Some prefer their movie killer stalking Jamie Lee Curtis. Others go for the man in the hockey mask stalking camp counselors at Crystal Lake. I was always a Freddy Krueger guy. Wes Craven ushered in a new kind of slasher when he made A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Freddy Krueger was a child killer whose spirit haunts the parents that burned him alive. Krueger gets his vengeance by killing their sons and daughters while they drift off to never-never land. The success of ELM STREET bankrolled New Line Cinema for the coming years – New Line became known as “The House That Freddy Built,” an obvious nod to Walt Disney’s success thanks to Mickey Mouse. A Freddy sequel was an easy go picture.
That movie, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE, was a box office hit, though it was not well liked by fans. Every long-running horror franchise encounters this. (Did Jason really need to take Manhattan?) This Elm Street sequel was such a departure from what Wes Craven created that it became the franchise’s pariah by a wide margin. FREDDY’S REVENGE carries a gay subtext, of which I was totally oblivious to when I first saw it when I was nine or ten. But it’s right there, clear as day. Towels snapping in the locker room, a leather bar, and the fact that only men are killed.
The biggest fatality, however, was the movie’s star: Mark Patton. He is the subject of SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, a three-prong documentary about ’80s gay phobia, an infamous horror sequel, and the actor who has been tormented by it for 30 years. As Hollywood looks to reform its image in the wake of #metoo and be a more inclusive working environment in front of and behind the camera, the 1980s was tabloid central as the rise of HIV/AIDS and the death of Rock Hudson called into question health concerns working with homosexuals on television and in movies.
Now, Patton was a (closeted) rising star with successful appearances in commercials and later on TV. Working on a stage production and film adaptation of COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, with Robert Altman, Cher, and Karen Black, was the exposure he needed to make the leap to movie stardom. FREDDY’S REVENGE should have been a breakthrough, but the horror movie became his own personal nightmare.
Filmmakers Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen explore Patton’s rising status and his ostracism in the times that personal lifestyles were under much scrutiny. Thirty years after leaving the business, Patton steps back into the public eye, as he comes to terms with his horrible past and his character Jesse Walsh. Up until his Elm Street sequel, slasher movies were about the virginal “final girl,” who becomes masculinized through what film studies professor Carol Jeanne Clover calls “phallic appropriation” (like wielding a knife or object that serves to symbolize the phallus). Patton was the “final guy,” an early example for the sub-genre. He lived, but his career died.
In 2010, the NEVER SLEEP AGAIN documentary offered an exhaustive look at the legacy of the horror franchise. More than 100 people were interviewed, including David Raskin, who penned FREDDY’S REVENGE. He admits the homosexual themes were intentional (something he had long denied), though the rest of the cast and crew weren’t aware of the themes. Regardless of its intentions, Mark Patton became the scapegoat. Letters with “faggot” in big bold letters, or “Jesse’s a homo!” littered his mailbox. The advent of the internet and social media would just exacerbate those comments without the need of a postage stamp.
SCREAM, QUEEN! is a nice sidebar to that comprehensive retrospective and a reprieve to the sequel’s original disdain. Once chided and scorned for being unmistakably gay (even Jack Sholder was nonplussed to the homosexual themes and he directed it!), the movie is now widely celebrated. Reappraisals by film scholars have herald it as the first mainstream queer horror movie. Chimienti and Jensen provide relevance as they look back on the movie’s dubious history and what it did to its star. This is a great profile of a man looking for catharsis and finding himself as an LGBTQ cult icon.
FREDDY’S REVENGE may have been Mark Patton’s personal dream killer, but SCREAM, QUEEN! allows him to sleep peacefully.
Director: Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen
Cast: Mark Patton, David Chaskin, Jack Sholder, Marshall Bell, Robert Rusler, Kim Myers, Clu Gulager, and Robert England