Friday, December 2, 2016

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge

2.5/4

Starring: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Robert Englund, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange

Rated R (probably for Horror Violence/Gore, Language and Some Sexuality)

Of all the "classic" slasher movies, Wes Craven's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" boasted the most clever premise: a serial killer with knives for fingers stalked his victims in their dreams, and if they died in their dreams, they died in real life.  It was an original gimmick, not to mention a chilling one, and Craven, who did not have a spotless record, managed to milk it enough that it became a staple of the genre.  It wasn't a great horror movie, but it was effective.  The sequel, subtitled "Freddy's Revenge," seeks to invert the premise in a way: this time, Freddy seeks to possess a victim and, through him, kill people.  It's an intriguing twist on the formula, and while it doesn't quite work, there's enough good stuff here that you might actually want to check it out.

Jesse Walsh (Patton) has just moved into a new house on Elm Street.  He is not happy.  His father Ken (Gulager) is constantly on his back about unpacking his things, his room is like a sauna, and he is having some very violent nightmares about a man with knives for fingers.  But when his much hated gym teacher turns up dead after he had a dream that, through him, slashed the man to death, Jesse begins to fear that he's the one committing the murders.  Or that he's going insane.  Only his would-be girlfriend Lisa Webber (Myers) believes him, and together they try to stop Freddy.

What is on screen is good stuff.  The actors have a certain appeal, and it's enough that they can hold the audience's attention without the horror elements.  Take away Freddy and you've still got a decent little movie.  That's a huge plus for any movie, especially in this genre, where most characters are too dumb to function and so annoying that the audience starts rooting for the killer.

As glad as I am that the filmmakers didn't take the easy road and simply rehash the original, I have to admit that the plot stumbles.  This is a common complaint of mine, but that's because it's 100% true and 100% essential: you have to establish a set of rules for what can and cannot happen.  The original did that, but this one doesn't.  The relationship between Freddy and Jesse isn't well explained, which causes us to scratch our heads when we should be scared out of our wits.

If I had to pick, I'd give it a negative review.  There are some things that are good in this movie, even worthy of praise.  The characters are interesting and sympathetic, the plot takes chances, and the film has some great, if gruesome, special effects work.  But the relationships aren't given enough time to breathe and the plot isn't well thought out.  Another run through the typewriter and some more time with the characters before the slicing and dicing probably would have upped this to a solid 3/4.

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