Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 17, 2020)
As inevitably as day following night, hit horror movies inspire sequels. Heck, often marginally successful genre films prompt subsequent efforts, so a flick as popular as 1984’s A Nightmare On Elm Street clearly would get another chapter.
The original Nightmare became something special because it was different. Instead of the usual superhuman threat ala Halloween or Friday the 13th, Elm presented a different kind of villain, one who attacked us from inside our heads when we were at our most vulnerable.
Who hasn't been spooked by nightmares and sometimes felt absolutely convinced that our dreams were real? Elm capitalized on those fears and convictions in a compelling manner that made it unique.
A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, however, just capitalized on the success of the first film. On its own, it's hard to find a reason for this movie's existence, as it appears for no reason other than to make some more money based on the first picture's reputation.
Five years after the first movie’s events, a new family moves into the house terrorized in the prior story. High school student Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) suffers from nightmares in which scarred maniac Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) brutalizes various locals.
Once again, these dreams turn out to come true, though this time, Freddy enjoys grander plans. He wants to take over Jesse’s body and become a force of mayhem in the real world as well as the dream realm.
Revenge earned major criticism over the years as one of the weaker horror sequels, and those statements make some sense, though I don't think the film is nearly as terrible as so many seem to believe.
Actually, I think it's greatest sin is that it lacks any true spark and it seems too much like a generic rehash of the first movie without any creativity of its own.
In that way, Revenge comes across much more like a generic slasher film than did the first movie, which appeared so creative and fresh. In the sequel, Freddy seems less like a spooky supernatural force than just some nasty baddie.
The story involves none of the same characters as the first film, which feels like another miscalculation. Strangely, although the story is supposed to take place five years after the first one, no styles have changed at all - sure looks like the mid-Eighties to me! Okay, it may be too much to expect the filmmakers to anticipate future trends, but the dated look of the project doesn't help it.
In terms of plot, we find a problematic deviation from the first story. In that one, Freddy haunted the children of the Elm Street adults who killed him.
As far as I can tell, Jesse and his family have no connection to that event. They become attached to the problem just via haunted house syndrome, something that makes no sense in the context of the original plot.
This gives the filmmakers an excuse to bring back Freddy, and that's all they wanted. The usual fears and doubts occur as Jesse wonders if he's nuts, and the tale actually features a mildly promising premise when Freddy attempts to make Jesse his human agent.
I have no idea how this is supposed to work, but hey, it's a horror movie! If we can accept a creepy guy who kills people in their dreams, then the rest of it seems acceptable as well.
Except when the story deviates from the already-established rules. As so wonderfully mocked in the Scream series, horror films have to work on some sort of internal consistency, so we'll buy pretty much anything as long as it continues along a seemingly sensible line within the flick’s universe.
Revenge further deviates from the standard in that one scene actually shows Freddy in real-life. Granted, I suppose it's possible that this external Freddy delivers a manifestation of Jesse, but I don't get that impression, so I'm pretty sure he's actually supposed to be a separate entity.
There's another strike, and nothing else about Revenge can overcome those flaws. The characters feel tremendously thin and the acting does nothing to beef up the parts.
Patton flops in the lead, as he presents a bland and unengaging presence that never prompts the slightest interest in him. Really, this kind of movie works best with a female lead, as - excuse any possible sexism - women seem more believable as pursued victims.
It's tough for a guy in that situation to not come off as whiny and weak, and when the actor in question is as milquetoast as Patton, the going becomes even more difficult.
Revenge does feature a major female participant in the person of
Jesse's girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers), but she also seems drab and bland.
She's a cute girl who bears a striking physical resemblance to Meryl Streep, but her acting chops aren't quite on that level, and she fails to ignite any spark in the character.
Were it not for its brand name, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 would have been forgotten long ago. Its connection to the famous series keeps it in the public eye, but even compared to some of the later lackluster sequels, this one appears weak.
Honestly, it's not a terrible movie, but it seems generic. Revenge provides a letdown after the invigorating and creative first film.