It’s Pride month, so let’s talk about flying balls, leather garments, BDSM, hot sweaty bodies, and squirting showers and beer cans with hot liquid. No, it’s not hard-core porn, it’s only the second instalment of A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Freddy’s Revenge (1985, directed by Jack Sholder).
The second film of the franchise has been credited as “the gayest slasher ever” and the blatant (not so) subtext leaves no space for ambiguity. There has been some debate over the years as to “how gay” the film really is, and whether it was the filmmakers’ intentions to depict such a queer narrative, but this essay will leave the extra-diegetic debate aside and will focus on the text itself – what we can see and how we can withdraw a (to some extent) positive coming out story.
The film focuses on Jesse (Mark Patton) as his family moves to the house that belonged to Nancy’s family in the first film. He slowly starts to have nightmares about Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and his relationship with his family, especially his father, starts to deteriorate. Jesse is new in school but he is already Lisa’s (Kim Myers) “ride to school”, which leads everyone to ask if they have already had sex – “are you mounting her nightly or what?” In baseball practice, a boy named Ron Grady (Robert Rusler) starts a fight with Jesse by pulling down Jesse’s trousers, leaving his ass bare, and wrestling with him on the floor. Before it escalates even further, the two are separated by their gym coach, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell).
Jesse has trouble sleeping, his room is too hot and he often wakes up covered in sweat – that’s when Freddy Krueger appears for the first time. Freddy grabs Jesse by his collar and caresses his face, especially his lips, with his blades, and tells him – “I need you, Jesse. We’ve got special work to do here, you and me. You’ve got the body, I’ve got the brains”. Here Freddy is asking Jesse to kill for him – when villain and victim become one (when two bodies become one…). Jesse doesn’t fight Freddy, he seems almost in awe, his exaggerated reaction when Freddy pushes him to the wall suggests he is a willing victim – the allure is too much to reject. But that doesn’t stop him from screaming when Freddy reveals himself – when he pushes his skin away to show his asset (the scalp showing his brains, but potato potahto). Freddy is monstrous nonetheless.
Jesse’s relationship with Lisa starts to unravel slowly, as his friendship with Grady intensifies. He falls asleep in class and wakes up with a snake on top of him as well as Grady’s eyes. Lisa, in turn, visits Jesse in his room the only time he is actually fully clothed – polo shirt buttoned up to his neck, tucked inside his jeans, secured by a belt. In contrast, in the following moments that Grady and Jesse share together their clothes seem to be disappearing – in the locker room, they are shirtless, and coincidentally that’s when both of them complain about their coach saying that “Schneider has a stick up his ass today”. The two boys might be complaining about their coach, but I’d suggest that here they are “recognising” him.
The following night Jesse wanders through town and ends up in a gay bar where he finds Schneider himself in leather garments who takes him back to the gym. Whilst Jesse takes a shower, Schneider is attacked by flying balls and is tied up naked to the showerheads. He is spanked, leaving his butt cheeks red, and then killed by Freddy as Jesse watches. Although the dialogue between Schneider and Jesse doesn’t mention sex, the film itself suggests they were about to have (or had just had) sex. Schneider, then, is the first man who allows Jesse’s homosexuality to come out, and precisely because of that, he must be killed.
Throughout the film Jesse fights with Freddy, who is “inside” him and wants to fully become him – when Freddy kills, we later see the blood on Jesse’s hands, suggesting they are indeed one. Jesse wants to reject and oppress Freddy, he fights to keep him inside – Jesse is actually trying to decide whether or not to come out. Lisa, his heterosexual coupling, helps him disavow Freddy, shouting for Jesse to resist, that he is not who Freddy says he is. Here it couldn’t be clearer that Freddy Krueger is a stand-in for Jesse’s own sexuality – he is monstrous and he will kill/fuck men who arouse him. That we can see better as the film progresses, when Jesse interrupts a make-out session with Lisa when he realises the presence of Freddy in his body – a phallic, disgusting, and soft tongue that threats his normality with Lisa. (The phallic imagery is introduced to the film a bit earlier in the narrative with phallic dripping candles and it is present up until the end of the film with flaming sausages.) Jesse then flees from Lisa’s house and goes straight to Grady’s room, where Grady sleeps and Jesse jumps on top of him.
