high school movies

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

a_nightmare-on-elm-street-2_freddys-revengeA Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is the Saved by the Bell of horror: stupid, corny, crappy and inexplicably popular.

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.

A_Nightmare_on_ELM_Street_2In 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]


SOCIETY_POSTER“You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.” Of course that’s Moe from The Simpsons. In the movie Society, social relations crumble around young Billy, a teen lone-man out who noticeably doesn’t resemble his parents nor his sister and who is (unsuccessfully) trying to curry favor with the school’s rich and very popular kids.

If only it were that simple, from both a narrative and a normative perspective. You see, there’s something really amiss with Billy’s suburban Los Angeles family — really, really amiss.

Unlike the typical coming-of-age tale, it’s young Billy who is the moral center and is his center ever upended.

Blanchard, a prying schoolmate who’s been spotted hiding out in Billy’s sister’s closet, has some interesting information to pass along to him, but considering the source, Billy’s more than skeptical. Then, Blanchard presses forward and produces a smoking gun: an audio recording of some truly taboo-shattering chatter, some beyond-risque communication between Billy’s sister and parents.

Armed with the horrifying information that we won’t dare reveal, he marches into psychotherapist Dr. Cleveland’s office, but the audio recording “evidence,” appears to be harmless banter and fashion chat about an upcoming cotillion ball.

Undaunted, Billy presses forward while questioning his own sanity (a student council president hopeful, he hallucinates salacious behavior of an audience member during a candidates’ debate).

SOCIETY_MOVIEBut it’s only upon ditching his girlfriend and hooking up with sex kitten Clarissa that things really begin to sharpen into focus in this Lynchian landscape, the brainchild of Brian Yuzna, frequent Stuart Gordon collaborator.

How he went from Honey, I Really Messed up the Kids here to shrinking them later in his career is anyone’s guess.

What’ll also keep you guessing: Society’s unlikely narrative and oddball characters.

Proof that a constant undercurrent of dread is worth 1,000 pig entrails, Society is a paranoid Freudian nightmare and unfailingly original.

This is Beverly Hills 90201 by way of John Waters and the Marquis de Sade.

***3/4 (out of 5)