As I’ve grown older, my enjoyment of eighties horror sequels has waned. I have become an old fart, now understanding why so many adults had little use for these movies. Most are slapdash, mounted with little care and drive, all designed to be cash cows. There is nothing inherently wrong with sequels, but some have a passionless quality to them. They continued to bring in audiences to the point that producers could have saved some advertising money and simply put the title under a giant middle finger. People would have still plunked down their cash and the advertisements would have at least been honest in their disdain for moviegoers. The cult following for Friday the 13th is massive and puzzling. Apart from two entries that were mounted by directors with personality (The Final Chapter and Jason Lives), the rest were dopey exercises. Yet, the cult has a reverence for them that is almost on par with Star Wars fans. For a series of movies that have the intellect of lint, it sure has the eternal love of a sea of male fans. (Let’s be honest: it’s mostly men.)
|"Yeah, I know. It's the same shit as last time. Just pony up your $9.50."|
There is a peculiar hatred from horror fans for some of the Nightmare sequels, namely Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Part 5: The Dream Child. They will jump through hoops to defend Friday the 13th Part 3 because it was in 3-D, but kick Freddy’s Revenge in the teeth for deviating away from a formula that had yet to exist during its 1985 release. Also, the main character is gay.
For a group of people bound together by feelings of exclusion, fanboys sure can be a dogmatic bunch. Geeks have been portrayed for years as sensitive, smart, open types who can impress others if given a chance. There is a purity to them, a wisdom that comes from being marginalized. They see the social barriers as the flimsy cages they are. Inevitably, the girl they’ve always had their eye on will finally accept them or the jocks/preps/random bullies will get their just desserts in the last reel.
What you never see are the truly bitter, creepy isolationists that make up a large chunk of the fanboy community. I’ve had the displeasure of working with a fair number of geeks who have made my skin crawl. The shit that comes out their mouths would make even Rush Limbaugh blush. The racist, homophobic, and misogynistic utterings are par for the course with these people, but, to some extent, one shouldn’t be surprised. What do you expect from a group that regularly applauds the puerile horseshit Frank Miller has been releasing for nearly thirty years? These are people who have been nursing a bitterness and hatred since they were small. Things in their childhood didn’t work the way the wanted and they found themselves in the Lame-o portion of the social Venn diagram. Now, as teenagers and adults, they turn their outsider status into a weapon, dispensing the same poison judgments they bemoaned bullies for using against them. Their knowledge of useless minutiae is trotted out as proof that they are somehow smarter for knowing the Baggins family tree. Roger Ebert once sounded off on Star Wars geeks, lamenting that the fun and joy is gone with people, replaced with an unhealthy obsession on needless tidbits.
I once worked at a movie theater with a weird kid named Aaron. Aaron was the clichéd nerd: dressed all in black, loved angst-filled bands like Linkin Park, devoured comics and RPGs, had graduated high school and never kissed a woman, turned this lack of female contact into an example of why women were whores and he was better off without them, and so on. He mentioned the Nightmare movies and a conversation started. When Freddy’s Revenge was brought up, he appeared to shudder and said, “I don’t watch that one.” When pressed why, he responded, “It’s faggoty. If Freddy killed the fag, I’d watch it.” I started laughing, thinking it was a joke, but, alas, no. He was as serious as a heart attack. The other dozens of geeks I’ve worked with over the years were spiritual brothers to Aaron.
|If ever there were a group who deserved to be sterilized...|
It’s the queer element that makes the film so damned enjoyable to me. It follows none of the rules of the other films, but it is a good, solid, disturbing movie that would have been better received had it not come under the Nightmare on Elm Street banner. There is an oppressive quality to the film, a kind of darkness that weighs down on the viewer. The main character, an effeminate kid named Jesse, never gets a break from scene one. His father doesn’t understand him, his mother is helpless, his sister is an anomaly, kids at school fuck with him, his gym teacher is giving him the crook eye, and he can’t decide whether he wants to fuck his friend, Lisa, or the lean, sweet man-meat that is Grady, his jock rival/ potential master. To top it all off, Jesse’s family just moved into the same house where Freddy terrorized Nancy in the first film. The burnt pedophile lurks around the house, cornering Jesse and persistently bugging the boy to kill for him. Why Freddy, an otherworldly entity, wants to get back into the real world through a sexually confused teenager is never explained, but it doesn’t matter. You either buy the premise or you don’t.
