A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 sees Jesse and his family moving into a new home on Elm Street. While settling in, Jesse learns that Nancy Thompson previously occupied his new home. When Jesse finds Nancy’s old diary, he learns that a man named Fred Krueger stalks the dreams of the Elm Street children and that if he kills you in your dreams you are dead for real.
This installment marks Wes Craven’s departure from the franchise. Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark 1982) took the reins on A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and David Chaskin (I, Madman) penned the (homoerotic) screenplay. The duo was clearly not on the same page and while that is evident when watching the film, it’s part of what makes this a bizarre but ultimately enjoyable ride.
Chaskin’s screenplay disregards almost everything about Wes Craven’s original film. He blurs the lines of when Freddy can get to the children of Elm Street. Fred starts out in Jesse’s dreams and then begins to take over Jesse’s body and makes him do his dirty work. How Fred is actually able to do that is a bit unclear. However, that creates lends a surreal and dreamlike quality that is appropriate when stopping to consider this is a film about nightmares.
If this entry is taken as a standalone effort, it’s quite enjoyable. But it is definitely the black sheep of the Nightmare Franchise. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is like the Halloween III of the Nightmare franchise, in that it was universally panned when it came out for deviating from the series’ roots. But like Halloween III, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has developed a cult following consisting of fans that appreciate the film for what it is. I would argue that Halloween III is the superior film but both received similar criticisms upon release and both have come to be appreciated (with good reason) over time.
Related: How Freddy’s Revenge Became an Iconic Gay Horror Film After All These Years
A lot of fans hold A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 up as the worst in the series but I think that title is well earned by Freddy’s Dead. Nightmare II manages to offer up some legitimate scares and maintain a dark and creepy tone that was abandoned altogether with Freddy’s Dead. Not to mention, Freddy’s Dead is campy, poorly written, and has no scares to speak of.
As for the performances, most of them are pretty hammy. Mark Patton is highly dramatic in most of his scenes and the rest of the cast also tends to lean toward the melodramatic end of the spectrum. But, it’s those cheesy performances (and the ample homoerotic subtext) that have helped the film achieve cult status.
Even though the script is all over the place at times and the acting is questionable, the effects in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 are fairly cutting edge. The scenes where Jesse transforms into Freddy are well executed and the sequence where Freddy escapes from Jesse’s body is particularly well done. The production didn’t spare any stage blood, either. The red-tinted corn syrup flies like crazy. While the effects in this sequel certainly don’t top the original, they are some of the most ambitious in the series.
Now to address the elephant in the room: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is indisputably the most homoerotic entry in the Nightmare franchise. There is a lot of inside humor going on that not everyone was aware of. Director Jack Sholder had no idea of the film’s homoerotic overtones until after the film was already in the can. But, David Chaskin penned the screenplay with the underlying idea that Jesse was struggling with his sexuality and his battle with Fred Krueger is likely a metaphor depicting that internal conflict.
Further supporting the assertion that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has ample gay overtones: Jesse has a gender ambiguous name, runs away from his girlfriend when she attempts to initiate sex, and runs into his gym teacher at a gay S&M bar. The scene where the gym teacher is stripped naked and whipped with towels actually makes the leap from gay undertones to gay overtones. Also, there is no female nudity in the film but there are plenty of shots of naked men.
If you have somehow gotten through life without watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, you need to check it out and make up your own mind. You may be surprised to learn that it actually is far from the worst film in the series. It’s definitely the most bizarre but its numerous quirks help make up for some of the films missteps. If you don’t have the Nightmare collection on Blu-ray, you should consider picking it up. It features the best transfers available of each film and is decked out with special features.