“You’ve got the body, I’ve got the brains!”
A year after the first Nightmare movie made a splash, New Line releases its sequel. November 1, 1985 was the date. Made for just under double the budget of the first one, it goes on to gross ten times that amount, pulling in $30 million during its run. It’s poorly written, not scary and with effects that provoke giggles rather than screams. That said, it happens to be one of my favorites of the Nightmare series. Why?
It’s the gay Nightmare. That’s right, the gay Nightmare. I just think that’s so cute! It’s about a teen ager coming to terms with his homosexuality. I didn’t get it at the time. Nope. Went straight over my head like Halley’s Comet. But when a gay horror maven friend of mine finally tipped me off a decade and a half later, it hit me like the entire print run of Advocate Magazine. And became an entirely new film to me, one with a marvelous subtext and some really juicy symbolism. Witness:
Minute twenty. Our hero dons a clueless outfit and performs an homoerotic dance around his room, only to be interrupted by “love interest” Kim Myers. Romantic indeed. Poor Kim has no idea what she’s up against.
I DO love Kim Myers. Can you look at her and NOT think of a young Meryl Streep?
At minute 29 we’re treated to one of the most spectacularly un-scary horror movie scenes in history, when the household lovebird gets “bird rabies,” escapes from its cage and strafes Jesse and his family with unmitigated savagery before exploding in a cloud of green and yellow feathers. Clu Gulager (whose mere presence elevates this film a few feet above sea level) looks on with benevolent cluelessness.
Now it’s time to layer on the gay subtext (is it really subtext any more?) Jesse has an elaborate dream in which he finds himself in a leather bar. He runs into his (surprise!) his sadistic coach, who inexplicably forces him to run laps and hit the showers. Could there be anything more terrifying than that? But this is dreamland, and Freddy’s up to no good. And yes, it’s a shower scene. Now that our protagonist is naked and vulnerable, Frddy decides to make and example of the coach and teach Jesse how to be a monster. Jesse is forced to watch as his coach is dragged to into the shower, roped to the showerheads, stripped naked and whipped by floating towels until his ass burns crimson. Director Jack Scholder is having a field day with the gay imagery.
And then the major theme of the movie kicks off. As Jesse stares at the corpse of his gym teacher hanging from the shower heads, he realizes Freddy Krueger’s glove is on his own hand. There’s a monster within him, something he can’t control, something that threatens his sanity. And it has begun to emerge.
Time to party.
At minute fifty, Kim Myers is throwing a fete. But she’s having boyfriend problems. Jesse juts isn’t interested in her. She’s turned on every green light she has, but he’s just not responding. Why? What’s gotten into him? She manages to corner him. It’s the moment of truth. They smooch. They get hot and heavy. This is how it’s supposed to work, right? But the moment things turn sexual, guess who shows up? Yep, it’s the beast, and a big ol’ grey tongue drops out of poor Jesse’s mouth like a demon tentacle from Hell. So Jesse runs into the arms of his friend Grady (who has a big Limahl poster on his wall.) And the stage is set. Freddy emerges, complete, from the husk of Jesse’s body.
One hour and eight minutes in, Freddy drops in on the party to wreak havoc on the teens. His appearance is one of my favorite moments of the film. Love the way he bursts out of the wooden deck like that. Big gay Freddy, cutting the poor kids down like Freddy-fodder that they are.
And then it’s off to the old power plant for a snooze-fest showdown between Freddy and Kim Myers, which seems to be a case of protagonist bait-and-switch. Jesse’s salvation seems to have nothing to do with himself. He’s out of the picture. The final struggle seems to belong to Kim Myers. Maybe this film isn’t about Jesse after all. Maybe it’s really about a girl whose boyfriend turns out to be gay and how she deals with it. And how does she deal with it? By professing her love for Jesse. “I accept your homosexuality, Jesse! Look, I’ll prove it to you! See? I’m making out with you even though you’re all gross and bumpy!”
But it’s too late. Freddy’s one tough cookie. And he tells us, arms outspread, backlit by a rampant gas fire…
“You are all my children now.”
Yeah, yeah. We’re done with this round. An interesting experiment, but it’s not a success. So New Line grabs Wes Craven to help out with the next installment, which for many, is the best of the sequels. Tune in tomorrow for Part III of Seven Nights, Seven Nightmares…