And it’s a shame because the sequel offers some dynamic set pieces and the occasional kernel of what might’ve been a really good movie.
However, it’s marred by crappy performances. By contrast, A Nightmare on Elm Street, in addition to having atmosphere to spare, had dynamite leads, genre movie kingpin John Saxon, future star Johnny Depp (Glen) and the equally capable Heather Langenkamp (Nancy).
What both films have in common other than a cackling Freddy, is an in-class dream sequence and teen leads who guzzle coffee to stave off sleep. The key difference is Nancy’s dream sequence in the first film is actually dreamlike. She falls asleep during a classmate’s Shakespeare read-through and the boiler room and hallway scares are set up perfectly. And the bags under her eyes as she’s drawn to the coffee maker in the family kitchen is totally on-point.
The way these two scenes are handled in Freddy’s Revenge are forgettable, literally, as this reviewer cannot summon the powers of memory to write them up.
In the sequel, Jesse is the teen whose family has moved into the infamous Elm St residence, on the market for five years due to the horrors that happened therein. (Editors’ note: a home stager would’ve helped: “Get rid of these bars on the windows. It hurts the curb appeal!”)
Anyway, Jesse is plagued by homoerotic nightmares including being left alone on a school bus with attractive girls (OK, admittedly, they were all stranded in some kind of Dante hellscape), visiting a leather bar, seeing his bare-assed gym teacher in the shower, and being told by Freddy that “[he’s] got the body, I’ve got the brain.”
The homo eroticism extends to his waking life as well. In the film’s opener, he rolls around on the ground in short-shorts with bully Grady (he of Venetian blind abs). They become unlikely fast friends, and then a bedraggled Jesse presses Grady about whether he can spend the night at his place. Grady says something to the effect of shouldn’t you be down in the cabana banging your girlfriend rather than spending the night here with me?
There are exactly two scenes where Freddy’s Revenge really comes alive: a protruding tongue that mars a roll in the hay between Jesse and girlfriend Lisa (probably a coming out party for his sub-conscience?) and Grady’s gruesome bedroom death.
Otherwise, this is an occasionally inspired stinker that very nearly derailed the series before A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors put it back on track.
**1/2 (out of 5)
[Please listen to our podcast discussion of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2]