The Freddy’s Revenge UK quad sheet.
That difficult second album. Wes Craven signed all the rights to ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ over to New Line Cinema in order to get the film made. Riding the wave of a surprising critical and commercial hit, and with a lack of original projects, ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge’ was born.
We open on a school bus making its way through the suburbs of Springwood. Then we’re hit with one of the worst title cards in cinema history. The ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ logo is passable but the ‘FREDDY’S REVENGE’? Huge metallic block capitals consume the screen- a jarring effect indeed. Who signed off on that? We may never know.
1985’s answer to Comic Sans MS?
We find our protagonist, Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) sat awkwardly near the back of the bus. We know he’s our man – he already looks sleep deprived, greasy and is not dressed in bright colours like everyone else on the bus. Robert Englund makes his first appearance in the series (minus the Freddy make up) as the bus driver in this scene.
Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) in a game of ‘spot the awkward protagonist’
The suspect bus driver has very kindly let all of the local kids off the bus, leaving just Jesse and two girls. He then veers off into nearby desert terrain and night quickly falls. We’re slap bang in the middle of our first nightmare sequence and it’s pretty nightmarish. The bus takes on a nice demonic quality (prefiguring Dan’s demon motorbike in ‘The Dream Child’) and a wonderful fantasy element takes hold as the ground begins to give way to a mammoth hellish chasm. The school bus is ultimately left balancing precariously on two rocky spikes.
Freddy shows off some dubious parking skills in the opening scene.
Then we get our first real glimpse of Freddy. During the course of the journey, he’s replaced the bus driver and great effort has gone into making him scary. The scene is nicely lit and Freddy advances slowly, slicing through bus seats as he prepares to go in for the kill. The good news? This is one of the most imaginative scenes in film, showing a hint of the expansive dreamscapes to come in later entries in the series. The bad news? Imagination is in short supply in this film so enjoy it while it lasts.
As Freddy swipes, we cut to an extreme close up of a beef tomato being sliced for breakfast by Mrs Walsh (Hope Lange). Jesse screams himself awake, gets up very sweaty (a recurring theme in the film is aligning Freddy’s attempts to enter the real world with the increasingly sweltering temperature in the house) and takes time to adjust his cock before heading downstairs. We meet the rest of the Walsh clan – hapless dad Ken Walsh played by the wonderful Clu Gulager and little sis Angela Walsh played by Christie Clark making her big screen debut.
The Walsh family. As American as apple pie!
The Walsh family have moved into the old Thompson homestead, it’s five years since the events of the first film and the house is now looking decidedly chintzy. I didn’t really care for the Walshes. There was not a hint of dysfunction at this breakfast table. Ken Walsh calls his wife ‘mom’- that was the only odd thing I picked up on. I like to imagine there were some sort of adult baby sex games going on in their marriage. I really missed Marge Thompson. If she were here, she wouldn’t be searching the cereal box for Fu Manchu fingers, she’d be pouring vodka on that cereal like it were fresh milk. Jesse heads off to school with the strict instructions that he must have his room tidied by tonight still ringing in his ears.
Jesse heads to school with Lisa played by Kim Myers – an economical version of Meryl Streep. At school we meet Lisa’s perpetually horny friend Kerry (Sydney Walsh) who asks Lisa: “Are you getting any yet Lis?” during archery class. Kerry doesn’t have much to do in this film. We also meet one of the film’s most notorious characters during gym class: the very mean looking Coach Schneider played by the very lovely Marshall Bell. I suppose Schneider is the beginning of the gay (sub)text of the film. It is often argued that the film can be read as Freddy representing Jesse’s struggle with his sexuality and desire for his friend Ron Grady (Robert Rusler). I’m always on the fence with this one. Writer David Chaskin has since said it was intentional subtext which became text during the production of the film. Whether this is the case or not, it sadly doesn’t make it a better film. We meet the previously mentioned Grady in this scene too. During baseball practice, a fight breaks out between Grady and Jesse which starts with a gentle slap then escalates to some violent de-trousering (“Nice ass” purrs Kerry). Coach Schneider is understandably unhappy with this unruly behaviour and gets the two guys to “assume the position” which to the uninitiated means press-ups in the hot sun. During detention, Grady gives Jesse the gossip on Schneider: “He hangs around queer S&M joints downtown. He likes pretty boys like you.” According to Grady, Schneider gets his rocks off on torturing teenage boys by making them do exercise.
