This article was first published in Attitude issue 312, August 2019
What’s the gayest film ever that’s not a 'gay' film?
Although Top Gun gives it a run for its money, the answer is probably the 1985 sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street – a film where the gay subtext is plain text.
Taking only the iconic address and Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) from the first instalment, the movie sees young Jesse (Mark Patton) become gradually possessed by the dream-based monster after he moves into the house Nancy vacated in the first film. So far, so spooky.
On paper, that could have made for an interesting progression to the saga. However, a gentle disagreement over the finished product has since developed between screenwriter David Chaskin, director Jack Sholder and Patton as to how much anyone knew they were making a movie that might be interpreted as, at the very least, homoerotic.
Someone made the decision for Freddy to focus his desires on a teenage boy. This is unusual for the horror genre. Many a thesis has been written on the feminist subtext of the ‘final girl’ – the female character who usually removes a male stalker’s oft-phallic “weapon” and kills him with it (it’s Meryl-alike Kim Myers who ultimately defeats Freddy in this movie).
The result of the decision to have a male ‘final girl’ means poor Patton does spend a lot of his time screaming like Ned Flanders in various states of undress.
Chaskin has said that, in his script, it was supposed to be subtext that Jesse might be struggling with his sexuality and that Freddy might be metaphor for him exploring his desires or even shame. However, it’s not very well hidden.
In one scene, Freddy takes Jesse to a leather bar to whip his sadomasochistic PE teacher to death. In the shower. Nude.
Later, after snogging Myers’ character, Jesse freaks out and legs it to his pal Ron’s house where he begs to stay with the line: “Something is trying to get in my body!”
The director and studio execs deny Chaskin’s script was written with intent. Instead they, and at one point Chaskin, said Patton’s performance is what tips the film into camp territory. This doesn’t quite seem fair.
Yes, Patton is gay, but at the time he wasn’t out, even to the director.
Patton claims the ‘gay horror film’ tag actually damaged his fledgling career at a time when Hollywood actors were strongly encouraged to stay closeted.
I think everyone should bow down and kiss the feet of whoever made the gay 'choices' on set because they’re the only thing which elevates Elm Street 2 beyond being utter crap.
The ongoing debate or conversation regarding the queer subtext has endured far better than the fi lm itself. Even Robert Englund himself gave Attitude a long interview in 2010 about the film’s “gay legacy” and how it was inspired by the Aids crisis.
I doubt that was the case. In the end, what we’re left with is a bad horror film but a queer curiosity nonetheless.
With no one willing to entirely take credit for the very homoerotic content, maybe it’s the case that, as in life, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was simply born that way.