To commemorate the passing of horror maestro Wes Craven this past Sunday, The Defense Rests revisits the film that prompted him to leave his beloved Freddy Krueger behind until 1994’s “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” the hastily assembled “A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge.” This film rests comfortably at 42% on the Tomatometer.
If nothing else, “Freddy’s Revenge” proved that what Craven had created with 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was a force of its own, one that required tending even after the original gardener (Craven) set is aside.
It continues flirting with the idea of crossing thresholds. Freddy wants to make his way in the real world and his vessel for doing so is Jesse (Mark Patton,) an unassuming kid that he will possess to continue killing. There is a moment in “New Nightmare” when Craven writes of needing to make another film to keep Freddy “behind the veil.” I think he’s talking about not just fighting the pure evil that Freddy is, but he is retroactively taking back his creation. He’s going back to the moment he put the films into the hands of someone else and saying “this is how it’s done, this is how it should always be done.” Having said that, what happens in the interim isn’t always a bad thing, and “Freddy’s Revenge” isn’t bad.
Credit Part 2 for at least keeping things dark and trying to expand on the mythology in weird ways. Take, for example, the notion that the screams of the innocent are how Freddy divines his power and sometimes that power is strong enough that he can cross boundaries. There’s a sequences where Freddy explodes a pigeon while Jesse is awake and his family looks on in terror. The films don’t tend to expand Freddy’s playground in that way. Making the boogeyman literally manifest is a pretty difficult feat, as it paints one in to some inconvenient narrative corners, and yet it works as a manifestation of pure fear. To that end, director Jack Sholder also stages some effective body horror moments as we see Jesse sprout Freddy’s claws, his flesh stretches and rips open so that Freddy may be born through Jesse’s flesh, and then there’s the iconic shot where Jesse’s mouth is open and we see Freddy’s eye inside of him. The way fear consumes has probably never been so brutally portrayed in the entire series. You must embrace the film’s embrace of darkness.
Patton makes Jesse’s fears palpable as the second act of the film draws to a close and he confesses the evil inside of him–how it prompted him to attack his coach, his little sister–he knows what’s wrong with him and he knows how crazy it sounds. What he doesn’t know is whether or not it can be stopped. The sequences that follow (including his best friend’s death and yet another confession, this time smeared in blood) really cement how good this film is when it lets madness take hold.
As with many films in the franchise, the characters are mostly a likable bunch. Grady is kind of a jerky buddy but he takes the fact that his parents have grounded him seriously. When Jesse asks him to watch over him so that he doesn’t turn into a murderous boogeyman while he sleeps, he takes that seriously too. In fact, it’s one of the interesting things about going back to rewatch these films. No one deserves what they get. Their flaws are insubstantial, perhaps that’s what makes succumbing to their fears so satisfying to the villains. Another great example of how undeserving of his fate Grady is, is the fact that one scene is seriously performed with him continuing to shove food in his mouth and not swallow before talking. Bonus points for having the hero’s girlfriend Lisa look like a high school age Meryl Streep. If Meryl likes you, chances are you’re doing things right.
At the end of the day, this film works as a remembrance of Craven. As a sequel it can’t help but be about the legacy he left with the first film. Yet it’s also about the gumption to keep going down a trail once blazed. Many people will try to recreate the original, and they will most likely fail, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And that, Wes Craven, is not nothing.