Jesse and Grady (Robert Rusler) assume the position.
Elm Street gets its first mention in the series when Grady and Jesse change to go home. Grady begins to fill in some superfluous backstory in a desperate attempt to form a link between the first two films. Nancy’s imprisonment and Glenn’s death are briefly mentioned.
Later that night, we enter nightmare territory again. Jesse can’t sleep. He ventures downstairs for a drink but finds someone (possibly Angela) has done that annoying thing where you know it won’t fit in the fridge but you close the door anyway and leave it for the next person to deal with. So now Jesse is faced with smashed glass and orange juice all over the kitchen floor. Before he can clean up, he spots a figure lurking outside. He decides to commit the cardinal horror film sin: to go out and investigate. In a nice back-lit shot (Jacques Haitkin shot the sequel as well as the first film) Jesse sees the basement boiler ignite as Freddy removes a familiar looking bundle from the furnace. Heading back into the house, Jesse opens the basement door and sees Freddy’s shadow moving towards the stairs. He shuts the door and calls for Mr Walsh before running slap-bang into Mr Krueger.
Jesse meets the man of his dreams.
This is our first proper look at Freddy in the film (and the entire film conspires to keep him in the shadows as much as possible) and to the hard-core Nightmare fan there are notable changes to his appearance. Freddy now has burns on his non-gloved hand, the make-up has been redesigned (the nose is more hooked, the skin darker, the cheekbones more pronounced), the sleeves of his jumper have gained stripes and he even has newly orange coloured eyes.
All the better to see you with…Freddy sports some swanky new contacts in this entry.
Kevin Yagher took over make-up duties from David Miller on Part 2 and completely redesigned the look. Some of these changes would stay with the character for the duration of the series (the burned hand, the stripes on the jumper) and some (the contact lenses) wouldn’t. Freddy tells Jesse he needs him and that they have special work to do together. In a classic Freddy moment, he peels the skin from his skull revealing his pulsing brain beneath to make a kind of visual pun. Jesse wakes up (screaming) to the consternation of Ma and Pa Walsh.
“You’ve got the body and I’ve got the brains” geddit?
We then cut to a rather redundant classroom scene. The science teacher is giving a lecture on the digestive system (complete with fart noises from Grady), Jesse nods off and awakens to find a snake wrapping itself around his neck. The music cues play like this is going to be a nightmare sequence but it transpires that Grady has released the snake as a joke. What does this scene add to the film? Nothing. Does it progress the story? Not really. Maybe it’s the blossoming of Grady and Jesse’s bromance? Even when Jesse gives him ‘the finger’, he seems to be enjoying the attention.
Hating the game but loving the player. Jesse gives Grady the finger.
At the 18:50 mark, we enter legendary territory: the dance. To the initiated, I need say no more. To the uninitiated, Jesse (forced to stay in and unpack his room rather than go to Lisa’s and swim in her huge pool) does an impromptu dance routine to “Touch Me (All Night Long)” by Wish featuring Fonda Rae. Words cannot really describe how excruciating it is, although I am tempted to download the song. Jesse shuts a draw using his arse cheeks. Jesse dons a pair of gold sunglasses. Jesse pops his cork.
A watershed moment in the Nightmare series. Jesse’s dance routine takes no prisoners.
This was a mere two years after ‘Risky Business’ (1983) and the craze for dance sequences in films was clearly showing no sign of abating throughout the decade. If you are brave enough watch it below:
Jesse is rudely interrupted by Lisa (I love Mrs Walsh entering his room doing the international symbol for ‘your music is too loud’) as she comes by to help him unpack. This is another famous ‘spot the gay stuff’ moment in the film, so for the sake of posterity we have: a ‘no chicks allowed’ sign on Jesse’s door, a can of jock-itch spray and a board game called ‘Probe’ in the wardrobe, or should I say closet?
Oscar winning stars and those embarrassing adverts they did before they were famous: Meryl Streep says ‘no’ to jockstrap irritation.
Also coming out of the closet in this scene is one dusty diary by Nancy Thompson. Or was it written by Basil Exposition? Firstly, although the downstairs layout of the house is pretty close to the first film, Jesse’s room and Nancy’s room are not the same. Secondly, the diary entries are pretty dire and just designed to get the plot moving.
