Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Remember how awkward you were in high school?  How your body was changing?  Your personality was changing?  You didn’t know exactly who you were while at the same time you were turning into an adult?  Dredged up those fun-filled memories?  Good.  Now, remember how there would be “After-School Specials” that would try to help you understand what was going on, that you were normal, and that adults understood what you were going through and just wanted to help?

Now imagine how much more fun those specials would have been with Freddy Krueger!

Jack Sholder’s 1985 follow up to the original is the outlier of the series.  This installment bears almost no resemblance to the other seven films. While most see this as a drawback, I give the filmmaker’s credit for being brave enough to try something new and delivering a decent film at the same time.

Five years after the Nancy Thompson’s ordeal, Jesse (Mark Patton) and family have moved into the infamous 1428 Elm Street home.  Jesse is having trouble settling into the house and even more trouble sleeping.  But that’s just because it’s unusually hot in his room, right?  WRONG!  Fred Krueger (Robert Englund) now “Freddy,” wants to continue his unholy campaign of vengeance against the Elm Street kids.  Only now he wants to kill them in the real world, through the liberal use and complete transmogrification of Jesse’s body.  Which is to say Jesse will become a Were-Freddy.

I am completely serious.

Sholder does not give Freddy a lot of release in this film, going for a more suspenseful, creepy vibe.  It’s an interesting approach as the audience is not entirely sure that Freddy is committing these murders, or if Jesse is simply insane.  The downside is there isn't as much violence as slasher fans have come to appreciate, though it still features a higher body count than part 5.  This is due, in no small part, to the veritable smorgasbord of teenage flesh that Freddy eviscerates at the poolside barbecue.

What makes this film so memorable is not the violence, or even Englund’s standard excellent performance, but the way in which the plot plays out like an “After School Special” about a young man coming to grips with his sexuality, or in the case of this film, doesn't.  It starts off quietly, with a few male locker room scenes and one harmless pants-ing incident.  Then there’s the scene of Jesse unpacking to “All Night Long” and dancing until Lisa (Kim Myers) shows up and all the fun is over.  And then, there’s Coach Schneider’s (Marshall Bell) S & M proclivities, bar meeting, and then shower room bondage/death scene.  Look at the way Jesse and Grady (Robert Rusler) behave: they clearly aren't interested in attracting women.

Consider: the two times Freddy manifests and kills people one on one are when Jesse is alone with men.  Freddy’s tongue pops out when Jesse's is making out with Kim, but only to scare Jesse away into the safety of Grady and his seemingly leather comforter.  It’s only when Kim smothers Jesse with her love that he is able to quash his own natural proclivities and pretend that he’s straight, which his sub-conscious then rejects with the final scene.

Sholder insists that the homosexual subtext was unintentional, while Englund claims the contrary.  Either way, it makes this installment all the more interesting, or at the very least, perfect for a drinking game.

Return of the Living Dead

By the time the synth-rock laced theme kicks in under the opening credits ten-minutes into the movie, you've already had 10 puns, 5 "hip" punk teenagers (with 1 clean-cut "girl next door" thrown in for good measure), bare breasts, 3 references to Night of the Living Dead , 2 pratfalls, and an animatronic dead guy shoved in a canister who can convert gooey flesh into zombie making gas.

*Sniff* that's right ladies. That smell isn't rotting corpses, it's the 80's!

Written and Directed by Alien -scribe Dan O'Bannon , the film takes a much lighter tone with the material than the bleak seriousness found in the Romero picture, which I keep referencing because of the odd relationship Return has with the 1968 classic.

John Russo , who wrote the novel from which the film takes its inspiration, as well as the first draft of the screenplay, also was a co-screenwriter on Night of the Living Dead. As a matter of fact, Day of the Dead, the second Romero-helmed sequel was slated to come out at the same time as Return, a fact that didn't sit too well with Romero at all. After some legal wrangling, Russo retained the right to use the "Living Dead"name, while giving up the right to reference the original in his marketing.

O'Bannon however, wanted to differentiate himself from Romero's series in a more distinct way: By making it an outright comedy, all the while poking fun at its relationship to the original. Everybody in the movie has seen Night of the Living Dead, and use it as their basis for fighting back the ever increasing numbers of flesh-munchers. Something that doesn't serve them too well, I'm afraid.

These zombies are all together more formidable than than the slow-moving consumer corpses from Night and Dawn of the Dead. When a zombie fails to die (again) from a pick-axe being embedded in its skull, one of the characters exclaims "Well, it worked in the movie!"

As a matter of fact, this movie illustrates some of the first instances of the running zombie. But even better, we have the naked dancing zombie chick. Beeing an 80's teen movie, there is the obligatory scene when the punk rock girl does a naked dance number in the middle of the graveyard for no real reason... only to be mauled to death and spend the next hour walking around naked and eating people with a mouth that would make a porn star jealous.

This film is pure genius for the simple fact that it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is: utterly (if you'll forgive the expression) brain-dead. Add to that the jammin' 80's rock soundtrack that is peppered with songs like "Eyes Without A Face" by a band called The Flesh Eaters, you know you're in for a good time.