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John’s Horror Corner: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), a sequel with a very different story to tell.

August 26, 2015

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MY CALL: This sequel maintains everything we love about Freddy while delivering a very different (however sloppily told) story. I think it’s a worthy sequel even if not comparable to the original…after all, so few sequels are. MOVIES LIKE Freddy’s Revenge: First off, you should first see the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Other classics everyone should see include Poltergeist (1982; discussed at length in our podcast episode #16) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes series (1977). For more recent horror with a similar sense of humor try Wishmaster (1997) and Hatchet (2006).

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With the original written and directed by Wes Craven (Cursed, Deadly Friend, Deadly Blessing), our new director Jack Sholder (Wishmaster 2, The Hidden) has some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, much as with Clive Barker’s step back after the first Hellraiser (1987) film, the original writer/director (Craven) contributed to the writing of this sequel. And further similar to Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Freddy’s Revenge continues where the original left off (5 years later anyway) but advanced with a unique storyline clearly separating this second installment as more than simply a rehashing of the first with a different set of victims.

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Opening as playfully as the original ended, an obvious nightmare depicts a school bus ride gone wrong accompanied by some effects that could only be described as silly by today’s standards—yet I still love them. Clearly this sequel has brought every bit of humor from the original, and then added more of its own—but we also maintained the dark and dire evil aspects. From his very introduction Freddy laughs noticeably more frequently in this film as his malicious and cruel humor cuts into our moral fiber. This notion was a trend set in part 1, but now Freddy has a new dark desire; he wants Jesse (Mark Patton) to kill for him now!

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The new kid attending the same school as part 1’s victims, Jesse learns that his family has moved into the very house in which Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) killed Freddy five years ago. The timeline offers a new student body of potential victims including classmates Lisa (Kim Myers; Hellraiser: Bloodline) and Ron (Robert Rusler; Weird Science, Sometimes They Come Back, Vamp).

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Things get more than a little weird in this sequel. At one point Jesse wanders off to an “alternative lifestyle” bar of sorts (or some metal/biker bar with some BDSM undertones) and encounters his gym coach (Marshall Bell; Total Recall), who takes him back to the school gym to run laps and shower it off. During this surreal sequence, his coach is killed. I was 100% certain this zaniness was a dream, but apparently I was wrong. On top of that, at one point a finch becomes murderous and kills its mate before attacking Jesse’s father and then exploding for no apparent reason; no one questions this as unnatural. Speaking of weird, Freddy seems to be crossing over into reality on his own accord, which seems to violate the rules we once learned about him.

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Freddy (Robert Englund; Wishmaster, Hatchet) returns as the same demonic power with the now iconic ugly red and green sweater, a single clawed glove, a face still-moistly burned beyond recognition, and a penchant for painfully raking his claws over metal objects. The main difference is that he is no longer a shadowy mysterious entity of few words. He is now a known quantity with more lines and screentime.

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What makes this sequel completely dissimilar to its predecessor is that almost everything takes place in a dream-touched reality rather than in the victims’ nightmares. Freddy uses Jesse’s unwilling body as a conduit to exact his revenge. Whereas part 1 introduced us to the terrifying notion that someone (or something) can hunt and kill us in our dreams (and we really die!), this sequel removes from us not only control of our dreams but also control of ourselves. This sequel also largely replaces “scary” with an almost “perverse awkward unease” and injects a bit more humor into the Krueger formula. For example, we briefly see twisted distortion of a cat attacking a monster rat, and there are two sort of guard dogs with evil baby faces. This does well to keep us out of our comfort zone and taunts the line between reality and Freddy’s dreamworld.

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Freddy is a twisted and pure evil. It’s intended to be sick and disturbing, and more perverse than humorous—although fans laugh at it today. We find these kinds of scenes delivered with a deliberate humor in Hatchet (2006), Wishmaster (1997) and so many more releases of the past 20-30 years…and also blatantly more deliberate in later installments of the Nightmare on Elm Street or Leprechaun franchises.

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This film isn’t “great” but I find it a worthy successor to the original and still a more-than-decent 80s horror movie; it’s good. We call backto the elements that worked before, replacing shadowy, steam-spewing boiler rooms with a creepy power plant where Freddy worked in life; instead of impressions on Nancy’s bedroom wall we find Freddy’s form emerging through Jesse’s stomach and his claws piercing through his fingertips; and rather than slicing off his own fingers he now peels away the flesh of his scalded head to reveal “I’ve got the brains!” Without going into detail, I should add that I still enjoy ALL of the practical effects in this film. Sometimes the simplicity makes it more gross, weird, off-putting, or even a bit funny—and I loved the transformation scene. But these crowd-pleasing callbacks pale in the novelty of the story, however sloppily it may be told.

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The ending is deliberately sort of silly and illogical, leaving us with the tongue-in-cheek play that Freddy wasn’t really defeated. But that was and remains a fun staple of horror—twists and surprise endings, even if stupid, that make us smile. Perhaps not comparable to the original, this remains a fun movie experience and worth the ride. It certainly made me smile.

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