesse rarely tries to put the moves on her, but honestly, if some burned freak was trying to take over your body every time you went to bed, you'd probably have a shattered libido too. Until he ends the relationship by staring at her crotch and commenting that their tryst is missing something, I'm not sold.
Grady, one of Jesse's half-naked school pals, mentions that the poor kid moved into the same house where a girl went crazy and a lot of people got their heads chopped off. Jesse is obviously concerned with the news, since it makes his ongoing nightmares seem to be a little more than just a few 'bad dreams.' Consequentially, Freddy confronts Jesse during his next nap, and insists that he can control the boy's body to make him do terrible, terrible things. To illustrate who the brains of this outfit is, Freddy rips his scalp off and - yes - shows off his ugly, pulsating gray matter. Jesse responds by squealing in the same way my mother does when she wins ten bucks on a scratch-off Lotto ticket.
Admittedly, Freddy looks a whole lot cooler in Revenge than he did in the first flick. The make-up effects were pretty incredible, and Robert Englund was up to the task of making his part work in spite of the stupid script. The problem? There just ain't a whole lotta Freddy in the movie. Don't get me wrong - he's there, but he's just not there enough. The heart of these movies, the Elm Streets and the Friday the Thirteenths, lies in the methodology of the murders. For the audience, the fun part isn't so much the bodycount, but rather how each of the victims meet their end. Watch Dream Warriors again to see what I'm talking about. In this flick, there just aren't enough ventures into creative murdering, and poor Freddy ends up looking only half-interested in spreading mayhem.
Don't worry, though. They compensate for that with...uh...this:
BOOGIE OOGIE WOOGIE MOO.
You know, when I sat down to watch Freddy's Revenge, I had a lot of high hopes. Watching Jesse dance on his bed while pantomiming masturbation with a wooden pole wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but at least the scene is cut short before he started shoving the thing up his ass. They offer no real explanation as to why Jesse's doing all of this - it's played off as him simply goofing off while cleaning his room. Fortunately, Lisa arrives right on cue to thrust Jesse back into a realm of feigned machotudiness, and we're spared from the potential horror of watching him give oral to a can of spray-on deodorant. That said, I didn't find Jesse anywhere near as offensive a hero character as most have called him. He's pretty whiny and helpless, but that's understandable given the circumstances.
While helping Jesse unpack his decidedly still-unpacked things, Lisa finds an old diary sitting in the closet. As it turns out, the diary belongs to Nancy - Freddy's primary interest from the first movie. Wow, continuity! They read her first few wet dream entries with amusement, but grow more concerned after getting to the midway point, where all she talks about is this guy 'Fred' with a 'big claw' who keeps trying to 'stab' and 'kill' people. Jesse still hasn't seemed to figure out the puzzle, but everything becomes clear during his next nightmare...
Freddy presents Jesse with his very own dagger-encrusted glove, and insists that he starts killing people. Jesse refuses, so Freddy explains that it wasn't an optional request, and that he can actually control Jesse to do his bidding. Man, that just blows. Still, strictly from a plot perspective, Freddy's Revenge wasn't so bad. Instead of his usual method of attacking people from within their dreams, Freddy's now using an actual person to do the killing for him. It's a nice twist from the original and an inspired idea, I'll give it that.
Plus, it's not like the movie doesn't have its moments. In fact, it has several. My favorite part is coming up next. During an argument with his less-than-supportive family about his current behavioral patterns, Jesse and company hear a strange racket coming from the birdcage in the living room. While checking on the twin tweeties, Jesse finds that one of the birds has brutally murdered the other. As the family opens the hatch for a closer look, the rogue bird escapes, and....well, take a look:
Jesus. I'm willing to bet that everyone who ever saw this flick turned to the person they were watching it with just after this scene to mention how much better it would've been had they gotten stoned first. I'm not sure what kind of connotations are associated with exploding birds, but fuck me if it isn't great to see on film. Freddy does all sorts of bullshit like that throughout the movie - making toasters spark, hot dogs explode, records melt, and so on. It's scary if you wish really hard for it to be scary.
