13 Days of Sequels: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2

With 13 Days of Sequels I’ll be reviewing horror sequels every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

It’s funny how you can watch a movie ten or twenty times – blindly enjoying it more and more with each viewing – before you start picking up on certain stuff. When I re-watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge this past weekend, I came to realize two pretty big things.

Firstly, the whole movie is really bizarre, to the point where I almost think it’s intended to play as a legit horror-comedy, like Student Bodies or Evil Dead II – not “so bad it’s funny”, but a horror movie with an intentional comedic streak. And no, I’m not talking about the whole gay subtext thing – while that does illicit a few chuckles, I actually really like it as a running theme, even in its not-so-subtle read between the (very obvious) lines approach. It gives the movie layers.

No, the oddness I’m talking about is much more consciously goofy.

Sure, I’ve always noticed how silly certain parts were – Clu Gulager’s stern-but-concerned dad character being front and center. The way he bellows his son’s name (Jessaaaaaay!”) throughout the entirety of the movie – in Clu’s real-life marble-mouthed Oklahoman drawl, no less – is a particularly inspired and delightful quirk, one that my best friend Nick and I constantly quote.

I guess I noticed this weekend how the kookiness isn’t just limited to one character (or the approach of the actor playing the character), but to literally every character in the film, no matter how small. The best friend who reacts to her own death in disbelief, the scene in health class where the teacher is talking about shit, the bully who spends an entire scene delivering his lines while his mouth is full of food – and yes, even all that wonderful subtext – these instances and many more make the whole film feel flat-out jokey. And I love every minute of it.

The other thing I realized was Freddy Krueger’s abilities in this movie are not just limited to the dreamworld – that is to say, our lead character, Jesse, doesn’t need to be asleep to see Freddy Krueger or to be affected by him. (There’s a scene towards the end of the movie where, after killing a friend while under Freddy’s control, a fully-awake Jesse looks in the mirror and sees Krueger’s cackling reflection.) Neither do other characters, in fact. (Krueger pops up at a pool party and kills all the guests.) Hell, there’s even a scene where Jesse’s family watches as one of their pet birds kills the other and then proceeds to explode – presumably under the power of Freddy…or at least the doomed Thompson household in which they reside. Freddy is omnipotent.

In the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy was seeking revenge on the children of the parents who burned him alive, via their dreams. In this sequel, however, Freddy is more like a demon or a spirit who haunts and inhabits Jesse when he sees fit (even if he’s awake), and his motivations seem to exist solely around the fact that Jesse’s family moved into Thompson household. I don’t know if this approach – making Freddy have free reign regardless of a person’s waking state – was intentional or an oversight in the writer’s room, but it’s a unique take on the series, even if it murks up the Krueger mythology a little.

Clearly I love the film, warts and all. And maybe after I watch it another 20 times, I’ll notice a few more painfully obvious things.

7 thoughts on “13 Days of Sequels: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2”

  1. I’ve seen this one more than any other in the series as it was among the Beta tapes a fellow Betamax owner recorded for me off of cable (other notables being 16 Candles, Bobcat Goldthwait’s Share the Warmth, and Screwballs). Yet somehow, I missed the fact that rules established in the first movie were broken. That’s not saying much though, as I didn’t pick up on the gay subtext, but it certainly made me feel funny as a kid. Still, this one is one of my favorites.

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  2. I think this film always gets a bad rap; I actually love it. A lot of films in the 1980’s began having that tongue- in- cheek comedic aspects to it and it all started with Freddy. This film had a nice balance of creepy parts and comedic aspects that make it enjoyable to watch. I think you’ve noticed more of those aspects than me, but I look forward to re-watching the film with some of the points you mentioned in mind.

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    1. While I do enjoy ANOES2, I have some resistance to franchises turning “silly” once they’ve exhausted all other logic, which every ’80s horror franchise seemed to eventually do once or twice. I can forgive Freddy a little more because of Robert Englund’s performance – he’s still terrifying, even when he’s playing court jester. There are a few other rare exceptions, of course – but overall, I don’t think something that started out genuinely scary should turn silly; feels like desperation.

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