Written by David Chaskin
Directed by Jack Sholder
Released November 1985
New Line Cinema
Just a year after the first film, New Line put out this sequel, without any involvement from Wes Craven or any of the stars of the previous film, except for Robert Englund who returns as Freddy Krueger. This film makes some significant changes to Freddy’s methodology, this time instead of being a demonic force who is targeting the children of the people who killed him and killing them in their dreams, now he was sort of like an evil spirit who was haunting a house.
The house in question is 1428 Elm Street, where Nancy Thompson and her mother lived. This film takes place 5 years after the events of the first film (so, 1989?). No specific mention is made of what happened to Nancy after the previous film (someone says she “went crazy after her mother killed herself in the living room”) but she’s gone and now a new family, the Walshes, have just moved in, including Jesse (Mark Patton) who is a teenager. Jesse starts having nightmares about Freddy, except instead of trying to kill Jesse Freddy’s goal is to possess Jesse’s body and get Jesse to kill for him in the real world. As Jesse continues to have nightmares and starts sleepwalking where he has no memory of what he did, his parents (Clu Gulager and Hope Lange) begin to suspect that he’s on drugs, or has some other mental problems. Meanwhile, Jesse is also trying to adjust to his new school, including a burgeoning romance with a girl named Lisa (Kim Myers) and a friendship/rivalry with his classmate Ron (Robert Rusler), but eventually, even they become possible targets of Freddy’s wrath, as Freddy’s control over Jesse grows.
This film (which made $30 million – which is about $5 million more than the first one made – on a $3 million budget, and is therefore a huge success) has been trashed by many Elm Street fans, and it’s easy to see why. It is heavily flawed. First, the possession angle doesn’t really have the same appeal as the original revenge angle, as we only get to see Freddy taunting Jesse, and no one else. Likewise the very few death scenes we get are rather pedestrian, with Freddy/Jesse just slicing his victims to death. There’s nothing that stands out like Tina being dragged across the ceiling or Glen being sucked into his bed here. Instead we get a gym teacher being smacked on the ass with a towel before being stabbed. Ho-hum. And the big scene in the third act when Freddy/Jesse crashes the pool party and start stabbing kids didn’t feel anywhere near as important as it should. He didn’t seem like a big scary monster, just one dude with knives on his hands. I kept thinking, all those kids outnumber him, why are they running?
Of course, what this film is probably best remembered for these days is its homoerotic undertones. All of which seem SO OBVIOUS now, but to which I was completely oblivious when I first saw this as a wee lad.
Nevertheless, I will give it credit for at least trying to keep Freddy scary, he was still kept mostly in shadows throughout the film, and the part where he rips the skin from his head to expose his brain is reminiscent of him slicing off his own fingers in the first film. Also, the opening scene on the school bus was suitably scary. And the earnest performances of the leads, particularly Patton and Meyers, who had excellent chemistry together, as well as Rusler and also Sydney Walsh as Lisa’s friend Kerry, were all engaging. They felt like real teenagers and not just horror movie cliches, doing the best they could with the material that they were given. I believe that with a few tweaks (maybe even dropping the “subtext” and just going ahead and making it about an out gay teenager, which would have been unthinkable in 1985 but could probably work today) this could have been a much better film. But as it stands I think I’ll give it: