A Nightmare on Elm Street was released to rave reviews and a great deal of success at the box office, so it was only logical for a sequel to be released a year later. That’s what the Friday the 13th movies were doing, so it only makes sense to follow suit. Hence, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, which features none of the original cast apart from our killer, played by Robert Englund, even if it does make mention of the events from the previous film.
The time around, we’re five years in the future. The Walsh family has moved into the house that used to be occupied by Nancy and her mother. The lead is Jesse (Mark Patton), a teenage boy who has been having strange dreams since the move. He has a more complete family than Nancy: there’s the father (Clu Gulager), the mother (Hope Lange) and the little sister (Christie Clark). This allows for a touch of insight into the teenage world, as Jesse is rarely happy with his family. It probably doesn’t help that he hasn’t been getting a lot of sleep as of late.
Jesse’s made friends with the neighbor girl, Lisa (Kim Myers), and if you can already see a budding relationship, you’re not alone. Jesse is a bit of an odd kid, but Lisa takes to him and doesn’t let go, even after he freaks out for no reason. She senses something’s wrong, I guess. And because we get to see some of Jesse’s dreams, we know what that something is. Freddy Krueger (Englund) is back, and he’s causing Jesse all sorts of mental anguish. He is not, however, trying to kill him.
Instead, Freddy has decided that a better way to use Jesse’s body, instead of as a pincushion for his claw hand, is to posses it and cause it to kill a bunch of random people. Why? Probably because if these random people didn’t die, we wouldn’t have a movie. “You’ve got the body; I’ve got the brains,” he proposes to Jesse. People die in wakeful states, even if sometimes the surrounding environments seems rather dreamlike. This is a departure from the last film, and limits the potential of the original’s premise.
Setting all of the Freddy scenes in dreams allowed for him to be a more powerful killer, someone who isn’t bound by the logic and rules of the real world. It also permitted the filmmakers to come up with whatever area they wanted the dream to take place in, as long as they could fit it into the budget. Having Freddy take over Jesse’s body means none of that can happen — at least, not without us questioning it. How, exactly, some of the things in this film happen is still beyond me.
The victims this time around are also less important to us. One set-piece involves “Freddy” invading a pool party, and a couple of people get sliced up during this scene. We had no relation to these people — not even a name — so their deaths come across as meaningless and unimportant. That’s part of the problem with the lead character vanishing whenever the deaths occur; the only characterized individual is out of harm’s way. It’s especially true because Robert Englund replaces Mark Patton whenever he’s in “Freddy Mode,” which means we’re relatively sure nothing bad will happen to him. An unimportant character can’t kill Freddy.
The film isn’t scary, either, in large part because the only characters we care about are never put in harm’s way. The lead is the one performing the murders, so he’s not in any danger, and his girlfriend comes face to face with him as “Freddy” a couple of times and makes it through unharmed. There’s also no sense of atmosphere, which was a moderately important component of the original. We are also never given much to think about, which is a shame because the first movie was smarter than your average horror film.
By separating the dream sequences from the death ones, the filmmakers lose a lot of the creative freedom they had with the original idea. As a result, a lot of the kills in Freddy’s Revenge happen the same way: slicing up the victim. Sure, there are a couple of interesting deaths, like the way the gym teacher kicks the bucket, but they’re outdone by repetitive hacking and slashing.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is a disappointing follow-up to what was one of the best slasher movies to ever be released. This one shot itself in the foot from the get-go by neglecting to use the potential left for it with the original’s premise, instead taking Freddy in a different direction which limits creativity. As a result, the film is less interesting and less intellectually stimulating. It also isn’t scary and provides little in the way of suspense, since we know the protagonist will be fine right up until the end.