By having a male take on the typically female lead, Freddy’s Revenge develops an identity all its own. Since Jesse neither acts like a woman or macho badass, the stakes feel dramatically higher. It is nearly impossible to know where this movie is heading upon first viewing. The usual assortment of smart-ass teens is kept to just two (Grady and Lisa’s friend, Kerry) and the film plays mostly from Jesse’s point of view. We know the Final Girl routine won’t happen simply because Jesse isn’t female; we also know he won’t be the hero either. Grady fulfills the physical traits of the heroic lead, but is subverted by making him the object of Jesse’s desire. Instead, we watch with mounting dread as the world around Jesse melts, literally in some scenes.
|So close, yet so far.|
This sequence makes Jesse’s sexual uncertainty greyer than most movies allow. He isn’t the flaming cliché that is regularly shown in popular entertainment; no Broadway tunes or leather or glitter. Jesse is just a regular kid trying to come to terms with something that was viewed with disgust just a few decades ago. By killing Schneider, he is also killing the temptation to follow the closeted, self-loathing path so many homosexuals live out. He doesn’t quite know what he wants in life, but he knows it isn’t that.
Best friend Lisa is a sweet, Meryl Streep lookalike who doesn’t so much arouse thoughts of eroticism as brunch and retail therapy. There is no sexual spark between them. Toward the end of film, Lisa and Jesse attempt to fuck in her cabana. Jesse runs his tongue up and down her chest while gripping her tits. Krueger makes an appearance, his long, slimy, black tongue protruding from Jesse’s mouth and slithering along Lisa. In a normal drama, this would be the part where Jesse can’t get his dick up and leaves in embarrassment. Lisa would think it was because he didn’t find her attractive. Through special effects the filmmakers disguised the scene and played it before a teen audience all across the malls of America.
This is immediately followed by a scene in which a terrified Jesse sneaks in Grady’s room and asks him for help. “Something is trying to get inside my body,” a desperate Jesse announces. Grady retorts, “Yeah, she’s female and waiting for you in the cabana and you wanna sleep with me.” Both men are half-dressed through the scene: Jesse keeps his shirt unbuttoned and Grady wears only black briefs. He asks the jock to watch him sleep and stop him if he starts to do anything weird. Obviously, Grady doesn’t listen. What follows is still a horrifying and revolting scene. Freddy literally cuts his way out of Jesse’s body before slicing Grady’s chest with such force the madman’s claws go through the bedroom door. The transformation is grotesque, with Jesse’s flesh flaying to reveal Krueger’s sweater-covered arm, an eye opening in the back of the boy’s throat, and Freddy’s face pushing itself out of his chest. Jesse’s inability to confront his homosexuality leads him to kill Grady in confusion.
This would be the last time Krueger would be a disgusting, shadowy figure. The sequels that followed put him in brighter and brighter light. Here he is still the bogeyman, albeit with a few more lines than last film. The make-up job was designed to make him look like a “male witch.” The cheek bones protrude and create deep sockets for his eyes. The burnt skin is always slimy, reflecting the light off his bald palate. He’s a mean sonnavabitch too. The often derided pool party sequence doesn’t make sense in the context of the rest of the films, but is actually an intense scene that most horror films don’t come close to. After transforming at Lisa’s house, Krueger attacks her party guests. It is shockingly violent even by today’s standards. Faces are slashed open; geysers of gore spurt out; a boy gets his gut stabbed and blood pools across his shirt; the kids who try to escape are burnt to death when the shrubs go up in flames; one unlucky soul is stepped on as his friends try to climb a fence, breaking the kid’s neck in the process; people are boiled alive in the pool or electrified by the fence. It all culminates in Krueger delivering one of the series signature lines. Backlit by a roaring flame, Freddy extends his arms and growls, “You are all my children now.” It gave me chills as a nine year old and manages to chill today.
The ending doesn’t exactly save Jesse. After Lisa’s “love” for the boy overwhelms Krueger, he begins to melt and Jesse breaks out of the shell. A few days later, Jesse boards the school bus, the sun shining brightly as he kisses Lisa. It appears that whatever homosexual tendencies he had have since subsided and allowed them to become a couple. This is short lived as Freddy’s hand bursts out of Kerry’s chest and the bus drives off into the desert with Kruger cackling madly. The only suggestion of this ending is that Jesse still has yet to embrace his gayness. If Freddy is the doubt and fear of his sexuality, then his appearance at the end only confirms that Lisa and Jesse’s relationship is a fraud.
I dig this movie and make no apologies. In the cavalcade of ‘meh’ that was eighties horror sequels, Freddy’s Revenge is a bold, gruesome shocker that certainly deserves a better reputation than it retains. However, as I remarked in my Rawhead Rex review, the horror crowd has a large pool that just continuously wants the same thing over and over and over. That’s why so many eighties slasher knockoffs appeared in the 00’s. It’s an easily duplicated formula that prevents the idiotic in the audience from having to try anything different, even if that difference is only felt a tiny bit. Fanboy strictness renders their entertainment as half-assed and unimaginative as they are. If, for some reason, you stumbled on this review and haven’t seen Freddy’s Revenge, give it a shot. Even if you think it blows you can at least give it extra credit for trying. How many Friday the 13ths can you say that about?