Friday, November 25, 2022

Scream, Queen, on TCM

Obviously, Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge did well at the box office, since there were six more films released in the original non-rebooted franchise (including Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason), but it has always been the most contentious of the series. Some fans complained screenwriter David Chaskin’s veered too far from Freddy Kruger’s established nature and motivations. (Future films kept him strictly dream-bound.) However, the homoerotic subtext (or text, per many critics) originally earned the film troll-ish scorn, but it built a cult following for the sequel over time. Lead actor Mark Patton found himself in the center of the controversy. After dropping out of show business, Patton reflects on the sequel he learned to embrace in Roman Chimienti & Tyler Jensen’s Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street, which airs late-night tonight on TCM.

In some ways,
Nightmare 2 was a possession film, in which Kruger tries to use the body of Patton’s character, the shy high school student Jesse Walsh, as a portal into our world. Instead of a jock, Walsh was a bullied teen, whose screams would subsequently be derided for their “girlishness.” Rather awkwardly, Patton happened to be closeted at the time.

The sequel’s stock has risen in recent years, thanks to critics driven by identity politics, who see it as a pioneering gay horror film—and not without reason. Walsh did not exactly exemplify “toxic masculinity.” There were several scenes in the boys’ locker room and even one in a gay bar. Unfortunately, it all generated a lot of uncomfortable scrutiny for Patton, culminating in his retirement from the public eye.

Throughout the doc, Chimienti and Jensen present two somewhat contradictory views of
Elm Street 2. Sometimes, they celebrate it as groundbreaking representation for gay teens in horror. Other times, they criticize the filmmakers, particularly Chaskin, for setting up Patton in an exposed position, in what they knew was a film with heavy gay subtext and imagery, leaving him out to dry. It is understandable how Patton might have somewhat mixed feelings on the sequel, but as a film, Scream Queen does nothing to synthesize or even acknowledge the conflicting perspectives.

Still, it is nice to see the HIV-undetectable Patton is now much healthier, physically and emotionally. He even gets some closure from a meeting with Chaskin. Fans will always be happy to hear from the rest of the original cast-members, including the great Robert Englund. Unfortunately, the analysis of
Elm Street 2 mostly sticks to the obvious, largely relying on trendy academic buzz words (phallic derivations are definitely thrown around). Only recommended for ardent franchise fans, Scream, Queen airs tonight into A.M. on TCM (and it streams on Shudder).