Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Ugh. Where do I begin? Maybe I should just start off by saying this is a bad movie. It’s not hard to be derisively verbose on this subject (see below), or to blindly drive off into the sunset in a rant powered vehicle (also, see below). But I’ll try to stay on topic for as long as possible. This is the second installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, but you’d never know that by watching it. It’s horribly dated. It was actually interesting to see this film though, since it hammers home the point that Wes Craven had at least a knack for something in the first film. First things first, the title: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. It’s a standard device for the title of a movie sequel (especially a horror movie sequel) to brandish the word “revenge” in some way or another, but it comes across as unbelievably cheesy here. Freddy takes revenge in all of his movies. That’s just part of his mythos. My suggestion for a title to this film is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Coming for You. But I guess a cheesy film deserves a cheesy title. My title's too good for this movie.

I don’t want to spoil anything here, but that’s like saying I don’t want to burn down smoldering ashes. The damage has been done. The plot (I can’t believe I’m using that word when referring to this film) involves a young, 17 year old boy named Jesse (Mark Patton). Young is a relative term here, so Jesse looks like he should be on his third marriage instead of cheerily hopping on the school bus with his Ninja Turtles backpack draped over his shoulder. Jesse’s the new kid in town, who just moved in to Nancy’s old house from the first film. Her house is now officially the house from The Amityville Horror. Jesse’s having nightmares and visions of good ole Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) wandering about the house. It appears Freddy wants Jesse to kill for him, or he wants Jesse to become him, or something. Jesse constantly wakes up sporting Freddy's trademark glove o’ knives. He thinks he’s the one responsible when his coach turns up dead. So what do they do with this concept? They whiz it down their legs. Jesse is frantically worried (and sweaty) as he agonizes and overacts over possibly being a murderer. Well, nobody ever even suspects him and nothing ever happens with it. Freddy wants to use Jesse as a vessel to inhabit his body, but is constantly setting him up to get caught in the act of cold blooded murder -- good plan, Fred. Strange events begin to occur in the house. The temperature rises, the toaster gets hit by lightning, and the pet bird explodes. The level of ineptitude in this film reaches new heights… or is it depths? At any rate, the characters are dumb, to put it bluntly. They’re not even “horror movie dumb.” They’re dumb for the sake of being dumb. It’s not funny, and it doesn’t help the story. Jesse’s dad (Clu Gulager) attributes the exploding pet bird to buying the wrong kind of bird seed. There’s a pointlessly odd homoerotic subtext in this film as well. Jesse meets his coach in a bar where the coach had been picking up men -- excuse me while I stitch up my sides, they’re splitting. For some reason Jesse is constantly sweaty, and garbed in unbuttoned shirts. The actor must have had a clause in his contract that said he must be dripping wet at all times. Why? I don’t know… and I don’t want to know. When he’s not waking up from a sweaty nightmare, he’s showering or pointlessly strolling through the rain.

Anyway, Jesse has a non-emotive girlfriend named Lisa (Kim Myers), who looks almost exactly like a young Meryl Streep. She’s sort of like Meryl Streep mixed with Gillian Anderson. She’ll be the “last girl” in this film (she’s also the “only girl”, so that was a wise choice). The chemistry between Jesse and Lisa is non existent. When they lean in for their dramatic kiss, it looks like a closing draw bridge, except not as romantic. She believes in Jesse's claims that he is being affected by Freddy when they find Nancy’s diary that details the events of the first film. This is later confirmed when Jesse actually turns into Freddy and kills one of his (many) shirtless friends. Lisa throws a pool party that’s so devoid of energy that it could have doubled for a wake. Incidentally, Freddy begins a murderous rampage-of-sorts amongst the seemingly restless partygoing extras in this colossally mismanaged sequence. He cuts a few folks, burns them, and manhandles the deck furniture -- dear God, he is a monster! When he attacked Lisa earlier, he knocked a plate off the living room shelf. When will his reign of terror end?!! Is Freddy a frustrated interior decorator at heart or something? It all concludes in the abandoned factory where Freddy used to work. This is a perfect example of finding and exploiting a set piece and building a scene around it, regardless of its integration into the rest of the story. Lisa runs to find Freddy/Jesse there. Here she encounters a few demonic animals. The dogs with the cupie doll faces were a nice touch, but are distractingly fake and filmed in long shot. Anyway, Lisa figures it’s time to finally emote, and she pleads with Jesse to fight Freddy’s control over him, after he chases her around the plant. In the end, he gets lit on fire and collapses. Jesse emerges from the ashes, and the nightmare is over… or is it? The final sequence is a nod to the first scene on the school bus (Can you make a nod towards something in your own film?). Freddy pops his claws through one of the students, and the terrified passengers are driven off into the sunset. Again, the film repeats itself.

So, I’m going to go back to my earlier remarks of this film being bad. It kind of makes this whole review seem unnecessary. But somehow, a review that just reads, “Bad” seems a bit unimaginative, if not perfectly accurate. Jesse’s perpetually damp and screams like a girl. Lisa is nearly comatose and distractingly Meryl Streep-esque. Jesse’s dad wouldn’t be out of place in a Three Stooges sketch, and Freddy seems to be lost in all this. He barely kills anyone. The dream sequences that made the first film tolerable were either erased or forgotten. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, and I was glad when the things that I didn't know were happening ceased to happen. This film elbowed its way into the box office smack dab in the middle of the 80’s, and that fact couldn’t have been more apparent. Every background female character is dressed like Madonna, and every male character looks like a gay porn star. This film hurts. It offended me as a horror film fan and as a member of the human race. It took the Friday the 13th series a while to find its footing and establish a working formula. Freddy had a formula, and they totally ignored it. How is it possible that this film looks more dated than the previous one? Did fashion go completely haywire in only one year's time? The actors are annoying, whiny and moist, and the story slowly dies out after the scenes begin to lap themselves. The entire movie is essentially three scenes (give or take, although giving would be all too generous) which were crudely stapled and duct taped together before being carelessly strung through the film projector. As a result, the movie repeats itself about every three minutes. It's sort of like a horror version of Groundhog Day, except less scary. Unfortunately for the audience, in the end, Freddy discovers that the best revenge is living well.

Best Death: Freddy plays a deadly game of S&M with the coach in the locker room showers.

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