Review by Sean Boelman
Exploring what is inarguably one of the most controversial horror sequels of all time, the documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street takes a look at A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and the influence the film had on queer cinema. A must-see for any horror fan, the movie has some structural issues but still makes a great case for its subject as an essential piece of film history.
The film tells the story of actor Mark Patton, who starred as the “scream queen” in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge in a time in which homophobia was on the rise in light of the AIDS crisis. With this, the documentary becomes not only a behind-the-scenes look at a revolutionary movie that made waves because of its ambitious (even if unpurposeful) thematic material, but also a biography of an undersung LGBTQ icon and the impact he had.
The film does a solid enough job of making Patton into a very likable subject. He’s already very charming and has a pretty sizable fanbase, so it doesn’t take much for the movie to succeed in this regard. There is a reason why he has become such an icon in the horror industry and the LGBTQ community, after all.
Ultimately, the film does try to juggle a bit too much, causing it to feel somewhat choppy at times. While there are some truly fascinating moments, many portions of the movie seem more underdeveloped. For example, the segment dealing with Patton’s AIDS diagnosis and the way in which he overcame it to become a vocal activist does not receive nearly enough screen time.
That said, as a feature-length cinematic essay on the themes of a film that is widely debated, the movie does a very good job of presenting its argument and backing it up with relevant evidence. The film purports very firmly that the famous (or infamous, depending on who is asked) “homoerotic subtext” was very purposeful and became text instead as a result.
The film features interviews with some important players in the story, in addition to various cinema historians. Of course, Patton himself tells the majority of the story. Although there are some stylistic inconsistencies between the interviews, their content is mostly very strong and is what keeps the movie moving. Interviews with Freddy himself, Robert Englund, expectedly provide some of the best insight.
It is on a technical level that the film falls flat. The movie as a whole lacks stylistic cohesiveness, and this does distract from the story being told. Additionally, the film uses footage from the movie being referenced, but it often re-uses the same clips. Sometimes, this is because a particular scene is being talked about over and over again, but more often, it seems like licensing issues. Still, more variety would have been appreciated.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street provides some interesting commentary and insight on a movie that perplexes most and is beloved by many. Even when the film bites off a bit more than it can chew, it is still a very informative watch.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street hits theaters on February 27 and VOD on March 3.