Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Tuesday Knight, Andras Jones, Danny Hassel, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman
“You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead.” (Freddy, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master)
When A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 was released in 1987, the character of Freddy Krueger truly took off and started to become a household name.
This was partly thanks to his character’s evolution which saw him become more of an anti-hero than an outright villain.
Whereas in the first film he was a strictly sinister creation – a child murderer stalking the dreams of those whose parents killed him – by the third movie Freddy was busting out one-liners and making people scream with laughter rather than terror.
The inevitable fourth film, knocked together in less than a year, continued this trend by offering an even more wisecracking, fun-loving Freddy… with the fright factor taking another knock as a result.
Starring: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy
“I don’t believe in phantoms or legends, Mr Dutton, but I do believe in facts. And the fact is, this man – this creature – is still alive. Still alive and living under your opera.” (Hawkins, The Phantom Of The Opera)
There have officially been ‘oodles’ of retellings of The Phantom Of The Opera over the years (I counted: that’s the exact figure). Is this 1989 offering the best?
Put it this way: is the square root of 12,433 the same as the number of men in a standard football team?
JESSE – “Grady, do you ever remember your dreams?” GRADY – “Only the wet ones.”
At the time, Jack Sholder didn’t know he was making a gay movie. As far as he was aware, he was simply making a sequel to A Nightmare On Elm Street, which had been a huge box office success the previous year. It was only when the film started getting recognition and critical praise from the gay media that he slowly realised he may have unwittingly created the greatest homosexual film of the early ’80s.
Freddy’s Revenge tells the tale of Jesse (Mark Patton), an effeminate young chap who’s new in town and already trying to win over his new high school lady friend Lisa (Kim Myers, looking remarkably like a young Bette Midler). The problem is, Jesse’s family have unwittingly moved into1428 Elm Street, the house where Nancy lived in the previous movie, and in doing so have provided Freddy with new victims to stalk.
As Jesse sleeps at night, he dreams about Freddy. Rather than killing him though, Freddy wants to take over Jesse’s body so he can come into the real world and kill all the teenagers in Elm Street. Jesse tries to resist, but finds himself unable to control his body. He goes into his little sister’s room wearing a Freddy glove and only just manages to stop himself attacking her. He sprouts a huge demon tongue while he’s getting down and dirty with Lisa but manages to hide it and leave without her seeing. Freddy’s taking over his body and there’s not much he can do about it.
Of course, as far as the cast and crew of the movie were concerned (well, most of them at least – nowadays Mark Patton, himself a gay actor, claims he knew all along what was happening), this was nothing more than a straight sequel (in every sense of the word) to the previous year’s big horror blockbuster. That wasn’t how the gay community saw it, however. In their eyes, Freddy’s Revenge was a film about a young man struggling to accept his own sexuality and trying to fight it. The funny thing is, if you watch the film with the assumption that Freddy is supposed to be Jesse’s gay side, it’s hard to argue with them.
Everything Freddy does to Jesse can be interpreted as an attempt to bring out his gay side. The aforementioned tongue scene is Freddy’s attempt to stop him being intimate with a woman. At one point, Jesse runs to a male friend’s house, climbs through his bedroom window and tells him there’s someone inside of him he’s trying to get out. Every time Jesse kills someone (while under Freddy’s control), he lets out an incredibly high-pitched scream. When Freddy finally completely takes over Jesse’s body, the only way Jesse can be freed is for Lisa to kiss Freddy, essentially killing off his homosexual side.
All these are mere foreplay, however, compared to the scene in which a sleeping Jesse, under Freddy’s control, walks to the nearest gay S&M club and finds his gym teacher there wearing a tight leather outfit. The teacher takes Jesse back to the school and makes him run laps in the gym, but afterwards Jesse, as Freddy, ties him up with skipping ropes in the shower, strips him, whips his bare arse with a towel then gives him the old fingerknives in the back (penetrating him from behind, if you will). If the cast and crew genuinely weren’t trying to make a gay movie, you have to wonder what the hell they were thinking here. I’m not just making this up, you know, here’s an entertaining behind-the-scenes video with the film’s cast admitting they had no clue. They’re incredibly honest and stunned at how gay they made the film. It’s a must-watch!
Either way, the homosexual subtext is neither here nor there – Freddy’s Revenge is simply an odd film however you take it (so to speak). Odd, unexplainable things happen throughout the film, each doing their bit to undo the “rules” and mythology laid out by Wes Craven in the wonderful first film. Jesse’s house suddenly becomes incredibly hot for some reason, to the extent that his pet budgie goes mental, attacking Jesse’s sister and then spontaneously combusting into a tiny explosion of flames and feathers.
Then there’s the part where Freddy freely comes into the real world, something that was a big no-no in Craven’s original (only Nancy could bring him out of her dream). This leads to a ridiculous scene at a pool party where Freddy confronts 50 or so teens, most of whom are taller than him and could probably kick his arse.
In a series famous for its bizarre moments and bending of reality, for Freddy’s Revenge to somehow feel a bit off is something of an achievement. It’s entertaining enough however you choose to interpret it, but it’s by no means one of the better entries in the Nightmare saga.
Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund
“Never hang out with a virgin. You got a virgin in your crew, either get somebody in her pants or get the hell away from her.” (Jamie, Behind The Mask)
Behind The Mask is a clever movie. It fools you into thinking it’s only pretty clever, then completely turns things upside down in the final act to show you that, in fact, it’s more than just pretty clever. It’s actually very clever, maybe even ruddy clever.
At first it’s a fly-on-the-wall documentary, with a crew following Leslie Vernon (the oddly appealing Nathan Baesel), an up-and-coming slasher villain who one day dreams of being as famous as Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. Leslie takes the crew round his local haunts, introduces them to his parents and shows them his target girl, the one he’s chosen to stalk serial killer-style.
Leslie plans to attack this “hero girl” in typical slasher style, by breaking into the house during the party she’s set to throw with her friends and killing them off one by one. He’ll use every trick in the slasher book to get them, from cutting the power off so one of them goes into the basement, to hiding the bodies in a way that they’re found at just the right time.
Every scene had me smiling with its constant nods to previous horror films and its overall attention to horror cliche detail. Leslie shows how many of the typical horror set-pieces are really done – when a girl’s on her own and the door slam shuts behind her, it’s because the killer has already set up the door and pulled it shut with some fishing wire, and so forth.
It’s all entertaining until the night of the party, when the camera crew and presenter are forced with a moral dilemma – do they allow Leslie to go ahead with his plan and actually kill all these kids, or do they try to interfere and risk pissing him off? The resulting final act is gripping stuff with a fantastic twist that, while one you’re likely to figure out five minutes before the characters do, is still smartly handled.
Behind The Mask is a surprisingly original movie with a strong cast. A notable mention should go to Robert Englund as he performs his best professor-who-knows-the-killer impression in the style of Donald Pleasance in Halloween, while the rest of the cast is similarly appealing. I strongly recommend this if you fancy something different.