Freddy vs. Jason in 1985: A tale of two slasher sequels

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – Photo from New Line Cinema / Friday the 13th Part V – Photo from Paramount Pictures

1985 saw the release of new A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th installments. The results weren’t exactly what audiences were expecting.

Sequels Reign Supreme

In 1985, Sylvester Stallone dominated the box office with a pair of sequels: Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV. Stallone wrote both films, which proved  to be strikingly similar from a thematic and structural standpoint. They are both 90-minute action movies where the heroes serve as symbols for America. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, John Rambo retroactively wins the Vietnam War, and in Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa single-highhandedly (literally) wins the Cold War. These two pieces of patriotic wish-fulfillment struck a chord with audiences during the Reagan Era.

While I would love to continue dissecting 1985’s Rambo and Rocky sequels, I’m, instead, going to dive into a couple other 1985 sequels. These are, of course, the return of slasher titans, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.

While serving as continuations of two of the most popular horror franchises of the 1980s, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning are also the two most bizarre and humorous entries of each franchise.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge — Courtesy of New Line Cinema

A Homoerotic Nightmare

Following the shocking success of 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, the fledgling New Line Cinema was eager to produce a follow-up. Sensing they had a potential cash cow on their hands, New Line hastily produced a sequel, which was released within one year of the original.

The resulting film was lambasted by critics and fans alike for its treatment of Freddy, which mostly eschewed the dream logic of the original. It’s basically a “Cronenbergian” body horror movie that follows teen protagonist, Jesse (Mark Patton) who is inhabited by Freddy. The main thrust of the film concerns Jesse’s struggle with Freddy for control of his body.

On the surface, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 sounds like a banal, unfaithful sequel (and it is to an extent). While it’s by no means a good movie, Freddy’s Revenge is a sporadically hilarious one–not a good sign for a sequel to one of the best bona fide horror films of the decade.

What makes Freddy’s Revenge so successful from a comedic standpoint is its deluge of homoerotic overtones. Jesse’s internal struggle with Freddy is a metaphor for his repressed homosexuality. The diabolical Freddy Krueger is the physical manifestation of Jesse’s gay urges. This antiquated, puritanical view of homosexuality certainly wouldn’t fly today, but it makes for some great comedy.

More from A Nightmare on Elm Street

Some of the film’s homoerotic highlights include a moment of gym class horseplay between Jesse and his best friend, Grady (Robert Rusler), an absurd dance sequence set to an early iteration of the early 90s pop hit “Touch Me (All Night Long),” a surreal sequence where Jesse bumps into his gay authoritarian gym teacher at a leather bar (followed by some sadomasochistic punishment back at the school), the gym teacher’s subsequent death in the school showers, and last but not least, Jesse fleeing the warm embrace of his girlfriend pre-coitus to go spend the night with Grady (who is clad only in underwear).

The main issue with the film was that the writer and director were supposedly never on the same page with regard to the script, no pun intended. Screenwriter David Chaskin reportedly infused Freddy’s Revenge with gay subtext, which was totally lost on director Jack Sholder (The Hidden). At the same time, Chaskin oddly denied the inclusion of this subtext for years, and he placed the bulk of the blame for the film’s perceived gay subtext on the shoulders of Mark Patton for giving a performance that was “too gay.”

These rumors certainly give credence to the notion that the production was likely a bit of a maelstrom. Had the creative team been simpatico, it’s quite possible that Freddy’s Revenge could have been a great LGBT horror film/satire instead of one that makes William Friedkin’s Cruising look like a thoughtful, nuanced take of the 1980s gay scene.