That night Jesse wakes to find various soft plastic items in his room are melting. He heads down to the basement and finds Freddy’s glove. Freddy appears, urging him try it on and kill for him. Jesse trips over, wakes up but finds the glove on the floor beside him. Back at school the next day, Jesse confides in Lisa telling her he was sleepwalking. Lisa takes Nancy’s diary to study. Kerry turns up to confirm she’s attending Lisa’s pool party this weekend. Thanks, Kerry – but why are you dressed as Minnie Mouse? Does Grady remember his dreams? Only the wet ones, Jesse! After talking trash about Coach Schneider in the locker room, Grady and Jesse are back in detention following an impeccably timed: ‘Hello dirtballs’ from Marshall Bell.
Things take a turn for the worse at the Walsh house that evening. Ever wondered what would happen if the vengeful spirit of Freddy Krueger took over one of your beloved pet parakeets? That’s a right – a shit storm of non-scary feathered antics. While the Walsh family wilt in the heat, one parakeet attacks another, then turns on Ken and then explodes into a shower of unsinged feathers. Various theories, such as cheap seed and bird rabies (this was pre bird flu), are tossed around but Ken ultimately lays the blame at Jesse’s door. Kids today: always blowing up family pets for a laugh. Wes Craven famously hated the bird scene when he was offered the film and it’s easy to see why. It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense.
Help, Freddy Krueger has possessed my parakeet and it’s trying to kill my family!
Unable to sleep following the bird mania, Jesse heads downstairs and out into the seedy underbelly of Springwood. This is after lightning inexplicably strikes the dishes in the kitchen. Jesse ends up at local dive bar ‘Don’s Place’ which is full of the requisite trannies, hookers and pimps. Jesse enters soaking wet, still in his pyjamas and orders a beer from Robert Shaye (dressed in his finest fetish gear). Bob apparently lost out to the role of Grady’s father and was stuck with the bartender instead. Even with no lines he manages to fumble this role – what self-respecting bartender would leave his bottle opener behind? Before Jesse can take a sip of his Bud, Coach Schneider rocks up in his finest fetish gear! Cut to Jesse doing laps in the gym then hitting the showers. Coach Schneider doesn’t seem at all worried he’s bumped into one of his students in a gay S&M bar. One would think a sensible reaction would be to not draw attention to one’s self. Schneider takes things one step further by actually bringing Jesse back to school and making him shower and work out.
Hunky Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell) in his best ‘come hither’ attire.
It’s a scandal in the making. Luckily, Schneider gets attacked by some possessed balls (get it?) and dragged into the communal showers by some demonic skipping ropes. Strung up and stripped, he then gets his arse whipped by phantom towels. Then, who should emerge from the steam but….Freddy Krueger. But wait, is that actually Freddy Krueger? No, it’s some lumbering robot in a Freddy outfit that shockingly made the final cut of the film.
In this scene the part of ‘Freddy’ will be played by Frankenstein’s monster.
When production ramped up, New Line were still ignorant of the physical presence Robert Englund brought to the character and didn’t want to stump up for his fee. Assuming any stuntman could play him, some early scenes were shot without Englund but the difference was plain for all to see. “Freddy” slices into Schneider’s back, leaving Jesse screaming after discovering that he was wearing the glove all along. Jesse is returned home by the police after being found wandering naked on the highway. Ken assumes he’s riddled with drug addiction.
So the first death scene comes rather late into the film. Nearly halfway through and it’s yet another perplexing scenario. Was Jesse sleepwalking? Did Freddy possess him in his sleep and force him to kill Schneider? Did Schneider meet Jesse in the bar and take him back to the school? Did Jesse have the glove on him all along? Why does Freddy want to kill Schneider? Does Freddy represent Jesse’s repressed homosexual desire for Schneider? Answers on a postcard or comment below please!
Jesse heads to school (Ken still wants to send him to the dreaded meth clinic but then settles for a good kick in the butt) and finds out Schneider was ‘wasted’ the previous night. Later that evening, Jesse finds the glove in his desk drawer. He stalks the house, discovering Angela skipping and singing the jump rope song in a random bedroom filled only with toys and wicker furniture.
Another irritating aspect of this entry is the ‘kill for me’ subplot. Freddy needs Jesse; he’s using him. So Jesse is in no real danger from Freddy, meaning absolutely zero tension. As for Lisa and Grady, they’re just not integrated well enough into the plot for the audience to feel they are at any risk from Freddy for the majority of the film.
