Thursday, February 27, 2020

Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019)

I found myself haunting The Screening Room again to see Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019), a documentary about Nightmare on Elm St. Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) and it's underlying gayness, or at least that's what I thought it would be about.


In preparation for the documentary, I re-watched Nightmare on Elm St. 2. I remember watching it back around the time it came out, probably at a sleepover party on VHS. I was unimpressed and didn't understand why it stood out so much from the other Nightmare on Elm St. movies. I know I didn't like that it was a possession-type movie and it truly changed the dynamic of Freddy Krueger. To be fair, I was young. Seeing it now, I caught all the homoerotic clues and it's a no-brainer that it's a gay horror movie. I was happy to see male butts and not boobs like so many 1980s horror movies! I'm still confused as to why everyone is so sweaty though. lol.

I read that originally producers had such an unexpected hit with the Nightmare on Elm St. movie, they were in a rush to make a sequel and they were planning separate stories for each movie with the only connection being Freddy Krueger. They ended up switching gears ~ when the second film was a bust ~ and brought back fan favorite final girl Nancy for the third installment, (which I admit Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dream Warriors (1987) was always my favorite.)

So back to Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm St., it revisits part 2 through the eyes of the main actor Mark Patton. So it's less about the movie, and more about him. Mark was cast as Jesse Walsh and this role was meant to further his acting career, but the problem was the gay subtext. He felt it ruined his career and he vanished from show business all together. Little did he know, he shaped fans idea of what a heroine is and gay people finally found representation in horror through his character. Jesse was a final girl...er boy.


In real life Mark Patton is gay. He knew he was gay from the age of 4, but that never stopped his acting career... in the beginning. He was in movies, shared the Broadway stage with Cher, and starred in a bunch of national commercials. He was the "All-American" boy. The timing of his first starring role in Nightmare 2 was bad. In the mid 1980s the AIDS epidemic was taking over the media and we were still learning about it. The media associated gay people with AIDS. Gay actors went back into hiding because of the shame and Hollywood was fearful of people learning about all the gay actors. Mark is HIV positive. So really the subtext of Nightmare on Elm St. Part 2 was dangerous for Mark as an actor.

The writer of the movie explained that at the time, in 1985, the real horror was being gay and having AIDS, not some slasher gimmick. He tried to manifest homoerotic horror in the movie through the relationship Freddy and Jesse have. It's almost a love story where Jesse transforms into Freddy.

Looking back on my experience with horror movies ~ just off the top of my head~ Sleepaway Camp (1983) stands out as introducing a character that you're not sure of their sexual orientation. *SPOILER* You think the main character is a girl, but you find out at the end they have a penis. So the question is, are they a cross-dresser? Are they transgender? You don't really know. Another one is The Lost Boys (1987). The character of Sam always seemed very feminine to me. He even has a picture of Rob Lowe on the wall of his room and wears a "Born to Shop" T shirt, but it's never ever addressed. Really it's "all don't ask, don't tell." In my opinion ~ in the real world ~ it's no one's business anyway.


In 2010, the documentary Never Sleep Again: the Elm St. Legacy (2010) came out, and producers wanted to include Mark Patton. They had to hire a private investigator to find him. (fyi- If you plan on watching Never Sleep Again it's about 4 hours. I was not prepared for that when I started watching it.) They found him living in Mexico off the grid. He's now an artist and owns a little shop.

In 2015 he followed the horror convention circuit because he finally realized his contribution to horror movies. He's finally taking the fame and using it to become an advocate for HIV awareness. He's back in the spotlight and changing the conversation about LGBTQ+ in horror.

I'm a fan of documentaries and I found this one to be thoughtful and interesting. Mark Patton gets "his truth" out and even gets closure from the writer of Nightmare on Elm St. Part 2 for derailing his career. The opening animation was was wonderful too.

Here's the trailer...


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