Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street & how gay was Freddy’s Revenge?
After watching the Shudder-exclusive documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time, it left me wondering: how gay was Freddy’s Revenge & what does it all mean for the horror genre now?
(PSST! I talk about this & more in my podcast episode Scream, Queen! & Globikant part 2)
Here’s the summary of the documentary from Shudder's website -
Some have called it the 'gayest horror movie ever made!' But for Mark Patton, the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, it was anything, but a dream come true. Detailing the homophobia and Aids-phobia of 1985 as a closeted actor in Hollywood, Mark retraces his obstacles, missteps, and detractors on the pathway to stardom. 35 years after its initial release, Patton is hitting the road to set the record straight about the controversial sequel and the experience that halted his career before it even began.
The documentary starts off by talking about how the genre is rich with women in trauma, and how viewers weren’t ready for the male scream queen in Freddy’s Revenge: Mark Patton’s character Jesse Walsh. The theme of Freddy wanting to take over his body is loot with gay subtext which earned it the label of a gay horror movie, one that sticks today. However, the writer David Chaskin initially denied any intentional effort on his part to make the movie “gay” instead blaming Mark’s acting. This, against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s & Hollywood’s re-closeting of gay actors who could lose work for their sexuality, caused Mark to quit acting altogether and eventually vanish. I mean, they needed to hire a private investigator to find him for this documentary.
Really, it’s worth watching, a 4 out of 5. The overall tone is serious. Mark even talks about his personal life growing up in a small town, running away to New York as a teenager, breaking into Hollywood, and finding true love before a series of cataclysmic events turned everything upside down.
Dr. Andrew Scahill in the film, the Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Salisbury University, says that the monster of Freddy’s Revenge is the homosexual or queer other within that must be repressed.
As the film reached the cult status it has today, Chaskin (the writer of Freddy’s Revenge) finally admitted to him writing it as a gay horror film but the damage to Mark’s career had already been done. According to him, coming out of the closet in the 80s and the AIDS epidemic were concepts that would “add to the horror” which he admits is a little exploitative. His goal wasn’t to promote homophobia, he claims, but to point it out.
Afterwards, I was moved to re-watch Freddy’s Revenge because I wanted to know: just how gay was this movie? Because, admittedly, I never really picked up on all the supposed subtext in the past.
In the first fifteen minutes we get some bulge, Jesse’s ass in a jock strap, get a sense that there’s some sexual tension between him and Grady, and learn that the coach is gay...but all of this doesn’t spell gay movie for me as of yet.
Eye candy, emotional aptitude, screaming in the face of evil, and backing that ass up in the privacy of your room doesn’t mean a man is gay to me. Jesse’s decision to go to a gay bar in the next scene, however, does scream gay to me. The gay bar scene is the one that clearly aligns Freddy’s possession plan with the “monster as the gay within” subtext, and its where the film’s dragging pace picks up.
Then comes the shower scene and let me tell you: when the coach’s clothes are stripped away, it gagged me like it was my first time seeing it. I was like “ahhh okay, yeah. This is pretty gay.” And then the towels coming out to lash him across his bare ass, it was a lot. At this point, I’m asking myself “what the Hell is wrong with my gaydar?” When I first saw this as a kid, OK maybe. But my excuses re-watching as I grew up, I don’t know. Maybe I was blinded by the nostalgia. But, Freddy (the monster within) takes over Jesse, and he kills the coach, making it seem as if kill = gay sex act.
Anne of Green Gables jump-roping in the room chanting Freddy’s rhyme scene afterwards is creepy. For the first time, I noticed a picture of a little girl jumping rope pinned to the cabinet in the next scene, too. Pace slows, insert more problematic implications. Jesse’s kiss with Lisa is going well until the monster within rears its ugly tongue. He’s spooked off and runs to Grady (of course).
“I killed Snider,” Jesse confesses, and reveals what’s happened in his sister’s room & the cabana with Lisa. Grady responds: “...and you wanna sleep with me?” Okay, that one was blatant, right? As was Jesse’s request for Grady to “just watch” him. But hell, after the documentary and 45 minutes of this film, I’m like a bloodhound for gay subtext & my imagination is running wild.
At this point, Jesse goes completely off the rails & the entirety of the film’s bones are exposed for all to see—cue up the climax. Take that as you will.
Nancy’s journal alluding to the power of their screams feeding Freddy is a welcome return to what truly fuels Freddy. Freddy’s apparent blood-lust for Lisa is also a welcomed deviation from the kill = gay sex act thing I’ve been paranoid the entire film. It calls me back to how the film maybe felt when I first watched it. And then comes the pool scene where Freddy totally loses his shit, and I love it today as much as I did almost twenty years ago.
“You are all my children now,” Freddy snarls before the flames, the screams and fears of the Elm street children who’d forgotten him reigniting his reign of terror anew. Because remember, the only way to get rid of Freddy is for everyone to stop thinking of / remembering / being afraid of him. Freddy is a parasitic entity that lives on in our memories of him. The way he has his bola tipped is smooth though, there’s just something about Freddy.
Bloodhound nose back on, knowing that the writer said that the love of any good woman can be a sort of gay conversion destroys the now obviously problematic final showdown for me of Lisa’s kiss shattering Freddy’s hold over Jesse. It just makes it feel like Jesse didn’t really fight enough, and it’s a shady nod to what the writer saw as the focal point of Jesse’s fight. In comparison with one of my favorite finals, Sidney Prescott of Scream, what she was fighting for was clear and it’s a battle she refuses to give up on.
In the final obligatory Freddy’s dreamscape scene, it's heavily implied that Jesse and Lisa are now an item. Holy conversion therapy, Batman! Side note, I would never get on a bus again so Freddy would have to think of a different way to get me. Especially if, like Jess, I had a push-to-start car parked out front.
Overall, Freddy’s Revenge scores a 2 out of 5 for me. I’m not really a fan of all the subtext in retrospect, and it made it hard for me to see the film apart from it but I tried and this is what I get: Freddy isn’t in the film enough for me. My favorite part of the franchise is Freddy’s puns and imaginative deaths in the dreamscape; this film is so focused on the possession, that I miss a lot of that.
In fact, I like the documentary a lot more. Mark Patton’s story is real, and he teaches us great life lessons the entire time. Also, the dialogue around Freddy’s Revenge in the documentary helps caution us away from problematic messaging and towards more inclusiveness & representation in the horror genre. I think horror films have been making moves in the right direction for quite some time just for the record, but it never hurts to talk about where we came from so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.
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