The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #5:
The Ecstasy of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985)
When I was fourteen, I was brutally mauled by an intruder armed with a chainsaw who broke into my parent’s home. It was a senseless, premeditated attack. I could see the tip of the chain burrowing its way through the front door with the hefty crazed lunatic who was holding it making his way in shortly after. I was alone and my life was in great danger.
At fourteen years of age and with a year of watching horror movies under my belt, my mind had a propensity to take the most mundane aspect of daily life and let it spiral out of control ’til it hit the point of the ridiculous. What actually happened was a tree surgeon had an appointment to lop some overhanging branches in the garden, and being a meek and fearful teenager left home alone I decided not to open the door and wait until the visitor left – he didn’t leave though, and instead went about his business. Obviously when I heard the chainsaw crank up outside my brain went into overdrive, and that’s pretty much what went through my anxious little mind.
THIS WAS ALL FREDDY’S FAULT.
As a teenager with siblings who had flown the nest, my summer holidays consisted of repeat VHS viewings of eighties and nineties horror movies. The store next to my Dad’s had the seemingly ironic but actually factual name of ‘Video Butcher’. He wasn’t a rogue Mary Whitehouse agent who spliced the unsavoury bits from our beloved movies, he just sold meat… And rented films. All the tapes smelled of dried pork. I had no choice in what my Dad rented for me as he’d go in and ask for a couple of films to keep me out of trouble, and this old butcher would blindly grab whatever was nearby, regardless of certification.
Mainly these ‘video parcels’ would just consist of early nineties mediocrity like Filofax, Haunted Honeymoon and Ski Patrol (not that I kept a list or anything *coughs*), but then came my first horror movie: A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I didn’t really know what to expect as the concept of horror movies to me was pretty alien, but the very first scene in the movie pinned me back on the sofa and will always remain quite possibly my most vivid horror experience.
The film opens with the epitome of innocence; the all-American yellow school bus travelling through a sunny suburb with a handful of high-schoolers on board. The bus speeds up though and immediately the young passengers begin to realise something might be wrong. Instead of staying on the road we see the bus veer off onto a patch of wasteland, but it keeps going; faster and faster. The kids on board begin to panic and we get a shot of the driver changing gear; an arm with a bedraggled red and green sleeve leading down to the hand, but instead of five fleshy digits controlling the stick we see a brown glove with five blades over the fingers. We’re only minutes into the movie and I get my first glimpse of Freddy Krueger. I was horrified. Who was this guy? What happened to his hand? Despite my reluctance to carry on watching I felt compelled to do just that. It was like a drug, and it had me hypnotized.
That scene of course goes on for a few minutes and sees the bus continue to gather momentum before crashing to a sudden halt. Outside it’s dusk, and while the teenagers look on in fear from the confines of the bus windows, the dusty and barren landscape begins to erode away before their eyes until it gets to the point where the bus is held aloft by two sole stacks of rock. Lightning flashes occupy the horizon, and still the adolescent collective inside continue to bang the windows as they grow further and further into a frenzied state of panic. It’s been ninety seconds since that first glimpse of the bus driver, but now we see him in his full glory as he stands from his seat cloaked in shadow. The occupants rush to the back of the bus, knocking it off balance which leads to one of the two stacks falling from underneath. Meanwhile Krueger slowly makes his way towards them, the knives in his glove purposely ripping each seat that he passes. He moves his hand above his head and he runs the blades against the roof, eliciting a scraping noise that makes fingernails down a chalkboard sound like candy floss against glass. Then… CUT!
After that scene was over I was a breathless and sweaty fourteen year old wreck. What had I just seen? I didn’t know in all honesty, but in a solo display of bravado I pushed on with the rest of the movie and I got to think that instead of being really scary, this Freddy guy was actually pretty cool. The end credits rolled, I got the remote and rewound it all the way back to the beginning to watch it again. I’d been on an insane rollercoaster, and goddammit I wanted to go again. Needless to say in the weeks that followed I managed to send lists in to the ‘Video Butcher’ based on the trailers that I’d seen, and that summer the other Elm Street sequels were devoured, along with Halloween IV, House III, Creepshow II and Stephen King’s IT. Horror took over my life, and A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 started it all.
A bizarre postscript to my love for Elm Street 2 followed years later. In my current video store day job I got into a conversation with a customer about horror movies which progressed into asking each other about our first horror experiences and what films started us off. I of course cranked out the above Elm Street 2 story to which he replied “Isn’t that the gay one?”. This reputation for the movie was new to me, and I must admit I found it fairly baffling. That said I hadn’t seen the film in a number of years, so after my customer gave me a few pointers I rented it out that evening and checked it over. To quote a brilliant piece from campblood.org “Fuck David DeCoteau and his shirtless sissyboy schlockfests, Freddy’s Revenge is the gayest horror film ever made!”.
Check it out; from Jesse’s thrusting solo dance montage complete with a phallic device, a board game called ‘probe’ in his ‘closet’, bare-assed wrestling on the school field, Jesse’s visit to a gay bar called Don’s Place, and his high school coach being towel whipped on his naked derriere while Jesse looks on. It is totally insane. Added to that is the fact that screenwriter David Chaskin eventually admitted to including several homo-erotic subtexts, whilst director Jack Sholder remained (somehow) blissfully ignorant.
Does this crazy camp afterlife of Elm Street 2 somehow diminish the way I feel about the movie? No way! When I watch it today I STILL get chills from that initial three minute opening sequence, and I still think back to the way horror films used to make me feel before cynicism and rational thinking came to the fore. I still look back to being a scared teenager with a dreamy longing of innocence, when this genre could make my mind think irrational things – like a guy bursting into my home with a chainsaw. Sometimes adulthood sucks, but then sometimes adulthood brings a new dimension to stuff. I can retain that teenage terror whilst being able to simultaneously chortle when Jesse says “There’s a man who’s trying to get inside me”. Best of both worlds I reckon, and that is why A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is my ECSTASY!
Read the previous Ecstasy & Agony features by clicking on them here: