Sunday, October 4, 2015

31 Days of Halloween! A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

October is a special month for my boyfriend and I. Every year that we've lived together (3 so far) we have spent the month of October watching a slew of horror films. Because that's what you do when you're dating a man whose screen name is "HMMADNESS." (That stands for Horror Movie Madness in case you didn't figure it out.  

Right before our first October as a cohabitating couple, Brandon presented me with a truly ambitious list of some 60-odd flicks.

"We won't necessarily get through all off these," he said to me. "But I'd like to try to get to as many as we can."

See, I haven't seen a whole lot of horror movies in my life, and Brandon felt pretty strongly about educating me in this arena. My eyes wide, more than a little daunted, I said:

"Sure. Of course."

That first October, I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the original Halloween. I saw many if not most of the Friday the 13th series. And I made it through House of 1000 Corpses and Devil's Rejects, somehow. We watched some old, black-and-white horror and some cheesy independent horror. No, we didn't get through the whole list. But we did make a mighty dent in it. And Brandon succeeded in laying the foundation for my horror movie education.

At the end of our first October together, I was a sincere Jason fan, and I had a better idea of the kind of horror that gives me nightmares. 

Now, a couple years later, we're approaching October a little differently. Brandon is having me take a more active role in choosing which movies to watch. This year, we thought it would be fun to focus only on what is available through Netflix. That will make it more random, and open up more independent film possibilities.

First up, I chose A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.

I have already seen some of the NOES flicks. I had taken my daughter Meredith to see the remake of the first movie in the theater when it came out. And, since Freddy is Brandon's favorite movie monster, he had already shown me the original NOES as well as the third film in the series and Freddy vs Jason. But he had avoided watching the second of the series with me, because he himself is NOT a fan of it. Like many people, he considers this film to be too much of a departure from the original story to really fit in well with the rest of the series.

So we approached this viewing as something of a lark. I looked forward to what I had heard would be a lot of unintended homosexual innuendo, and we prepared to drink whenever one of the characters made fun of Jessie and whenever someone died or we got a glimpse of Freddy's claw.

And you know what? We did laugh at what turned out to be a TON of unintentionally silly dialogue ("Are you mounting her nightly?" For real? What high school guy talks like that??). And there were moments when I was honestly confused about what the movie was trying to convey (I'm looking at you, spontaneously combusting parakeets), but all in all I really liked Freddy's Revenge.

I liked Freddy's Revenge for a very specific reason: it managed to be a fun slasher flick even while it broke every convention of slasher flicks. That's not a small feat.

Freddy's Revenge came out in 1985. At the time, Friday the 13th and Halloween dominated the horror market. They were--and still are--beloved slasher flicks that not only follow slasher flick conventions, they helped to create them.

You can say these with me because we all know them:
(1) The final girl is always the good girl (defined generally as the one who doesn't get laid on screen)
(2) Teenage debauchery is mandatory, and
(3) Teenage debauchery leads to murder and mayhem
(4) Parents? Whoever heard of parents?

I'm sure there are more. And I'm sure there are more nuanced versions of the ones I presented, But I'm not HMMADNESS.

What Freddy's Revenge does is say "FUCK YOU!" to these conventions. And it doesn't suffer cinematically for doing so.

For starters, the "Final Girl" in Freddy's Revenge is a guy, Jessie, who is possessed by Freddy Krueger and made to kill his friends and coach (and very nearly his sister). That, alone, is a bold gesture and is largely responsible for the movie's reputation for homosexual innuendo.

Jessie has a girlfriend, of course: Lisa, who is both smarter and stronger-willed than he. And since she manages to stop Freddy-working-through-Jessie from killing her it can be argue that she is ALSO the final girl. But even that would be a break from convention. What other slasher flick had two final girls?

Also, there is next to no teenage debauchery in Freddy's Revenge. Lisa throws a party in the movie, and that sets the scene for most, but not all, of the slashing. But the joke is, her parents are home, and are actually PRESENT at the party for most of it. No one gets laid, although Jessie and Lisa do some heavy petting. That, though, is interrupted when Jessie feels Freddy start to come out. The viewer knows Freddy is starting to come out because Jessie's tongue turns black and grows about six inches.

Elongated, disgusting tongues seem to be a recurring theme in NOES movies. What the hell is up with that??

Anyway, the movie ends with Freddy banished, Jessie alive but with a notable case of PTSD, and Lisa seemingly none the worse for her close encounter of the nightmare kind.

I give Freddy's Revenge a 7 out of 10.

I really did like it. It's not the work of cinematic genius that the first and third movies are, but it's a lot of fun. And I cannot overstate how brave I think it was for the writers and director to make the decision to NOT follow the genre's conventions. At the time, Jason was it. He was everything. And it would have been a lot easier for them to make Freddy a Jason copycat. Why not? Wes Craven was not a part of the team anymore, and they certainly weren't scared to make creative decisions that did NOT follow his vision (attempting to bring Freddy out of the dream world and into reality).

But they didn't. They followed their own rules and made a slasher film that was its own unique product, and, I felt, a lot of fun.

Now go read Brandon's take here.

Or watch this 30-minute fan-made film featuring Freddy taking on the Ghostbusters. (Please forgive the Jared cameo. This was made before we all knew the awful truth about him.)

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