Another morning, another family breakfast at the Walsh house fraught with accusations, arguments and flaming appliances. Jesse decides to pin his dad down on the sordid history of the house and Ken cracks, admitting he knew everything but hey, got a great deal on the price. It’s news to Mother Walsh and Angela is getting upset. Then, just when things couldn’t get any more heated in this overheated hotbed of a house, the toasted ejects flames from its twin slits rather than delicious crispy bread.
Jesse makes a swift exit and Lisa takes him on a mystery tour. On the way she denounces any potential involvement Jesse might have had in Schneider’s death (“Just because you dreamt it, doesn’t mean you did it”) and directs them to a nearby abandoned power plant. Lisa has done some ‘reading up’ on ‘our friend’ Fred Krueger and reveals he kidnapped twenty children prior to his death and brought them to the power plant’s boiler room. Inside the power plant, Jesse feels no psychic connection and all they find is a rat.
We cut to one of the more inspired shots in the film: we see the boiler in the Walsh basement erupt into flames then a POV shot leads us up the stairs, around the house and into Angela’s room. We hear Freddy wake her up, but it just turns out to be Jesse who tells her to go back to sleep, but tucks her in with Freddy’s glove. Jesse hits the ‘sta-up’ pills.
After a brief interlude at school (really just to establish that Grady is grounded – Robert Rusler impressively does the entire scene with his mouth full) it’s the night of Lisa’s party. Everyone is there in their best pool party gear, Lisa’s dad is on BBQ duties (he’s ‘Mr Wonderful’ according to his apron) but Jesse is not having a good time. Lisa’s parents head off to bed and Lisa tries to talk to Jesse. Kim Myers’s performance in the film is quite sincere. You get the sense that she genuinely cares about Jesse, but her character just isn’t strong enough to reach the heights of some of the more well-loved franchise heroines. As Lisa’s parents turn their lights off, the thumping eighties pop music is turned on and everyone spontaneously jumps into the swimming pool. Meanwhile, in the cabana, Jesse and Lisa get down to it. Sadly, Jesse’s attempt to prove his heterosexuality is rudely interrupted by a phallic looking grey tongue that pops out of his mouth, ruining the moment completely.
Is that a large grey tongue in your mouth or are you just possessed by Freddy?
I’m assuming this is Freddy’s tongue, even though his tongue was never this rubbery. Is this another example of Freddy representing Jesse’s deeply repressed and resented sexuality? Perhaps – as Jesse runs away from Lisa he almost literally (thanks to the chronic editing of these two scenes) lands on top of Grady in bed. How about a few establishing shots of Jesse outside Grady’s window or even showing us how he got into his bedroom in the first place?
Jesse and Grady’s bromance heats up.
Jesse confesses to killing Schneider and tells Grady there’s something inside of him making him kill which switches to “Something is trying to get inside my body” moments later. Get your story straight, Jesse. Grady responds with the immortal line: “She’s female and waiting for you in the cabana and you want to sleep with me?” and Jesse sort of does, in a way. He wants to sleep while Grady watches over him, protecting him with his big strong jock arms. Or something like that. As Grady decides to ignore Jesse’s plea and not watch him whilst he sleeps, we come to the standout special effect. The big transformation. Freddy’s blades grow from Jesse’s finger tips, his arm flesh splits to reveal Freddy’s jumper.
Freddy breaks out of Jesse in the big transformation scene.
Freddy begins to push out of Jesse’s chest and then uses the blades to release himself, literally stepping out of Jesse like he was an old overcoat. All this while Grady has hysterics trying to open his bedroom door. Freddy certainly looks very menacing in this scene and savagely kills Grady, his blades coming through the door. Freddy is now merely Jesse’s reflection as Jesse is left covered in blood, crying over his dead potential boyfriend.
Jesse is confronted with the aftermath of Grady’s death.
Jesse unbelievably manages to escape the scene of the crime despite the amount of police activity you can hear in the background. It seems the money they spent of the transformation scene left very little money to pay for a decent slashed chest for Grady as he merely looks like he’s had a run in with a playful cat.
