Monday, July 18, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

Score Technician: Sean McConnell

The Internet has long argued that A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is the gayest horror movie ever made, which is why Nightmare 2 has been on our bucket list for quite some time. But, rather than letting the Internet tell us what to think, we decided to run Jack Sholder's cult classic through the nanobots to get their thoughts. So, without further ado, we're just going to plop the movie into the machine like this and see what happens...

(click-ity, clacking)

(Some science-y sounds from the machines. A flashing yellow light.)

Whoops! This is interesting...

Apparently the nanobots have issued a Denotation Paradox Trigger Warning for this movie. Look it's all very technical and, quite honestly, buried so deep in the user manual that we still haven't processed what exactly all those settings mean, but the gist of it is that Nightmare 2 has inverted the subtext paradigm present in most films, which is a fancy way of saying that basically this film is so loaded with subtext that the subtext collapses in on itself--think "subtext event horizon"--until interpretative meaning is reformed within the machine into a Denotation Paradox Trigger, which is a complicated computer engineering way of saying that all subtext in a film is so abundant and close to the surface that it's become the actual text itself. So, for the purposes of scoring, none of the scores can be calculated based on the era of the film in comparison to the current progressive era. There is only the score. In short, this film's era is now. Again, it's all very technical.

Let's just get to the scores, shall we?
  • Our calculations show that the Denotation Paradox Trigger was first triggered by the tagline in the movie poster. = +5pts (Man of our dreams, indeed...)
  • Showing up to school in a yellow school bus that looks more like a decommissioned prison transport vehicle with a fresh coat of paint. = +3pts
  • Robert England pulling an Alfred Hitchcock in the opening scene as the unassuming bus driver. = +5pts
  • Nothing said high school in the '80s quite like a group of late 20-somethings with bad hair talking about "parties" and "gym class." = +2pts
  • Living at the last stop on the school bus line, the eternal sign of high school loserdom. = -3pts
  • You know your protagonist is dealing with a lot of internal shit, when the idea of being alone on a bus with two blonde girls causes him to clutch his stomach in nausea and reach for the window for some fresh air. = +5pts
  • We don’t want to say that Mad Max: Fury Road was inspired by the opening sequence of this movie, but we can say that it made the nanobots think about it. = +3pts
  • Imperator Freddieosa.= +6pts
  • Teens, no doubt having been raised on Richard Donner’s Superman, appropriately panic when presented with fault lines opening in the earth. = +2pts
  • Freddy scrapping his nails on anything. = +4pts
  • Nothing says, “I’m still figuring out myself as a man,” quite like using two blonde girls as body shields. = -2pts
  • Having this reaction to your son's morning bloodcurdling scream. = -2pts
"To think, back in my day we just bit down on a wooden spoon while finishing into a sock. Kids today."
  • Push button ignition?! In 1985?! = +3pts (And people thought Back to the Future II was the 80s movie that most accurately depicted the future.)
  • Using a dirty white t-shirt to replace your shitty car upholstery. = +1pt
  • Jessie's voyage of self-discovery hits its first roadblock as his beard's best friend rolls her eyes at the fact that her friend still can’t seem to “get any” from our male lead. = -2pts
  • Getting hit in the head with a softball because you’re too focused on the the batter’s short red shorts...piercing blue eyes…and sweaty (but gorgeously maintained) mullet moving ever so slightly in the breeze. = +3pts (Wooden spoons for everybody!)
  • A friendly rundown devolves into a pantsing and a wrestling scene so epic, Sons and Lovers scholars can only fan themselves in awe. = +5pts
 "I'm telling you, dude, this is how you play softball..."