Jesse asks Grady to let him sleep on his room because he is in trouble, Grady rejects it at first, and even suggests he “go home and take a bottle of sleeping pills”, alluding to a suicide that will be proposed in the end of the film. Grady acts more masculine than Jesse, almost as a performance, and his reaction might show Jesse his own internalised-homophobia. Let’s not forget that he was the one who realised Schneider had a “stick up his ass”. The three men talk in codes, but they might form their own club. Jesse confesses he has “killed” Schneider last night, but the word “killed” sounds almost as something else.
Jesse: I killed Schneider last night.
Grady: You what?
Jesse: Only it wasn’t me, see. There’s something inside me.
This dialogue, again, alludes to Freddy Krueger/homosexuality being inside of him. The scene is heart-breaking because not only is he confessing to the murder/sex, but he is also vocalising to Grady, for the first time, about “something inside me”. Grady’s response is not what Jesse was expecting – he becomes a bit more macho towards Jesse.
Grady: I think you’re seriously losing it, bro.
Jesse: I’m scared Grady. Something is trying to get inside my body.
Grady: Yeah, and she is female and she is waiting in the cabana, and you want to sleep with me!
Grady’s reaction is far from understanding, but when Jesse pleads for help he eventually gives in. Jesse asks Grady to watch him for signs that he is changing, that he is being “strange” and asks Grady to stop him should he see any of those signs – here Jesse’s appeal is more like a pact two homosexual friends/lovers make in order not to be perceived as gay, and in order to “pass” for straight. Unfortunately for Grady, Freddy wins over Jesse. Freddy “comes out” of Jesse’s body, in his all glorious/monstrous form, takes Grady up against the wall and penetrates/kills him. Jesse cries for the death of his friend/lover and shouts to Freddy “you killed him!” The following scene, however, Jesse knocks on Lisa’s door and the first thing he says is “I killed him”. Let’s remember the dual meaning of the word “kill” in this film – Freddy/Jesse killed/fucked Schneider and now Grady, and as he gets more and more hysterical he confesses it all to Lisa, who does not believe him, not even as Jesse is covered in blood. “Christ! What do I have to do to make you understand me?” And the moment Jesse realises it is futile to keep running away, he says – “I’ve got blood on my hands. He owns me.”
Outside Lisa’s house, there’s a party happening, filled with teenaged, heterosexual couples – it is the sausages, though, that burst into fire and the beer cans that squirt foamy liquid. Jesse starts to turn into Freddy one last time and Lisa “coaches” him – “fight it, Jesse”, “you created him, you can destroy him!”, “he is living off of your fear! Jesse, fight him!” But those attempts, however, are pointless and Freddy lives. He tries to kill/fuck Lisa, but he can’t – indeed, he is very bad at it. His glove, which is his signature, is not used when trying to kill Lisa, and his preferred method is biting (her leg!). Lisa tries to defend herself by thrusting a knife into Freddy but he is impenetrable; Lisa has no power over Freddy. It is not until later that he penetrates another man with his blades.
Freddy causes havoc at the party and flees to an isolated place, his new home now that he has allowed his full monstrosity to take place. Lisa does not give up, however, and follows him and by repeating she loves Jesse, she defeats Freddy. Lisa confronts Freddy and she talks to him as if she’s full of remorse, Freddy has taken something that was hers – “He is in there, and I want him back! I’m gonna take him away from you and you are gonna go straight back to hell, you son of a bitch!” Freddy yells that Jesse is dead while he holds on to his new life, but the heterosexual love is too strong for Freddy and he melts, giving space for Jesse to come back.
Jesse kneels in front of Lisa; his clothes are torn, he is dirty, and he has a repenting look on his face asking to be reinstated back in his old life. Lisa hugs him and mothers him back to his heterosexuality. The monstrous gay was rejected, repressed and oppressed – all is good in the world!
The last scene of the film shows Jesse happy but his wrists are bandaged – suggesting a possible suicide attempt – but with his smile and strolls to the school bus and holds his hands up in the air almost as if trying to say he has won, he shows us that though he has tried to harm himself, he is now victorious. Inside the bus, he talks to Lisa as if she were his friend and not his girlfriend (his beard).
Jesse: I can’t believe it’s actually all over.
Lisa: Let’s not talk about it.
However, not talking about it or rejecting it is not the answer, and Freddy comes back for one last scare – telling Jesse, Lisa and us that he will not be pushed back.
by Bruna Foletto Lucas
Categories: Anything and Everything