Things progress, and Jesse falls further into madness. Freddy's trickery has sent him down a road of mindless despair, leading him to wander aimlessly down the road (in the pouring rain) straight into an S&M bar. I think the magma just turned into lava. Jesse orders a (gay) beer to wash his troubles away, but by a sad coincidence, his evil (gay) gym teacher finds the underage student and halts the (gay) drinking. As punishment, Jesse's forced to run laps around the (gay) gymnasium, and I assume you can all guess where we're headed. (gay)
Yup, Freddy temporarily commandeers Jesse's body, and after assaulting the gym teacher with a volley of volleyballs, he strips him of his clothing, hangs him up in the shower, and proceeds to whip his bare ass with wet towels. Yes folks, that's what Freddy does. Sure, he caps off the event by doing his usual claw-in-the-back death blow, but it doesn't take the sting out of what we've just seen. Depending on your opinion, it's either a poetic murder or a really fucked up sex scene. Amazingly, Freddy's Revenge runs the gamut of offensiveness by not just displaying all these undertones, but by also punishing anyone who could possibly be construed as 'gay.' In effect, the movie's more homophobic than anything else. I seriously doubt that many people pay to see Elm Street movies for their subversive social commentaries, but this shit's way more eerie than anything Freddy does with that scissorhand.
It's been said that Wes Craven balked at bringing this script to life because he didn't care for the 'hero forced to be evil' plot. True, but there's around forty-five better reasons.
Lisa persuades Jesse to attend her annual pool party despite all the ongoing drama, and as they begin making babies in the cabana, Jesse's tongue morphs into a big green slimy snakething. Lisa didn't seem to mind.
In an effort to keep himself from murdering people, Jesse begs Grady to let him sleepover. Makes sense to me. Grady eventually agrees, but doesn't heed his friend's warning to stay awake. Within minutes, Freddy's back in black and clawing away at Grady's neck, pulling the flick's bodycount just above the government minimum. I'm getting pretty bored, so let's wrap this up...
The rest of the party falls prey to Freddy's ever-changing magic talents. Odd thing about Fred Krueger: his strengths and weaknesses seem to vary from minute-to-minute. I've never been a fan of that, particularly in these kinds of movies. There's no 'thrill of the hunt' when the audience is given no reason to believe that the bad guy is beatable, much less given a method with which he could be taken down. With the Elm Street series, some of the least-liked films not-so-coincidentally have the least-defined Freddy weaknesses. He's just indestructible for 85 minutes before they throw some ragtag useless crap out there to 'kill' him, robbing the audience of the opportunity to hop on the heroes' bandwagon for the film's duration. Course, you can overlook that when the villain is as cool as Freddy Krueger, but it's been worse in other films. Event Horizon was a perfect example - had some great scares, but there was obviously no way for the good guys to win, so what's the point?
That said, this was the movie's money scene. People just die left and right, either boiling to death in the pool or becoming trampled by other partygoers trying to escape. Freddy, now in full control of Jesse, leaves the soiree for the sanctity of his junkyard headquarters. Lisa refuses to let her boyfriend go down the tubes, and follows in hot pursuit. This leads to a fantastic scene where she has to get past a troop of mutant dogs with slimy Freddy heads. I wish my dog looked like Freddy. :(
Okay, get this - Lisa thwarts Freddy by kissing him. Yes, sensing that Jesse was still somewhere inside, Lisa theorizes that LOVE was the only way to take the red man down. It worked, I guess. Freddy goes on fire and disappears, revealing a perfectly kept Jesse underneath. All seems fine, until...
A few days later, when Jesse goes back to school after a murderous rampage that didn't seem to land him in any trouble whatsoever, Freddy rears his ugly hand once again - namely through the chest of one of Jesse's friends. Things end here, recreating the film's initial dream sequence, and delighting the millions who just wanted to go the Hell home already.
Overall: Not as bad as many say it is, but it certainly isn't the kind of flick you'd have fun watching with a group of friends. The film is much better served for viewing while you're, I dunno, eating your fingernails or privately removing lint from your navel. Won't work in a crowd setting - there just isn't enough fun stuff. As for the whole 'gay' thing, it's hard to tell. Like I said, the movie is much more interesting if you're willing to believe it, but it's definitely open to interpretation. It's quite possible that people were just looking for something substantial in a film where there isn't much of anything at all.
Aside from Robert Englund, none of the cast members came back for the future sequels. Actually, I did a little research, and the cast by and large stopped acting entirely after Freddy's Revenge. Don't doubt the power of the critic's scorn. If you were ever into Elm Street flicks, there's no real reason to avoid this one -- most of the series is better, but this was the only one that included an exploding bird. 6 out of 10.