Director: Jack Sholder
Writer: David Chaskin
Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, and Robert Englund
When Wes Craven made the original A Nightmare on Elm Street he had no intention of starting a franchise, but New Line Cinema saw its potential as a big money maker and a sequel was put into production. The sequel was released less than a year after the original with a bigger budget this time around. At the time it received mixed reviews, especially when compared to the original, although in the years since it has gained a cult following.
Freddy’s Revenge is set five years after the first film and instead of continuing Nancy’s story, focuses on Jesse (Mark Patton) who has moved into Nancy’s house on Elm Street with his family. Jesse is the eldest child who takes Nancy’s room and starts to experience dreams featuring Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund). Instead of killing Jesse in his dream, Freddy has other uses for him, and starts to use Jesse to leave the dreamworld and enter reality.
Wes Craven turned down directing the sequel, thinking that David Chaskin’s script wasn’t good and had many mistakes. Instead Jack Sholder took the director’s chair, seeing it as a stepping stone to make it big in Hollywood. The film follows a very similar set up to the original with a group of four teenagers at school and then Freddy appearing in dreams. Freddy’s Revenge was daring in that it breaks the rules set by the first, instead of Freddy appearing in each of the teenager’s dreams, he only appears in Jesse’s and uses his body to kill others. It makes Freddy a much more serious threat as staying awake doesn’t mean anyone’s safe. While the film isn’t as scary, or imaginative as the original, it’s still worth some praise that it tried something different. A lot of slasher sequels follow the same plot with a bigger kill count, but this one doesn’t.
The opening is absolutely great, with Jesse dreaming about being on the school-bus and then things get very wacky as it turns out that Freddy is driving and the ground under the bus starts to cave in. Even before that happens it’s Robert Englund out of make-up driving the bus, a nice little nod to horror fans. The bus sequence feels very imaginative, and it feels like it’s using the potential for a dreamlike horror to its full wacky potential. It even makes you feel like the original didn’t push the dreamworld far enough. But then the rest of the film isn’t as out there as the opening, so it’s pretty much the highlight when it comes to the dreams.
Robert Englund was originally turned down for the sequel after requesting too much money. That didn’t last long, though, as the studio backed down since they couldn’t find a replacement who had the same screen presence. Still there is a distinct lack of Freddy in the film, and when he does the make-up seems like a step down from the previous film. Englund is still great in the role though, with some of the most memorable moments of the film.
One of the reasons the film has been re-evaluated in years since its release is due to different readings of Jesse’s character. He’s an outcast struggling to fit in, and people have seen that as him struggling with his sexuality. There are plenty of hints towards his sexuality throughout the film, some obvious and some more subtle. In the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, writer David Chaskin admitted that this was intentional, after spending years denying there was any hint of this within the script.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is a mixed bag of a film. It feels like a let down with less scares and menace than the first one, but there are some interesting ideas at play. Regardless it’s become a cult-classic in the years since it was released and is still an enjoyable and entertaining film.
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It was great you touched on the backstory/struggle about getting it to the screen. Probably reflected in what they wound up with. Yes, it is a mixed bag for sure.
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Thank you, I do think it’s a decent film, but not as good as the first one or what came later.
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