I don't know how I can stress this enough. This is a series of movies that has a bunch of kids ripped apart by a guy with knife hands. He has knife hands. Knives are a terrible way to die. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Jack Sholder
And back to the grind. Since I tend to deviate from what my focus should be in my first paragraph, I suppose I should give you a little background on my history with this movie. This was the movie I had walked in on when I was a little kid. I'm sure I didn't walk into a movie theater as a two year old (You now know how old I am), but I do remember being eight or nine and walking into a basement and our family friends watching this movie. I walked into the movie when the bird exploded. That's a scene. A bird exploded in midair and I was destroyed. Luckily for my well-being, this is one of the more tame moments in the movie and I eventually got over this fear. For years, I was terrified to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 because I thought it had to be the scariest movie ever. Eventually, I tried looking like a boss that could handle horror movies and I sat down to show how cool I was. This movie is dumb. In that moment, I realized I was scared of a really dumb movie. Now that I have a more than passing understanding of popular culture, I came to realize that most people hate A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2. I knew I hated it from the second time I watched it. But I'm obsessed with researching the topic I'm going to be talking about, so I watched it again. And as a common theme to this blog, I have to say...
...I didn't hate it this time.
The movie is bad. It never stopped being dumb. I'm going to gripe about this movie to no end in this entry, but I do want people to know that my brain was shut off enough to kind of enjoy it. The thing that works about it is that it really tries capturing the tone of the first film. I'm not saying that the movie takes itself overly seriously, but it isn't going for full on camp yet. This is still the boogeyman version of Freddy. The basic motif of "Don't fall asleep" is still intact, if not heavily cracking. (I'll get to that in a second.) The story is dumber than anything else and I'm not sure if you can watch this without bringing up some interesting film theory, but the rudimentary things that made Freddy kind of work in the first film are still here. Freddy is still on his quest to revenge himself on the Elm Street parents. (Also, question because I'm in Part 4: Is the name of the town "Springwood"?) The scares aren't gimmicky and I like that. Freddy might tell a joke here and there, but those moments are definitely afterthoughts. I know nothing else of Jack Sholder's work, but I get the vibe that he definitely wants to make a movie worthy to be a sequel to Wes Craven's original film. The movie looks more like Craven's original than the sequels do. Somehow, this makes the movie more watchable than many people give it credit for. Yeah, I know I preach about the value of making something original and risky. But with a crap script like this movie has, perhaps the best I can hope for is the fact that it kind of looks like the first movie in a few ways.
But the rest is where the movie really collapses in on itself. The OG Nightmare on Elm Street was made in 1984. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 came out the next year. The worst of sequels give the turn around time as two years. New Line Cinema had to be trying to capitalize on Freddy fever. I wish I could say that it didn't work, but there are a lot of the movies in this franchise. (Oh golly, I just realized that if there wasn't A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, there would probably be no Lord of the Rings trilogy. Butterfly Effect, right? Actually, I don't think that New Line did that one.) The movie's biggest problem isn't its premise, which I weirdly like. The problem with the movie is that it doesn't follow its own rules. The rest of the franchise kind of has this problem as well. The loose version of the plot follows a weakened Freddy Krueger trying to resurrect himself. He has lost the ability to jump into people's dreams, so he can only control one kid, Jesse Walsh. Jesse has moved into Nancy's old house and Freddy's enchanted knife glove is in his basement. When Jesse, in a dream induced daze, puts on the glove, he slowly becomes possessed by Krueger. I can live with this premise. Jesse becomes the only one who can't fall asleep in this version of the story, which is fine. I actually applaud a franchise that chooses to go smaller with its sequels, but that doesn't work out with making a gory, bloodsoaked ending. Instead, Freddy, who I remind you has lost the ability to take over dreams for the most part, can now influence the real world. I consider that a pretty major upgrade to just throw into the story. Things just start catching fire and the real world becomes like his dreamscape. There's no explanation for any of this. Freddy still seems pretty weak without Jesse, but he's just able to set fire to stuff. Also, I don't know if the fire motif works as well as the franchise thinks it does. Freddy was set on fire, I get it. But melting stuff doesn't have the same effect as the filmmakers think it does. Also, there's a cool tease that people will be boiled alive, and that doesn't happen. (Am I a sadist that I wrote that sentence?)
The character stuff is absolutely bananas in this movie. Jesse is all over the place and just epitomizing the '80s anytime he gets the chance. There's a truly weird section where he has been asked to unpack his room and he does this odd dance number with glasses until he's interrupted by his girlfriend. I don't know if anyone knew what to do with Jesse because his relationships with anyone are just a hot mess. (Again, this is where the film theory comes in. I choose not to spell it out.) He has the weirdest chemistry with his girlfriend. He becomes best friends with the guy he fought without pants (and there it is again). His dad hates him but seems kind of like a homebody. I choose not to analyze his coach. This might be where the sequels kind of got their gift for stock characters. Every person in this movie is a two dimensional character, which is ironic because it might be a very introspective movie if given a chance. After all, Jesse is fighting against a part of himself that he is trying to bury. In this case, it's Freddy Krueger so it's a bit on the nose, but think about the metaphor alone. Had Jesse been this well developed character, this movie might have been (God forbid!) kind of deep. Instead, there is no real way to tell what Jesse's motivations are except for wondering what is going on with him. Jesse, in some ways, becomes the precursor for the "special teen" that the rest of the franchise has. Say what you will about Heather Langenkamp's Nancy, she was just a regular girl who figured out how to beat Freddy before her time came. Jesse is this chosen one and can be the only one to defeat Freddy. This also can be said for Kristen in Part 3 and Alice in Parts 4 and 5. I guess Heather Langenkamp is also chosen for New Nightmare. There's something very bizarre about the warrior against Freddy. I don't like that these characters are special. I'm now realizing that every horror franchise eventually becomes this. SPOILERS FOR OTHER FRANCHISES: Sydney Prescott is related to the killer each time. Laurie Strode is Michael's sister. Jason has to fight Corey Feldman. Why can't the person just be one of us? I like when the protagonist is an avatar for me.
There's a lot of stupidity in this one. Jesse's girlfriend doesn't really make a lick of sense. I think I like the Ripley protagonist better than a character like Jesse. Having such a weak girlfriend character after having Nancy is a bit of a disappointment. But Lisa (who looks like a young Meryl Streep) does have one of the best moments in the movie. I don't know why this horror trope is always so effective with me, but I love when someone puts a human face on a dog. It is always really cool looking. If you Google image search this movie, you'll find it among your first options. I clearly am not the only one who liked this effect. But that also introduces one of my least favorite elements of the Nightmare series: the boilers. Boilers are always in B movies because they look creepy in themselves. I guess I have to take them over the boring abandoned Elm Street house, but boilers always make the movie look cheap. It looks like it was made in someone's basement and I can't dig that. "But it ties into his mythology." Yeah, I don't love the Freddy mythology either. I like the parents' perspective. Why can't we dig more into that problem? It's because the parents are the worst stock characters ever. I'm watching Part 5 right now and that might have the worst examples of stock characters yet. I'll talk about that then.
I might genuinely believe that the movies go in order of quality. I know people will dog Freddy's Revenge especially in light that they love Dream Warriors, but outside of real script problems, the movie is okay. It looks and feels more like the first one, which I like a lot. A non-jokey Freddy will win me over every time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.