Jesse goes back to Lisa’s and confesses to his latest kill. Despite him being literally red-handed, Lisa seems to be in denial somewhat. Jesse rants about being ‘owned’ by Freddy and tells Lisa “He’s inside me and he wants to take me again!” It’s all getting too hot to handle, especially outside where the pool is starting to simmer, the sausages are exploding and the beer cans are popping. Lisa (letting Jesse sit on the sofa, despite the blood) explains that she has finally gotten to the end of Nancy’s diary and has discovered Freddy’s energy comes from fear, and that Jesse just needs to stop being afraid of him. Before Lisa knows it, the house has locked itself tight and Freddy is on the loose, mercilessly attacking any ornament in his path. Lisa attacks Freddy with a knife, responding to Jesse’s voice from Freddy’s lips pleading for death. Freddy then announces his love for Lisa. What?! Is Jesse still in there somewhere? Can the power of love save the day?
Lisa must choose between her love for Jesse and her duty to protect her party guests from Freddy.
Freddy jumps through the French doors, disappearing (Lisa won’t be having any more house parties) and all is calm for a few moments before he reappears and begins to attack the party going kids. Flames erupt, the pool boils violently and Robert Englund looks a little small and unthreatening next to some of the guys, no matter how many tables Freddy overturns or chairs he throws into the pool. The best kill is obviously the guy in the blue t-shirt who tries to reason with Freddy. Freddy then delivers probably the only line that made it into the pantheon of classic Krueger quotes which is the: “You are all my children now” although the group he delivers it to are a mixed bunch. Expression-wise, they range from scared to bored. Lisa’s dad tries to off Freddy with a shotgun but she stops him, sensing her Jesse under that charred surface. Freddy then wades through the Bermuda shorts and camel toes to disappear through the fence.
“You are all my children now”
Lisa heads to the power plant (why does Freddy go back to where he died? He’s back in the real world now, he can do whatever he likes) only to encounter some Rottweilers in Halloween masks guarding the place. I always start to lose my patience here – having Freddy in the waking world with dream-world powers is bad enough, but these unimpressive demon dogs make no sense at all.
Cujo they ain’t. Lisa faces two of the least scary dogs in cinema history.
Lisa makes her way through the vast power plant (whoever found this location should be shot, it’s enormous and really lacks the grimy, claustrophobic quality of the original boiler room) and begins to hallucinate ants crawling over one of her wounds from her earlier fight with Freddy. She encounters a rat which turns briefly into a demon rat before being eaten by cat which then turns into a demon cat. So far, so hand puppet.
Lisa bumps into Freddy and he corners her. She calls for Jesse and Freddy begins to bleed from his stab wounds as she declares her love. So does love conquer all and defeat Freddy? It would seem so. As Lisa prattles on about Jesse escaping and how she’s not afraid of Freddy anymore, he decides to sit down and helpfully burn to death. It’s a bit of limp little climax all told. The catwalk they’re on decides to burst into flames for no reason, Freddy’s cheek melts a bit and then he just sort of slumps over. But hurrah! Jesse emerges from Freddy’s crust and embraces Lisa.
Lisa defeats Freddy with the power of love. I think.
So to the epilogue then: Jesse emerges from his house and practically skips onto the school bus. Kerry is sat behind Jesse and Lisa. Everything is fine until Freddy’s glove bursts out of Kerry’s stomach and the school bus heads off into the scrubland.
In reflection, this is definitely my least favourite entry in the entire series. The original contained so many oddly disturbing moments. This doesn’t. I struggled to find any. The plot is all over the place and so many things were left unresolved. Going back to re-watch the film for the purposes of writing this (long overdue part two of my) retrospective, it became clear the biggest problem was abandoning Freddy’s original mission and focusing on the possession of Jesse. I think that storyline would have been more interesting if Jesse had become evil rather than fighting Freddy throughout. This would have forced Lisa’s character to take a more proactive and interesting role. The core concept of the original is also left behind: the nightmares- the idea of dying in your dream and dying for real. The nightmare sequences in Part 2 are incidental at best. The first half of the film is average family besieged by supernatural forces in their new home. The second half drops that subplot completely and shifts to the possession aspect of the film and ends just standard slasher fare.
If you’re newcomer to the film, watch it and tell yourself Freddy represents that part of Jesse that loathes and struggles with his sexuality and the feelings he’s having for Lisa and Grady. It will make the film slightly more interesting, but doesn’t cover up the underwhelming acting, plot holes or (mostly) embarrassing effects. The next entry in the series would take Freddy back to his roots whilst expanding his backstory. In the meantime, anyone for a game of Probe?
Lisa prepares to ‘probe’ Nancy’s diary.