When fresh-faced Mark Patton signed on to star as the lead in the Nightmare on Elm Street sequel Freddy’s Revenge, he had never even seen the first film. Shocked by the level of gore in the film, Patton wondered what he’d got himself into. Unfortunately, latex and corn syrup were the least of his worries, as upon the films release critics and fans alike branded the film as containing homoerotic subtext— the ‘gayest horror film ever made’, in fact.
Now, a statement like that spoken in 2020 might just have horror fans whooping and hollering all the way to their cinema seat, but in the midst of Reaganism and the AIDs crisis, ‘gay’ was not a label that any young Hollywood upstart wanted to claim.
Confronting the cast and the film (and its newfound fans) now 35 years later Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street follows Mark Patton on his journey of redemption and acceptance after retreating to Mexico to live in hiding for decades after he was driven out of Hollywood.
Told through a series of interviews with Mark and Freddy’s Revenge cast & crew, Shudder’s latest documentary sticks to a strictly chronological order charting Mark’s religious upbringing to his by-chance insertion into Hollywood. His casting in Freddy’s Revenge came as a surprise, his lead role switched the common trope of the Final Girl that was a cornerstone of 80s horror, and a scene set in a gay bar with an S&M kill had Mark all set up to be brandished homophobic slurs due to his ‘girly’ scream. Screenwriter David Chaskin has through the years changed his statement on whether the homoerotic subtext was intentional, and Patton’s anger towards Chaskin as the destroyer of his career becomes the basis of the documentaries fight.
At times, Patton’s vendetta to confront Chaskin has the film come across as something of a vanity project with the star focusing his energy on his own story solely, often failing to see the bigger picture and confront the homophobia within the film industry at the time directly. The film finds its footing when Patton goes on to discuss the AID’s crisis and how it directly affected himself and his relationships. The documentary comes to grips with the treatment of gay men in Hollywood during the time, how they were forced to be closeted and tested and the effect AID’s had on society. There’s some harrowing footage of patients that is difficult to stomach—even pointed out as something ‘worse than any horror film could conjure’— but it feels essential to know this history, and the film is ultimately more heartfelt for it.
When Mark was fetched out of hiding due to the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again, it forced him to change his narrative from victim to activist. Seeing how Freddy’s Revenge has shaped the lives of many LGBTQ+ horror afficionados (drag queen Peaches Christ is just one of many who speak on the subject), Mark decides to indulge those fans with convention and special screening appearances. The documentary catches up with many of Mark’s fans —wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his iconic ‘scream queen’ scream— as they discuss his impact on LGBTQ+ horror and their own grappling with what was potentially their first piece of representation they saw on screen. Seeing Mark take these responsibilities very seriously is charming to watch as he also tries to make amends with cast and crew members from the Elm Street sequel.
Scream, Queen is a fast and loose look at an important milestone for LGBTQ+ representation in horror but is ultimately a story about one man’s journey from a targeted individual to a welcoming activist. Brief interviews with film scholars about homoerotic subtext and the deeper meanings of Freddy’s Revenge are undoubtedly fascinating, and hopefully a fantastic pre-curser to the upcoming queer horror documentary Shudder are currently working on. But this is Mark Patton’s story, and it’s a one about him relating his history so that we might get to know queer film history a little better. Its about knowing where you came from and the struggle it took to get there, making a case for Freddy’s Revenge as an important—and maybe even the first—cornerstone of LGBTQ+ horror.
Scream, Queen! will be available to stream on Shudder from June 4th
by Chloe Leeson
Chloë (she/her) is the founder of SQ. She is a costume designer and trainee teacher living in the North East of England. She thrives watching 90s Harmony Korine Letterman interviews and bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Green Room and Pan’s Labyrinth. Find her on Letterboxd here.