In 2010 screenwriter David Chaskin revealed a secret of Hollywood that almost everyone familiar with it had thought to be true. The writer, arguably most famous for his screenplay Nightmare on Elm Street 2, finally admitted writing the feature as something of a gay allegory.
The script of the film follows on, five years after the events of the original, with another teenager experiencing strange dreams and being approached by an apparent “bogeyman” who asks him to do his murdering in reward for celestial powers, or in this case, the ability to sexually satisfy another teenager.
Released in the first week of November 1985, Nightmare 2 was distributed by New Line Cinema – at the time a struggling production house who (although in existence since 1967) had failed to find their market share – with the original Nightmare (written and directed by Wes Craven and produced by New Line founder Robert Shaye) becoming something of a unexpected hit. Shaye allegedly thought so little of the original Nightmare film’s quality, in fact, that he asked Chaskin (then an employee at New Line who wrote scripts in his spare time) whether he felt he could do something to “cobble together a sequel for this piece of shit”, according to David in a 2007 interview.
Chaskin had worked at New Line for many years beforehand and the idea of a sequel had only actually been offered to him because Wes Craven originally balked at the idea of a follow up. Wes Craven might be the most famous name associated with the films legacy (Freddy Kruger and Robert Englund excepted) but would subsequently only be credited as a co-writer on the third film and would not direct or write again until the seventh in 1994. Nightmare 2 was directed by relative unknown Jack Sholder and it was obvious that the studio weren’t really dedicating all of their time to it; with cult favourite Critters released by New Line shortly thereafter in April 1986.
The most unusual thing about the films development, however, was definitely its screenplay and the contents therein – with horror fans arguing in the intervening years that the film has homoerotic undertones – and is a blatant attempt at creating an LGBT friendly horror film. In fact, so widespread is this theory, that The Advocate (who gave the film rave reviews upon its release) listed Nightmare 2 as #45 on its list of the 175 most essential LGBT movies of all time in 2014. That’s quite an achievement, considering it neither has any outwardly LGBT message nor does it contain a director/screenwriter who are themselves homosexual, something prevailing in the vast majority of the remaining 174 films on the list. In fact it almost makes a damaging statement against homosexuality.
While Chaskin agrees in the 2010 documentary ‘Never Sleep Again’ he did make more cryptic remarks in a 2007 interview online, stating that
“Yes, there was certainly some intentional subtext but it was intended to play homophobic rather than homoerotic…what kinds of things would truly frighten them, to the core. And scary dreams that make them, even momentarily, question their own sexuality seemed like a slam dunk to me”.
He goes further to say the film was aimed at scaring its demographic of young, straight, white men.
“If you really wanted to have fun, one might argue that the entire movie is a metaphor — Jesse is, in the end, finally able to control the monster inside him (his latent homosexuality) with the love of a good woman. Maybe they should show this film at one of those evangelical deprogramming sessions where they try to “fix” gay people into regular Americans”
This quote seems a lot more damaging than perhaps intended, with a very clear indication that the content of the film was never once considered pro-LGBT, despite it having since being embraced (in certain corners) as such. It is, however, a very different Nightmare film to the others in the franchise – often not getting the credit it deserves – with the Kruger character a lot more developed and having far more dialogue than in any other instalment.
Director Jack Sholder (according to Chaskin) saw no homoerotic undertones whatsoever, which Chaskin himself debates obviously meant he must have never read the script, yet apparently one of the best receptions the film’s original release received was in New York; allegedly being requested by pornography theatres who wished to show it as a double feature with pornography for men. Sholder himself denies Chaskins quotes, however, telling Sinema recently on a podcast that he was hired six weeks before the film started shooting and had read several different versions of the script in preparation. Though he makes no reference to any LGBT connections or homoerotic undertones.
Perhaps one reason for the very obvious LGBT connection in film, though, is lead actor Mark Patton who plays Jesse. The script of the film features a subtext involving Jesse struggling to have sex with his girlfriend. A lot of that has to do with the transformations taking place within his body but his hesitation and actions can also be interrupted as homosexual, as opposed to simply a lack of sexual knowledge. Though the character does seem to possess this trait as well.
Patton had made relatively few feature films before Nightmare 2, but as an outwardly gay actor, it is perhaps less widely known that he was diagnosed with HIV just after his 40th birthday. He has spoken publicly about his battle with the disease and credits an unnamed friend who saved his life, taking him to an AIDS health clinic three days after his 40th; where his diagnosis was confirmed and the medication he was taking for ongoing sexually transmitted diseases were altered so as not to worsen his condition. As this film serves as his most well-known role, even to this date, Patton continues to live with his diagnosis; appearing at conventions and being involved in the films expanding universe. He is seen, at least de facto, as a spokesperson for his genre within the community and the public eye. He has also been vocal on the subjects of AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia in Los Angeles.
Patton had some success in New York (playing a gay character on Broadway in a musical with Cher in 1982) before moving to Los Angeles and being told that he had to be very careful not to expose his sexuality to potential casting agents or companies. His story is not uncommon of many actors in a similar situation during that period and beyond and it could be this initial success in New York which caught the attention of The Advocate and placed the film so highly.
Whatever the reasons, Nightmare on Elm Street 2 remains one of the most controversial (and possibly the most overlooked) instalments in a rather highly controversial franchise. The Sal Lumsden Archive Project Film Club are delighted, therefore, to present a special discussion and screening of the film in Gateshead Central Library at 1pm on October 15th as part of its ongoing Film Club promotion and in tribute to the 30th Anniversary of its release.
We hope that you’ll be able to join us.
Film Club Coordinator