Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #232
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: November 1, 1985
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box office: $30,000,000
Running time: 85 minutes
Director: Jack Sholder
Producer: Robert Shaye
Screenplay: David Chaskin
Special Effects: Richard Albain, Paul Boyington, Rick Lazzarini, Ron Nary, Kevin Yagher
Cinematography: Jacques Haitkin, Christopher Tufty
Score: Christopher Young
Editing: Bob Brady, Arline Garson
Studios: Heron Communications, Smart Egg Pictures
Distributors: New Line Cinema (US), Warner Bros. (Worldwide)
Stars: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Melinda O. Fee, Tom McFadden, Sydney Walsh, Edward Blackoff, Christie Clark, Lyman Ward, Donna Bruce, Hart Sprager, Allison Barron, JoAnn Willette, Steve Eastin, Brian Wimmer, Robert Chaskin, Kerry Remsen, Kimberly Lynn, Steven Smith, Jonathan Hart
Suggested Audio Candy
Christopher Young “Soundtrack Suite”
Love him or loathe him, Freddy Krueger has been one of the most bankable screen icons in horror history. The Elm Street films alone have grossed almost half a billion dollars at the box office, not to mention spawning numerous graphic novels, an off-shoot television series and countless other merchandising. Hell, there’s even a Freddy bobblehead. This franchise single-handedly elevated New Line Cinema into the major league but, had it been left up to puppeteer Wes Craven, it wouldn’t have ever been franchised in the first place. He had no intention of such and also objected to the notion that the sequel saw Freddy manipulating others into doing his dirty work for him.
Evidently, from a financial standpoint, his decision to slacken ties has been proven far less than shrewd but from an artistic level the integrity of the series diminished over time and by the fourth film it had already began its spiral into self-parody. The most notable entries outside of the original are, in my opinion, Dream Warriors which he co-scripted and New Nightmare which he both wrote and directed so it is plain to see that he had old Fred’s best interests at heart. Freddy’s Revenge was largely vilified upon its rushed release and critics lambasted its attempts to cash in on its predecessor’s steadily bloating popularity. Nevertheless it went on to gross double that of the original and the wheels had already been set in motion.
Had it not been for director Jack Sholder’s eleventh hour turnaround with regards to pay disputes, Robert Englund may well have walked away from the project at the close of first knockings. Fortunately he saw the error in his ways as this has gone on to be the second most lucrative series in horror history and Englund one of its most recognizable and revered faces. However, the fact remains, that Freddy’s Revenge was hurried along to its release so as to fashion an annual pay check and its inconsistencies are there for all to see. As for the critical mauling it received I have always sat on the fence. As a sum of its parts it didn’t hang together particularly well but there were plentiful moments which still elevated it above standard slasher fare.
The opening scene aboard a hellbound school bus was easily of the standard of anything which proceeded it. Gloriously fire and brimstone, it provided numerous positive omens and one could be forgiven for expecting too much after such a magnificent front bookend. Then Freddy’s Revenge settled snugly into its rhythm and we were introduced to the Walsh brood and, in particular, main protagonist Jesse (Mark Patton) as they moved into their new family home, Nancy’s abode from the first film. Soon after rubbed eyeballs with Jesse’s love interest Lisa (Kim Meyers looking decidedly Meryl Streep-like as has been noted countless times already). Jesse’s friend Ron Grady (Vamp’s Robert Rusler) made up third in a strangely homoerotic love triangle, although this was only ever hinted.
What Sholder chose to do next or, more accurately, what David Chaskin’s subtext-laden screenplay decided for him was that gender reversals were the way to go. Sensitive Patton, far from being a strong leading man and openly gay curiously, played the damsel in distress with grating aplomb, whining like a bitch and generally only ever one step away from imminent implosion. Lisa, on the flip side, played the hero. She offered sound advice and calmed him down when he was downright hysterical when one could almost see an Airplane-style disorderly queue forming behind her. Strong resourceful females have been a staple of the series right the way through but Chaskin’s treatment was far bolder in its approach.
If it was all metaphorical with the main story, then the S&M-themed shower scene was far more literal in its approach. Frisky leather-clad Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell), presumably fresh from his bi-weekly pansexual play party, only had the boy’s best interests at heart but flogging those repressed homosexual feelings out of the poor lad was admittedly somewhat excessive. This culminated in one of the film’s numerous stand-out moments. Alas, this hedonistic high point was undermined by the good old exploding budgerigar. As if not distraught enough by the fact that his proposed anal deflowering was scuppered by Krueger after a locker room grapple with Grady led to nothing, watching Tweetie Pie detonate was too much for the timid chap to entertain.
Fortunately there were other prime rib moments to save the day and the BBQ pool party was just what the doctor ordered. Freddy actually had very little screen time for the sequel but, when he chose to crash a party, we thanked him for his attendance. Many were incensed at the decision to afford Freddy the opportunity to eviscerate en-mass in his physical form when the whole concept of individual dream stalks was what made the original so successful in the first place. Horses for courses I suppose although I would rather a few liberties were taken here and there and Krueger retain his no-nonsense edge than the car crash waiting to play out in future installments.
One area where Freddy’s Revenge excelled was the SFX, in particular, Kevin Yagher’s magnificent make-up for Freddy’s malformed visage. He looked deliciously grotesque and the sight of his crispy chops busting from Jesse’s shell, not the coming out that the youngster had envisaged, provided another priceless instance of Elm Street firing on all cylinders. It may look crude by today’s standards but when you consider that Marge was clearly switched for a blow-up doll for the closing scene in the original, it holds up just fine. Christopher Young’s ethereal score was also exemplary and this is the only entry which didn’t use Charles Bernstein’s original audio.
Freddy’s Revenge was never likely to match up to its titular forerunner. Sholder’s film never came close but that isn’t so say that it wasn’t without its merits. By no means the catastrophe some regard it to be and certainly profitable enough to bankroll the superior Dream Warriors, it did pretty much what it stated on the tin. As a piece of fiction it was wildly over-speculative, disinterested with following the rules of its own universe. As a slasher however, it was a brisk 85 minutes of mindless carnage and that’s still well worth turning up for.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Hide your household pets, watching Freddy’s Revenge may cause them to spontaneously combust at will. There is some solid grue and the hateful Schneider’s demise is wonderfully perverse but the pool party is where it’s at. Watching Freddy throwing a few shrimps on the barbie is always a pleasure and enough to almost help us forget that damn budgie.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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