Last year’s A Nightmare on Elm Street was a flat out screamfest, a niftily constructed thriller that raised gooseflesh more honestly and effectively than any horror film since The Shining. Its carefully balanced mingling of dream and reality had helpless audiences unsure where the next scare was going to come from.
The sequel is here, and it’s a dorky mess. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge was rushed into production, and it shows. Nothing is thought out; everything’s predictable.
It’s safe to assume that the drop-off in quality is largely due to the absence of director Wes Craven, one of the best horror maestros in the business (Last House on the Left, Swamp Thing). Someone named Jack Sholder has taken the reins, and he botches things pretty completely.
Here’s how it goes: A family moves into the house that was inhabited by the ill-fated characters from the first movie. (They are apparently not bothered by the iron bars over the windows; Dad says, “Well, how do you think we got this place for such a reasonable price?”) The teen-age son (Mark Patton) starts having weird nightmares; the film begins with his ride on a bus that drives out into the desert and falls into the San Andreas Fault. Now, right away you can see why Part 2 isn’t going to work: In the original, you never were sure what was dream and what was reality. This opening scene is clearly an outrageous nightmare, which makes it less interesting.
The kid notes that the creepy guy in his dreams is the same ugly dude described in the diary he finds in his room, left there by the previous inhabitant. Then a lovebird bursts into flame in the living room. Then the kid gels up in the middle of the night, goes to an S&M bar and finds his gym teacher there – at which point, the nightmare guy, who goes by the name of Freddy Krueger, takes over the kid’s body and kills the gym teacher.
Sounds weird, right? There’s more: The obligatory girlfriend (Kim Myers) throws a pool party at her parents’ house, and Freddy decides to attend. This girl sticks loyally by her boyfriend, even when he shows up at the party with blood all over his shirt and steel claws on his hand. And they called it puppy love.
The party is the blow-out of all time: when young Patton mutates into Freddy, all hell breaks loose. Freddy makes frankfurters explode and cans of beer blow their tops. Obviously, this man is evil incarnate. (For future reference, the pool is the worst place to be in such a situation, because Freddy makes the water boil.)
The movie is bad news. The worst news is that ol’ Freddy (played under much makeup by Robert Englund) may be receiving the Jason treatment. Jason of course, is the inexhaustibly popular killer from the Friday the 13th movies. The ads for Freddy’s Revenge all feature the bad guy, and there is every evidence we may be seeing him in our dreams for years to come.
First published in the Herald, November 1985
The next movie Jack Sholder directed was The Hidden, a very nice little horror picture, so apologies there. I haven’t revisited the film, and never will, unless there is a lot of money involved.