A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) Review

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After the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street in November 1984, it seemed inevitable that a sequel would soon follow. The final moments of the first movie had been manufactured by the producer in an effort to allow for further instalments, and with approximately $10m made in the first two months of its theatrical run a sequel was rushed into production, making its debut exactly one year later. Freddy had yet to become a symbol of pop culture and the concept of music videos and television shows were far off into the future. With only Robert Englund returning from the previous film, it was decided that a new story with new characters would be the best course of action. This time, instead of Freddy terrorising the protagonist in his dreams he would try to possess his body, a plot point which would anger many of the hardcore fans.

freddy1A school bus heads through a quiet neighbourhood, picking up kids on its way. One of the students is Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), a shy and creepy teenager who shifts uncomfortably in his seat as he tries to open the window. The bus starts to speed up and eventually Jesse and two girls sat at the back (JoAnn Willette and Allison Barron) grow concerned. Suddenly they drive off the road and into the desert, the driver laughing maniacally as he slams his foot down on the accelerator. Eventually they come to a halt and the ground around them starts to crumble, until they are trapped on a small island with the bus rocking back and forth. The driver stands up to reveal Freddy, who drags his claws across the roof as he closes in on them. But as he pounces, Jesse suddenly wakes up in his bed screaming. ‘Why can’t Jesse wake up like everybody else?’ asks his sister (Christie Clark) to her parents (Clu Gulager, Hope Lange).

The Walsh family are new to the town and have moved into 1428 Elm Street, where five years earlier Nancy Thompson had been terrorised by the demonic Krueger and had seen all of her friends brutally slain. Now Jesse is suffering from his own nightmares, where Freddy comes to him and tries to scare him into giving up his body so that he can escape the dream world and stalk the living. Jesse’s only friend is Lisa Webber (Kim Myers), a quiet girl from the rich neighbourhood who has taken a shine to the disturbed young man. During a football game he locks horns with Ron Grady (Robert Rusler), who first comes across as a jock but when the two are forced to do push ups for fighting by their cruel coach (Marshall Bell) they soon discover that they get along. But when Grady tells him about the history of his house, Jesse confronts his father as to how they managed to purchase the home so cheap.

freddy2As he packs away his clothes Lisa discovers an old diary at the back of the wardrobe which had belonged to Nancy. Jesse immediately recalls Grady’s story, as well as his own nightmares. Lisa continues to read and eventually does some research on the story of Fred Krueger, which revealed how he had taken his young victims to the boiler room where he had worked and kill them. But Krueger’s hold over Jesse grows stronger, resulting in several brutal murders which all lead back to Jesse. Even as Lisa tries to give him a normal life by inviting him to her pool party and seducing him, the evil inside of him begins to fight back and it’s only a matter of time until one of them loses. Lisa discovers by reading the diary that it is the screams of the victims that give Freddy his power and that only by showing strength and denying him his fear can he stop him.

For various reasons, Freddy’s Revenge is the most misunderstood and despised of the franchise. Many fans felt that it broke the rules of the first film (despite the two sequels which creator Wes Craven would be involved with would break them even further) by allowing him to possess his victims instead of just killing them. A popular analysis amongst critics is that the movie is homophobic in its murder of the gay coach and that it is the love of a woman which eventually saves him. Whilst there are a few elements which seem a little camp (during the fight between Grady and Jesse the latter’s pants are pulled down to reveal his buttocks, he is caught dancing in his room to Touch Me (All Night Long) whilst performing a masturbation-style guitar strum on a tennis racket, and the major give-away, a ‘No Chicks’ sign on his bedroom door), the central theme of the movie is not homosexuality and there is no evidence to prove that the killing of the coach was sexually motivated.

freddy3But for its shortcomings, there are several elements which make Freddy’s Revenge truly effective. The combination of Englund’s sneering performance and the makeup by Kevin Yagher make Krueger a very menacing presence, whilst Yagher’s groundbreaking effects (particularly during the scene when Freddy cuts his way out of Jesse’s body) are amongst the best of the series. The cinematography (by Jacques Haitkin and Christopher Tufty) is very impressive and creepy, as is the score by Christopher Young, who would later find acclaim with Hellraiser. Perhaps the film’s most effective set piece is the opening sequence with the school bus, an image which terrorised a generation of children. Whilst Freddy’s Revenge may not be to everyone’s taste, it is certainly an improvement on the later sequels, particularly the fourth and sixth, and thankfully lacks the one-liners and constant pop culture references which would eventually kill the series.

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13 Responses to “ A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) Review ”

  1. As a lot of people seem to hate this movie the comments should be fun…

  2. I’m completely on board with you Christian. This movie has quite possibly the best effects, music and performance by Englund. I liked the direction they took this movie and it is a shame that fans were not open to change as I thought the approach in this movie was just as scary. The scene where Freddy comes out of Jesse is simply awesome!

  3. Agreed! People always bitch when a sequel just copies the first film, but then they bitch when it tries something different. I don’t think filmmakers should cater to the fans as they can never please them, they should just make them for themself and hope they find an audience.

  4. The scene where Freddy jumps through the glass doors and disappears was so cool back then. And Freddy never looks freakier than he does in the pool party scene when he turns around to face all the partiers. Alot of people can’t stand this one but the only thing I don’t like about it is the guy who played Jesse’s horrible acting. That is one of my favorite 80′s movie posters, too.

  5. The pool scene is awesome, totally agree. Freddy’s two lines – ‘Help yourself, fucker!’ and ‘You are all my children now’ – are classic.

  6. I also like how this film is relatively restrained in its deployment of Freddy, using him sparingly until exploding into Freddy action during the climax. Many of the sequels gave the franchise moneymaker much more screen time, but I feel he’s a more effective monster when kept in the shadows.

  7. It’s not homophobic, it’s homoerotic! Probably unintentionally, but believe me, it’s everywhere in the movie.

    When I first watched Part 2, I was very unenthusiastic about it. However after watching the rest of the series, I realized how terrible the other sequels were (save for 3) and just how good Part 2 was. So now I have a greater respect for this movie than I did the first time I saw it.

  8. It plays more like an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares but I still enjoy this one. The pool scene is by far one of the best in the Nightmare series.

  9. This movie has great atmosphere. Definitely deserves to stand next to the original and New Nightmare as a “scary” elm street film.

  10. Love the orginal poster art…..still hate the film.
    I remember seeing the first nightmare, loving it, and then renting the 2nd and wondering what the F happend! Yeah i was only about 10 or 11 at the time but i still hated it.
    There were some moments that still stick with me and i dont know why. The exploding bird….the school bus balancing out on top of a mountain spike…the really weird kid who freedy possesses…and the pool party. Lol!
    Disposable garbage. A sequel that was def NOT for the fans…
    and no offense but that homosexual undertone was not needed at all.

  11. I have to agree with everyone when I say that when first viewing the second film when I was young,I was indeed dissapointed with the plot,and the acting(except for englund).The make up and effects were amazing though. After re-viewing it again, a few years later, I was still saddened by it, but I came to like Freddys changes in it more so than the other sequels. He was darker and scarier. That was the one thing I liked about the new one as well

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  13. Part 2 is the first Freddy film I ever saw. While the writing stinks, the Freddy make-up by Chuck Yagher is astonishing and the best in the series; Freddy is still scary as in the first film; and the acting, particularly by Mark Patton and Lisa Myers, is among the best in the series.

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