 "They wanted genuine intimacy, but they could not get even normally near to anyone, because they scorned to take the first steps, they scorned the triviality which forms common human intercourse." - D.H. Lawrence
  • You know your emerging sexuality is hitting a few snags when your crush object calls your coach a sadistic asshole because he likes to hang-out at the “queer S&M joints downtown.” That or he takes his life lessons from The Police Academy. = -8pts (Because both are terrible ideas.)
  • Nothing screams, “I like vagina,” quite like getting defensive at the question of whether or not you are putting your peen into a willing one.= -2pts
  • Sleeping in pajamas that look like nursing scrubs. = -1pts
  • Going into the basement to check on the mysterious man who seems to be fishing garbage/evidence out of your incinerator.= -2pts
  • When you're this closeted in the '80s, this is how you might have found yourself reacting to a touchy-feely stranger you found in your basement. = +5pts
"I know this is wrong. But, why does it feel so...right."
  • Trading in your looks of longing for a scream only after the stranger in your basement compliments your body, talks about how much he wants it, right before peeling back his scalp to expose his rotting brain, thus encapsulating how tough it is to be single on Elm St. in 1985. = -3pts
  • Making fart sounds when your science teacher says the word colon. = +5pts
  • Taking a real python out of the class zoo (you had one of those too, right?) and wrapping it around a sleeping student's neck, all without interrupting the teacher's lecture or being seen by classmates. = +4pts (What are you, bullies? Spawns of Copperfield?)
  • Nano-notation: You will never convince us that Meryl Streep was not in this movie.
"Hello. Creative Arts, receptionist? It's Meryl. Tell them I've gone deep method again. Send a car. Quickly."
  • Jessie calling his beard to hang out and then giving in way too easily to his father’s insistence on returning to his room to unpack. But unpack what exactly? His life? The complicated and dimly lit corridors of his budding sexual awakening? His favorite John Cafferty cassette single? Aren’t these the questions of life itself? = +10pts (Because the nanobots are not convinced that "Werner Herzog" isn't German for "Jack Sholder.")
  • Is there anything more straight than a guy listening to a soul diva sing some disco infused dance jams while organizing his clothes, trying on different sunglasses (like these...)
    "I've found me!"
     ...or using your rump to perform basic household chores?
    "Hands are for lames!"
    We didn't think so. = +50pts
  • Is there anything more embarrassing as a teenager than your mother and beard walking into your room while in the middle trying out gay? = +5pts (Absolutely, he could have been masturbating.)
"This could have been my dick, mom! Knock next time!" 
  • More general points for the gift that is this entire sequence. = +10pts
  • Your beard ironically tossing you a can of jock itch. = +8pts
  • Plucking a pair of murder gloves/evidence out of the furnace you’ve been having nightmares about and not calling the police first thing. = -4pts
  • “I got your invitation to the party this weekend.” A popular phrase in film that has never had a bad thing associated with it ever. = +2pts
  • Scoffing at your beard’s sad peck on the cheek in front of her best friend. = -3pts (Because your soul searching is hard enough on her already.)
  • Filming a sequence in a movie in which your audience is supposed to be afraid of a homicidal parakeet...  = -4pts
  • …and then exploding it. = +8pts
  • Blaming your son's "attitude" for the family’s parakeet going homicidal and not doing well in gym class. = -4pts
  • Deciding that the best way to clear your mind after a horrible nightmare is to walk into a gay club after midnight with no shirt on and covered in sweat. = +7pts (Freddy's clearly sucks at this whole “scared straight” thing.)
  • Making a student run laps after midnight because he found you at the local gay club. = -10pts
  • Agreeing to run after midnight laps for any authority figure who is not a military superior officer. = -5pts
  • Filming a scene in which the first attempt at killing an openly gay character is via "balls to the face." = +4pts (Because balls to the face is always the best way to go. Gay or straight.)
  • Becoming aroused at the sight of your gay gym teacher being spanked to death with a wet towel. = 0pts (Score under review until consulting with our therapist.)
