There are eight Freddy Krueger movies spanning from 1984 to 2010. Each time an ending was written, box office success and fan demands brought another movie. Almost a decade after the last film, Freddy is not at all forgotten, having been made into a horror icon. Most people know the general idea that Freddy was a bad guy who was sent on fire, and haunts teenagers in their sleep to get his revenge for his death. But after watching all of the movies back to back, I’ve learned a lot about the difference between them, and how much the second film stands out.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was written by none other than Wes Craven. Different directors had their turns making A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), Freddy vs. Jason (2003), and the remake of the original: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) (Source: Wikipedia).
Every movie has its differences with new characters, settings, plots, and rules. In the third movie, the protagonist, Kristen, is able to absorb the powers of her friends once they’re killed by Freddy, which she uses in her sleep to fight Freddy. Nancy Thompson is the protagonist in the first film, and returns in the third. The fifth movie introduces the story of Freddy’s mother, and the seventh film contains fourth wall breaks as the actors play themselves and not their characters, but are still haunted by Freddy.
So as you can see, every movie is very different in their plots and success rates. What makes the second movie, Freddy’s Revenge, stand out so much? Well, it’s the most controversial film. Although the release poster shows the protagonist with his arms around a woman, this film was recognized, analyzed, and hated for being an LGBT+ film. Having being made in the mid-80s, it wasn’t okay to make an outwardly gay movie. Directed by Jack Sholder, and produced by the same producer many of the Freddy movies had, Robert Shaye, David Chaskin is cited as the writer.
Protagonist Jesse moves into the home that served as the setting in the first Freddy movie about five years after the supposed end of Freddy’s murders. Jesse has a crush on a girl Lisa, but is too shy to flirt with her. During gym class, Jesse gets into a fight with a guy named Grady, and the coach forces them to stay after class and they end up becoming friends.
Jesse discovers the diary of Nancy Thompson, the protagonist of the first movie who used to live in his house, and discovers she had similar nightmares to him. After Freddy tells Jesse to kill for him in a dream, Jesse starts trying to stay awake. He goes to a bar in the middle of the night, a gay bar, where his coach, Schneider, finds him. Schneider makes him run laps at the school as punishment. After Jesse is told to take a shower, Schneider is stripped and whipped by Freddy, who then kills him. Jesse then finds Freddy’s glove with claws on his own hand. This scene is the first hint that Freddy is a symbol for Jesse’s repressed homosexuality. Freddy is released when Jesse is about to have a sexual encounter with his coach, and Freddy kills the coach.
Later in the movie, Jesse goes to Lisa’s party and kisses her alone, but Freddy tries to take over his body as they make out. In panic, Jesse runs away from Lisa and goes to Grady’s house. Jesse tells Grady that he killed Schneider, and tells him to watch him as he sleeps. Grady is instructed to stop Freddy if he emerges, but both boys fall asleep, and Freddy kills Grady. This time, Jesse’s homosexual feelings cause him to leave Lisa and go to his closest guy friend, but Freddy emerges, the symbol for repressing his feelings, and his repressed feelings kill Grady.
Back to Lisa’s, Jesse and Lisa figure out that Jesse’s fear of Freddy is what gives him power. But he continues to fear him, and Freddy returns again. Freddy finds that he is unable to hurt Lisa because Jesse loves her, and at the end of the movie, she tells Jesse she loves him and kisses Freddy, which gives Jesse the power to fight Freddy and gain control of his body again. The end of the movie shows Jesse’s nightmare coming true when the cast is on a school bus with Freddy controlling the wheel.
Jesse fearing his homosexual feelings continues to give Freddy power to kill those who may encourage him to pursue his sexuality. A woman’s love defeats his homosexual repression, and Lisa gives Jesse the strength to fight Freddy. After analysis, it’s easy to see that Freddy’s Revenge tells the story of LGBT+ members for years. Women who weren’t interested in men were forced to marry men by society, and vise versa for men who were interested in the same sex but would be disowned and criminalized unless they married a woman.
A publication in the 1980s called Freddy’s Revenge “the gayest horror film ever”. The cast themselves talked about this analysis. Supposedly, writer Chaskin was rewriting films as the production was already in progress, and was changing it to reflect these homoerotic subtexts more and more. The main actor, Mark Patton, felt betrayed by the cast because he is gay himself, but was closeted in order to protect his career in the 1980s. Chaskin first denied the gay subtext and blamed Patton for playing his role “too gay”. Patton was hurt and felt sabotaged because he believed Chaskin didn’t want subtext, he wanted an outwardly gay movie, and denied it. The hurt and stress caused by this film led Patton to abandon his acting career (Source: Buzzfeed).
Chaskin attempted to apologize to Patton over the years, and although he never retracted his statement that the character seemed gay because Patton played him that way, in 2010 Chaskin finally came clean in a Freddy documentary: Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, and admitted he wrote the movie to include these subtexts. He explained, “Homophobia was skyrocketing and I began to think about our core audience—adolescent boys—and how all of this stuff might be trickling down into their psyches. My thought was that tapping into that angst would give an extra edge to the horror.” (Source: Variety).
The actor who played Freddy, Englund, said the film was “obviously” intended to have a bisexual theme. The movie was released before the AIDS epidemic paranoia that caused huge backlash against the LGBT+ community. Englund even admitted that Patton was casted on purpose because he played a gay character in a 1982 movie. However, much of the cast had no idea of these intentions. The producer even didn’t recognize how these scenes could have been interpreted as gay, he later admitted (Source: Variety).
Although the movie now stands as a cult classic in LGBT+ culture, it took a lot to get it there. Freddy Krueger stands as repression of one’s sexuality as a man battles with himself over coming out as gay or not, and gives countless LGBT+ people the recognition on the big screen of the internal struggle it takes to come out. After years of denial from the makers, attacks on the main actor, and different analysis, Freddy’s Revenge has definitely made a name for itself. Now in the progress of being funded for creation is a documentary called Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, which covers the entire movie, the writing, the subtext, the challenges, the fights, the critiques and everything in between. A GoFundMe was launched for the documentary, and on social media the creators give updates of its development. The poster designed for the documentary is a depiction of Patton’s character dancing alone in his room in Freddy’s Revenge (Source: Buzzfeed).
It’s awful that one of the only LGBT+ films before the 2000s went through so much controversy, but despite all the lies and fights that happened over the subtexts, Freddy’s Revenge tells an important story of the suppressing one’s sexuality. Chaskin was able to make a gay film in 1985 and told a story that needed to be heard.