Sequels

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]

Rambo: First Blood Part II

rambo_first_blood_part_iiHe’s the “chosen one.” There’s no Obi-Wan to be found, but who needs him, when you’ve got Stallone?

Rambo: First Blood Part II, is the prototype for all special forces-type commando movies. After the subtle understatement of First Blood, there is moon-bat action aplenty in the sequel, with Rambo sweating his way through two head bands, and baddies who wear the wrong color camo in the jungle.

John J. Rambo (JJR) is working on a chain gang, when he’s approached by Colonel Trautman for a covert recon mission to rescue POWs who are still being held captive in ‘Nam.

And naturally, it’s a suicide mission. And of course, there’s a timeline attached to it, part of what management/business types would call a critical path — where he’s supposed to be when, what weapons he’ll use, what he’ll encounter there, etc. It’s a cheap and cheerful way for screenwriters to ratchet up the tension.

In Rambo: First Blood Part II, he’s got 36 hours, and to prove how awesome a specimen JJR is, he doesn’t eat or take a dump for the whole duration.

Of course his prowess is questioned by disbelieving military folks, who have access to the latest and greatest weaponry and a wall of giant 80s computers. But Rambo says (rightly) that “the mind is the best weapon.”

Still, you can’t have an 80s action movie without a spectacular arming / weaponry montage, and while the mind may be the best weapon, a machine gun is really what’s top-drawer when it comes to blasting khaki-clad extras off rickety wooden boats in muddy rivers.

And because it was the 80s, Russians, not just the Viet Cong, made for fantastic bad guys (they still do, decades hence). They make all kinds of macho patter when they could’ve easily cut Rambo’s throat rather than subjecting him to a mud bath of leeches.

rambo-first-blood-part-iiRe-watching Rambo: First Blood Part II, one is staggered by the hack chutzpah of Bruno Mattei, whose cornball 1987 hit, Strike Commando, is a note-for-note walk-through of this movie, complete with a scene where Mike Ransom has to make a radio address under duress and cradles a dying boy, much like JJR does Co-Bao (the Razzie-nominated Julia Nickson).

Luckily, George P. Cosmatos and not Mattei, is behind the camera for Rambo, he of the exemplary Tombstone, and the enjoyably asinine Leviathan. And under his tight direction, we get something pretty glorious.

And while we love Reb Brown, he is clearly no match for the steely mullet of prime-beef Stallone.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT OUR FIRST BLOOD PODCAST!]