  • Dad handling his son’s “problems” about as well as he handles his own. = -3pts
  • Not moving your family out of the house after your toaster, which isn’t plugged in, catches on fire. = -3pts
  • Waking up your sister in the middle of the night shirtless and dripping with sweat. = -10pts
  • Wait, why does literally every other scene take place around the family table at breakfast? Is this a horror movie or a sitcom? DON'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION! = No score. Just an existential musing.
  • Hey ladies! Afraid your relationship with your physically reticent boyfriend might be dying? Just do what Lisa Webber does and wait till he’s at his most vulnerable (I.E., contemplating the murder of his younger sister), and then trap him in a pool cabana so that you can finally get some of that sweet, sweet D you've been dying for. = -2pts
  • Waiting for your parents to fall asleep so that you can finally throw that Budweiser commercial you’ve always wanted to throw. = +2pts
  • Like most closeted gay men, Jessie is strictly a boob man... = +2pts
  • ...And asking him to go any further south results in a serious case of Freddy tongue. = +4pts
  • Running away from a shot at oral sex with a woman and into the bedroom of the guy who took off your pants in front of the entire school and seems to kind of hate you for some reason neither of you can talk about. = -3pts (Oh, poor, sweet, clueless, Lisa. We feel for you. We really do...)
 "Hi! I need your help! My dreams are trying to kill me! Also, is it weird that I grabbed your junk to wake you? It just felt right, so I went with it..."
  • Ultimate '80s douchebag bedroom checklist: Stray Cat poster, Mondrian patterned sheets and wallpaper, fire engine red metal bed frame, telescope, tighty-whitey's. = +4pts (Because you can't argue with the classics.)
  • “Something is trying to get inside my body.” The most profound utterance of pathology in film since Norma Desmond powdered her face one last time. = +12pts
  • A blinking eyeball at the end of somebody's throat.= +3pts
  • Not killing your rival after watching him slice Freddy Krueger out of his stomach. = +10pts (Thus preserving one of the best Freddy entrances of all time.)
  • Freddy killing someone with nary a quip in sight. = +8pts
  • Not calling the cops when your boyfriend shows up at your doorstep covered in his lover's—we mean, friend's!—blood. = -2pts (Doing so doesn't make you homophobic. Just sane.)
  • Taking a man covered in blood to your couch so that you can read him the diary of a high school girl. = -3pts
  • Watching Freddy Kruger get taken down by a lampshade. = -3pts (For ruining a part of our childhood forever.)
  • Nothing says eternal nightmare demon with an insatiable bloodlust quite like smashing one of those collectable plates you can order from late night a infomercials for just $19.99. = -3pts (Is Freddy a murderer, or just the most intense interior decorator of all-time?)
  • Freddy is looking particularly oily this movie. = +7pts (And it's appropriately gross and creepy.)
  • Freddy Krueger: Professional Party Crasher. = +5pts
  • Dogs wearing baby faces. = -2pts
  • Watching a rat get eaten by an even bigger rat. = +3pts
  • Burning Freddy alive once, shame on you. Burning him alive for the unmpeeth time? Well, that’s just how you do it. = +2pts
  • Waking up in the crispy desiccated skin of a child murder… = -4pts
  • …only to be confronted with the traumatized tears of your beard and the stark realization that you’re still you. = -5pts
Total Score +124pts
First, let's talk about what worked as a Freddy movie:
  • Freddy is not in this movie as much as you may have thought he was. This is a good thing.
  • This film has two feet firmly planted in the "Freddy doesn't joke around" version of the character, which, with his particularly oily facial burns, is still scary as hell. More movies featuring Freddy should limit the jokes.
  • That pool scene massacre is all kinds of right for a classic horror movie, even if it doesn't make sense. Which brings us to...
What doesn't work as a Freddy movie:
  • The movie logic of this world is all out of whack. Freddy can only haunt one guy's dreams, while at the same time, he's able to walk around in the waking world for everybody to see? It's almost like reading those old Superman comics where they seemed to invent a new weirdly specific power every month just to keep things interesting.
  • No truly terrifying dream sequences. This movie is all about the body horror. Which brings us to...
Everything else about this movie:

