‘Freddy’s Revenge’ Is The Queer Horror Film That Made Me
In this personal essay, Mark O. Estes looks at 'Freddy's Revenge' and how it helped him begin to understand his sexuality.
Growing up, I feared one being more than the wrath of my parents, elders, and even some of the bullies at school. That terrifying being was Frederick Charles Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street fame. Aka The Springwood Slasher. AKA The Man of Your Dreams.
My introduction to Freddy was accidental. One night when my parents were in the beginning stages of ‘bed training’ me at about age two or three, my mom thought it was wise to rent and watch A Nightmare on Elm Street after putting me to bed. It didn’t work out so well, no matter how many times my mom told me it was fake.
Later when my cousins caught wind of this, they used any of the Elm Street films and the TV show Freddy’s Nightmares to scare me to death. Freddy had officially become my personal Boogeyman, and this led to many sleepless nights and ticked-off parents. No matter how haunted a house was or how many slashers made their way through summer camps and slumber parties, Freddy would still reign over my fears.
That’s because Freddy not only got you in your sleep, but he also utilized your fears, your vices, and anything that brought you to a pause to disclose to anyone else against you. Freddy has been likened to a Satanic Santa Claus of sorts, and I, too, subscribed to that logic. Growing older, however, when I started to grow more comfortable with horror, I grew more comfortable with Freddy, becoming a card-carrying member of a FredHead at an early age.
Around this time I had basically sussed out which films in the Elm Street franchise were highly adored and which ones weren’t. The one that surprisingly eased me into this uncertain relationship that was building between Krueger and me was Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. But, I was leery about A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge for a long time for many reasons. Friends and family who had already seen the movie didn’t speak highly of it. At the time it was all about Dream Warriors and The Dream Master; Freddy’s Revenge didn’t fit into the overall narrative for them.
But, when I did see the movie for myself, I personally was more terrified of Freddy than before. This was “Peak Freddy”. Not only was he haunting people’s dreams, but he was walking around in the real world within the movie. That added a new layer to my fear of the guy. With that being said, I initially didn’t buy Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton) as a protagonist (I was a Nancy, Kristen, Alice fan only at that point). Then puberty hit. And after that Freddy’s Revenge took on a whole new meaning.
The homosexual context of Freddy’s Revenge went over my head on the first viewing as a kid. I know, how is that even possible? Looking back, I believe I was ignorant of the homosexual tone of Freddy’s Revenge because I didn’t want to see it at the time. It was hitting a bit too close to home.
I was becoming highly aware that I was different from the other boys at school. My parents were becoming increasingly worried that I was being a bit too soft. I had no interest in shop class, sports, and anything else the average Black boy in the area was into. And girls just weren’t hitting it for me. Sure, I had crushes on some but they didn’t invade my mind 24/7. During the second viewing of Freddy’s Revenge was when these internal problems started to look a whole lot like Jesse’s. I didn’t like how I felt about it.
It felt as if Freddy found another way to renew his hold over me by projecting my fear of being gay onto Jesse without saying it exactly. In fact for a daunting minute during my self-hatred period of coming to terms with being gay, I equated Freddy wanting to take over Jesse’s body as a physical manifestation of homosexuality trying to claim Jesse’s soul. Yes, it’s stupid, and, I stress, extremely dangerous, for anyone to embark down this path of thinking. But for someone who held Freddy as a personal boogeyman, the knower of all my secrets, I foolishly let this pervade my thoughts, but only for a minute. This reaction made Freddy’s Revenge a non-priority whenever I went back and watched the films.
With the advent of the internet, I realized that I wasn’t the only person who picked up on the queer themes of Freddy’s Revenge. A lot of people were hip to it. It became apparent why my classmates and cousins deemed it not a good movie outside of the ‘sequelness’ of it. Whenever the gay tone of Freddy’s Revenge was mentioned it was usually associated with negative connotations.
By this time, I was slowly becoming more comfortable with my sexuality, so I started to defend the film without pause. I had become somewhat the “Black sheep” of the family. I was rejecting the formula of what was expected of me (cishet, Black, patriarchal Baptist), going against the grain was becoming second nature to me. So I began to relate heavily with Freddy’s Revenge for having the balls to do the same thing: standing out loud and proud. So Freddy’s Revenge was becoming a staple with my binge sessions, gaining more favoritism with my growing love of Freddy, and, most importantly, who I was.
Then I came out. In 2014, I officially came out of the closet and a floodgate was opened. My love for horror became more sound. More prominent. More proud. So to marry both my love of horror and newfound internal freedom of truly being who I was, I decided to look for queer films to enjoy and celebrate within the horror canon. Of course, Freddy’s Revenge was on that list, tied only with Fright Night Part II, because Belle is another story entirely.
While Belle from Fright Night Part II was the spark of my true identity, Freddy’s Revenge took that spark and ignited my soul into slowly but surely becoming comfortable in my skin as a proud Black gay man. Thankfully through horror scholars, the Scream, Queen documentary, and tons of queer horror fans, the legacy of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is finally getting the proper respect it deserves. It’s boldly claiming its queer context. It’s not apologetic about it. And my love for it, and Freddy, has never been greater for that.