Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street tells the fascinating story of actor Mark Patton.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (a Shudder Exclusive) introduces us to actor Mark Patton. Shortly after graduating from high school, he moved to New York City to pursue acting.
Due to Patton’s all-American boy good looks and talent, he was almost immediately cast in commercials, and in 1982 he landed a Broadway role in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. He was joined onstage by the likes of Karen Black and Cher, and later that same year, the entire cast made a film of the same name.
Patton was flying high at this point, and in 1985 he was cast in the highly anticipated sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This is where the story gets interesting, because what should have been a giant stepping stone in the career of a young, up and coming actor, instead became a stumbling block.
Although the film made a lot of money, critics and audiences pretty much panned it, largely because of what was perceived as gay subtext. Scream, Queen! shows us several snippets of online commentary, referencing how “faggy” it is. ANOES2 has always been considered one of the gayest horror films in history, and although that may seem like no big deal today, back in 1985 it was.
AIDS had been lurking in news stories since the early 1980’s, but the hysteria and panic was hitting hard in 1985. If you were a gay actor at the time, you did everything you could to keep the general public from discovering this, and as a result, most gay actors stayed in the closet, including young Mark Patton.
David Chaskin, the writer of the film, denied that he had purposely included any gay material, instead blaming it on Patton’s portrayal of Jesse. The ridicule thrown upon ANOES2 reflected on the young actor, as filmmakers decided that he would be unable to play a straight character.
Weary of being asked to hide his homosexuality, Patton chose instead to walk away from Hollywood, and ended up settling in Puerta Vallerta, Mexico. As the years passed, the “gay” Elm Street sequel was much-discussed, and he was unaware of the fact that he was the subject of a horror-related game of Where’s Waldo?
When the four hour long documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy was in its beginning stages, Patton was finally tracked down. Not only did he agree to participate in the doc, he also got involved in the convention circuit, and is still sought after as a guest.
Scream, Queen! is a fascinating study of what it was like to be gay in 1980’s America, of wanting to escape from the stress and anxiety of that time, and mostly, of Mark Patton’s need to clear his name of accusations that he “ruined” ANOES2 by being too gay. It is also about Patton wanting to confront writer Chaskin, (who in later years admitted that he knowingly included a very strong gay subtext in the script) so that Chaskin could acknowledge the pain it caused him.
There are also interviews with the director and actors from ANOES2, including the great Robert Englund. It’s an important documentary, both for the horror and the queer communities, and don’t be surprised if you are brought to tears at moments. I sniffled my way through a lot of Scream, Queen!, and I hope to run into Mark Patton at a horror convention one of these days. If it’s ever allowable again after the nightmare that has been COVID-19 passes, I want to give him a giant hug.
Scream, Queen!: My Nightmare on Elm Street is available to stream on Shudder. If you are not already a subscriber, you can get a free 30-day trial by using the code SHUTIN at checkout.
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