Huzzah!, The Internet got something right for once! Confirmed by the nanobots and everything!

Look, sometimes a film becomes something nobody making it ever intended. We're sure the filmmakers never planned to make one of the better 80s films about being in the closet, but hey, some of the greatest inventions of all-time happened by accident. But what happened that makes this movie more interesting than it ever intended to be? Let's look at (just some of) the evidence behind how this happened:
  • That bedroom scene. It alone will be parsed and discussed in film classes for years.
  • An openly gay gym teacher? In 1985?! Come on. Sure, the portrayal of a gay bar as S&M club is a damaging (but popular) '80s trope that deserves to be criticized and then buried. But the actual club itself features a wider mix of gay culture that most people were used to seeing at the time. Not everyone is wearing S&M gear, not to mention that there appears to be several regularly dressed lesbians present as well, so yay feminism!
  • Not only is this movie one of the better movies about being closeted in the 80s, it's also a pretty great movie about a young high school girl who just wants to love/bang the attractive, well-dressed, and sensitive guy in her class who isn't into her vag. Kim Meyer's struggle as Jessie's beard is nearly as epic as Jessie's struggle with his own sexuality. Kim goes through a lot to help Jessie figure his shit out and Lisa Webber's performance isn't naive and clueless, but empathetic and nurturing, which works really well. We've known too many women who's experiences loving closeted men played out almost exactly like this movie. Only, you know, without all the murder...
  • No women died or were mutilated on-camera during this movie. Let me repeat that: NO WOMEN DIED OR WERE MUTILATED ON-CAMERA DURING THIS MOVIE. (Slight Disclaimer: A bunch of kids get cooked in the pool, but that's more about who's still dumb enough to swim in the fucking pool after it's started to boil.) All of the characters who are killed in the showpiece execution scenes are men. In particular, men who make Jessie uncomfortable about himself. Who make him squirm in his own skin. Jessie wants to be about what the other (straight) kids are about, but he can't seem to shake his obsession with the attractive guy who wants to "give him a hard time" (We all remember what our mothers told us about these boys on the playground, don't we?), and his coach who seems to be living in open defiance of acceptable social norms of the time and who is routinely demonized by Jessie's peers for doing so. 
  • While the gym teacher isn't exactly a nice guy, he's not really a sadist. Making kids hold the sweat position because they're fighting, or calling other teachers names, is a pretty tame punishment given how big a tool these kids are. While his death is traumatic for Jessie, the eroticism that informs his execution is a chilling expression of our main character's struggles against his urges. Which brings us to...
How to fix Freddy movies:
  • Ditch the quips. Unlike Jason/Michael Myers, Freddy can talk. Use this, but use it better. One or two puns a movie can go a long way, but stay away from the pun spewing vomit bag of later Elm St. movies. Rather than having a guy who's supposed to be cracking himself up while killing people, have him use his words to crack his victims open. The guy has access to your subconscious. He should use that way more than he does. Stop making it about Freddy. It may have worked for the kids and turned him into a merchandising giant, but it also resulted in movies that were less and less scary, which is a sad thing for such a great creation.
  • Ditch the whole Elm St. setting. Okay, we get it, the parents killed him. Next. He's a nightmare demon. His scope should be bigger.
  • Have more characters like Nancy or Jessie in future Nightmare movies. Make them the stars, not Freddy. Give them some issues to deal with. Some deep trauma cultural/personal/family issue that is slowly eating away at them, so that the appearance of a nightmare demon who can see into the deepest recesses of their mind hits a lot harder. Freddy is at his best when he's slowly flaying his victims' minds as much as their bodies. Do more of that in these movies.
In conclusion, A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge might not be the scariest one of the bunch (1 or 3? We'll, let the Internet fight it out.), but it has every opportunity to be one of the most important ones, which is weird thing to say about a movie that exploded a parakeet.

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