Besides Freddy Krueger, the Teen Slasher franchise “A Nightmare On Elm Street” is known for one other thing: the uselessness of adults. Teen Slasher films have always found adults to be relatively clueless, but “NOES” takes the cluelessness to a whole new level. As was the case in the original, the adults in “NOES 2: Freddy’s Revenge” are not only clueless, they’re also antagonistic toward our heroes — the young teens suffering under nightly assaults by knife-for-fingers maniac Freddy Krueger.
“NOES 2” picks up 5 years after the events of the original “NOES”. We learn that Nancy, having battled and (supposedly defeated) Freddy, is now confined to a mental institution. (She’s never seen in the sequel.) We meet Jesse (Mark Patton), whose family has moved into Nancy’s old house. Jesse, we learn, is having violent nightmares about Freddy, who seems to want/need Jesse for something. But for what nefarious purpose? Or is the better question: what did Jack Sholder and David Chaskin think they were doing? Or the much more crucial question: Where the hell is Wes Craven when you need him?
Since I am reviewing “NOES 2” with plans to do parts 3 to 7 in relatively short order, I must speak about the series as, well, a series, and not as individual movies. With its one constant villain and established rules, the “NOES” series has managed to distinguish itself from its Slasher brethrens. For instance, we know Freddy is a dream being, which means he haunts and kills in his dreams, where anything he imagines can take place. Also, he has no physicality, which means the only way to survive Freddy is to not go to sleep, an act that is next to impossible, hence the movie’s one main goal — stay awake or you will die!
Having said that, “NOES 2” breaks all of Wes Craven’s rules in an attempt to steer the mythology in a whole new direction. Writer Chaskin and director Sholder (“Arachnid”) seems to have seen the original, but could care less about the rules Craven set down. Freddy not only achieves physicality in the waking world in this sequel, but he also has psychokinesis, which allows him to move objects, closes doors, etc. These new additions are drastic departures from the original, and they also destroy the series’ one constant theme: Stay awake or you will die! In this case, even if you stay awake, you might still die. Where’s the fun in that?
With the whole “stay awake or die” theme out the window, Chaskin gives us what is supposed to be a psychological thriller. As he loses more and more sleep to his nightmares, Jesse starts to have trouble coping with the real world. This results in his parents thinking he’s on drugs (remember, parents are adults, and thus really stupid), his fellow schoolmates think he’s a bit “weird”, and Jesse’s mental state slowly start to unravel. After Jesse’s sadistic gym teacher is brutally killed in the showers, we are supposed to think that Jesse may be the culprit, having lost his mind.
Chaskin wants us to consider that it’s Jesse doing all of these murderous deeds and not because Freddy, in an attempt to be “reborn” into the physical world through Jesse, is slowly but surely co-opting Jesse’s mind. Well there’s a problem with that: We know Freddy is behind it. For God’s sake, this is a sequel to a movie about a supernatural serial killer. Why in the world did Chaskin think we would believe anything other than Freddy’s involvement in the murders? It boggles the mind.
Teen Slasher films aren’t known for their strong leads, but Mark Patton, who looks like a young Richard Dean Anderson (then again, every other male lead in the ’80s looked like a young Richard Dean Anderson), is very good as Jesse. Patton convincingly portrays Jesse’s slowly deteriorating mental state, and I’m surprised to discover that the actor hasn’t work since “NOES 2”. His co-stars, Robert Rusler as wiseass Ron and Kim Myers as love interest Lisa, have worked steadily through the years. What a shocker, especially considering that ’80s singer Tiffany-lookalike Myers has the charisma of a poisoned snail. Even for ’80s standards, Myers is just atrocious as an actor.
“NOES 2” is certainly not a bad movie if you consider it as an individual film without the “NOES” name attached. Unfortunately it is part of the “NOES” series, and as such its attempts to create its own path fails miserably. Gone are the horror elements, including the twisted world of dreams. The film doesn’t seem to even care about scaring you, and this is most notable when Freddy achieves physical form and attacks a bunch of high school kids at a pool party. Like this potentially bloody scene, the rest of “NOES 2” never fulfills its mission to give us over-the-top violence.
If anything, “NOES 2” feels like a PG version of Craven’s “NOES”. Which, in a movie about a supernatural killer with a pizza for a face and blades for fingers, is not a good thing.
Jack Sholder (director) / David Chaskin (screenplay)
CAST: Mark Patton …. Jesse Walsh
Kim Myers …. Lisa Webber
Robert Rusler …. Ron Grady
Clu Gulager …. Ken Walsh
Hope Lange …. Cheryl Walsh