MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
Every cinephile knows the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is a staple within the horror genre. A masterclass crafted by the legendary Wes Craven, it contains one of the scariest monsters ever to grace the big screen. While the original is the one talked about the most, its very first sequel is the one that has become the most controversial over time. It may not deviate too much from its predecessor, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is littered with homoerotic subtext. Some people argue that the film’s themes are so overt that you can’t even call it subtext. As a result, since its release, it’s been the subject of countless articles and criticisms. In the last decade though, many audiences have especially continued to wonder why the film was made in such a way. In Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen’s documentary, Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street, that question is finally answered.
The documentary aims to clear the air once and for all, and with the help of Freddy’s Revenge star Mark Patton too. Many may not know (I certainly didn’t), but Patton was actually in hiding up until about a decade ago. A combination of the film bombing critically and personal woes discouraged him from continuing to pursue a career as an actor. In the years following the sequel’s release, he fled to Mexico and became an inconspicuous art store owner. It actually wasn’t until the documentary Never Sleep Again, which examines the entire A Nightmare on Elm Street legacy, started filming that he was tracked down by a private investigator. His experience working on that documentary, in addition to the love he began to receive as a result of the film’s new life as a cult classic, reopened the door to Hollywood for him. This is how Scream, Queen opens up. We follow Mark as he prepares to attend a convention to meet fans. He’s much older, but also much more aware of his influence on the LGBT community, as well as a generation that has come to idolize his film for the barriers he’s broken and the doors Freddy’s Revenge has opened.
The documentary also delves into Patton’s history prior to the horror stint. From working on Broadway with Cher and Robert Altman to punching a then-unknown George Clooney on a walk-on role in a TV show, it seemed like Patton was poised to become the next big thing. The stars seemed to align in his favor, even leading up to him getting the role as Jesse in the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel.
But between a lukewarm reception of the film and a homophobic culture heightened by the AIDS epidemic, Patton’s career had suffered a major setback. The latter of those two reasons seemed to especially have a huge effect on Patton because he was a closeted gay man at the time of the film’s release. In fact, the documentary does a fantastic job at taking us on Patton’s journey, and allowing us to feel the heartbreak that he had to endure off-screen. It’s clear that the filmmakers empathize with Patton. I felt that empathy too because what he went through 35 years ago is something that I’d like to think actors today would not have to experience, especially at a time where so much continues to change in Hollywood.
The documentary also does a fine job settling the dispute between Patton and the screenwriter of Freddy’s Revenge, David Chaskin, once and for all. The tension between the two has been a major source of debate since the film’s release. Chaskin initially blamed the change in the film’s tone on Patton’s performance, but in the wake of the film’s resurgence, he now takes credit for it saying he wrote it that way. During the confrontation, Patton doesn’t hold back, acknowledging the hypocrisy. Seeing him get closure on an issue that was haunting him for 30+ years was almost as relieving for me as I know it was for him. This particular section, which acts as the film’s climax, is one of its most noteworthy parts.
The filmmakers also do a really good job at addressing the homoerotic subtext with various people close to the film. Even those who “worship” it offer their insight. One of the most interesting people interviewed is a college professor who analyzes horror films and their hidden meanings. His interpretation of Freddy Krueger as a predatory gay man is something that I found particularly interesting, considering that the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street attempted to go down that avenue with the character. It’s an idea that isn’t elaborated on too much, but that I felt could have been fun to explore. Towards the end, there’s also this other great point brought up about how Freddy’s Revenge might be a film about gender roles, but like the mention of Freddy Krueger’s sexuality, the film washes right over it.
Unfortunately, the documentary isn’t as laser-focused on Freddy’s Revenge as I expected, or as some other people who may be interested in checking out this film might expect. It does deviate quite a bit from the sequel to explore the history of the AIDS epidemic and even LGBT culture. While those connections are important to make, they ultimately feel like filler. They don’t take anything away from the film, but I’m also not so sure they are necessary. Instead, I would have liked to see a lot more interaction between Patton and the rest of the cast from the original film, or even between him and Chaskin. To me, Freddy’s Revenge has always been such an outlier in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and I would have loved to just get some more insight or a behind the scenes look at what making the film was like. By the end of the film, it’s apparent that many of the cast and crew are still divisive on whether or not they knew what they were making.
Scream, Queen is fascinating because of the way it paints an incredibly intimate portrait of a man who has both lost himself and found himself at the hands of the same work of art. I walked away from this film actually feeling like the world missed out on not seeing how big of a star Mark Patton would become. At the same time, I’m content at how content he is with having changed the world’s perception of him by embracing who he truly is. Like Freddy’s Revenge, this documentary captures the power that comes from facing your personal demons because the freedom that comes from owning who you are is a dream come true.