had read on a few different sites that this movie, the first sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street, was the gayest horror movie ever. But you know, some people are always seeing gayness in every single glance or gesture or shot or line of dialogue, so I was fairly skeptical. Imagine my surprise to see that this is, indisputedly, THE GAYEST HORROR MOVIE EVER.
It begins with some tepid and rather silly nightmare, then we’re introduced to our main character, pretty boy Jesse. He’s a little bit in the Rick Springfield mold, and he’s presented shirtless, panting and sweaty first thing. He then goes to school, where he has a brawl with cute alpha jock Eddie. This necessitates Eddie pulling Jesse’s pants down, exposing his bare ass to the camera and his schoolmates. They then wrestle around, Jesse’s pants still around his knees, until the coach disciplines them. This incident, of course, results in Jesse and Eddie immediately becoming best friends. Which only makes sense; I know I am inclined to like any guy who rips down my pants and wrestles me in public.
Jesse then goes home, where he is ordered to clean his dirty room. His “dirty” room consists of a few artfully arranged boxes. Jesse chooses instead to don some ludicrous 80s sunglasses and use a pop gun as a microphone while he dances about his room to the tune of “Touch Me [All Night Long]” [sample lyric: “I’ve been waiting for a man like you”]. His mother and the uber-mousy Lisa, his potential hetero mate, enter his room just as he is using this pop gun as a surrgoate phallus, and of course it “pops” just after they walk through the door.
Soon Jesse is woken from his sleep and “drawn” to a bar called “Don’s Place.” This has a multitude of women front and center, but it’s hard to miss the two guys playfully BITING and NUZZLING each other as soon as Jesse walks in. Now, earlier, we heard talk on the playground that the coach frequents “queer S&M joints downtown and likes pretty boys.” Now Jesse, just as he is about to have a forbidden beer, is seized upon by the threatening figure of his coach! The coach takes him back to the school gym where he makes Jesse run laps as he pulls out a jump rope that is implied will be used as, and later IS used as, bondage gear. The coach is assaulted by balls. You will say I am hallucinating or making too much out of something minor, but, dear reader, THE COACH IS ASSUALTED BY VARIOUS BALLS FLYING AT HIM FROM EVERY DIRECTION. Then TOWELS WHIP HIS ASS in the familiar way guys are known to snap towels at each other in the shower. He is then tied bare-assed, face-to-wall in the shower [with the jump rope] and Freddy comes out of Jesse to kill him.
Jesse is retuned to his parents by the police. They think he is on drugs, but he keeps insisting that he’s having a problem that “he has to work out on his own.” Meanwhile Lisa, a stellar luminary in the pantheon of whiny, mousy, insistent girlfriends of repressed gay pretty boys [see Basket Case and Brain Damage by Frank Henenlotter] starts hanging around, insisting that Jesse confide in her, saying things like “I wish you’d open up and talk to me,” in a drone that makes her sound like something out of Ghost World. She represents the heterosexual alternative to Jesse’s homo leanings [who find their object in the cute Eddie], and I think it’s no accident that she is presented as sexless, whiny, and repulsive. This is a screen type; the hero of Brain Damage, also discovering, shall we say, ‘alternative means of pleasure,’ has a whiny girlfriend who is always insisting that he open up and relate to her, and I think those hip to the movie’s gay subtext are supposed to find these women hilariously horrible. They represent what is undesireable and feared about the heterosexual lifestyle.
On a side note, this movie is a wonderful time capsule of teen angst during the 80s [the time when I was an angsty teenager], and as such was completely delightful to me. I cannot count the amount of times I went to write “this is the funniest shit I have ever seen” in my notes, only to find I’d already written it. I was mostly referring to all the teen whining, especially from Lisa, the rather misogynistic portrayal of whom I found… absolutely hilarious. Another source of personal delight was the leather-lined tank top Coach wore—it took me straight back to my nights at Detroit-suburb gay bars Menjo’s and Backstreet, and perfectly encapsulates the look of certain people at that time [they still exist today, though!] who want to suggest that they are dirty and into leather, without going all out, for fear someone might think they’re one of those weirdo leather guys. Oh dear, good times.
Anyway, so the teens [including a remarkable number of scantily-clad boys] are having a pool party, when Jesse goes inside to be alone. He is of course pursued by Lisa, who misses no opportunity to urge him to open up and talk to her. They begin making out, and Jesse is on top of the little mouseketeer with his face between her breasts, when a big grey tongue comes out of his mouth and starts licking around her love mounds! Horrified at the thought of sullying the pure and good Lisa [not to mention at his big, thrusting, uncontrollable tongue/lust], Jesse runs over to Grady’s house and rouses his shirtless friend from his bed [which is graced with a black vinyl comforter, by the way], demanding to stay the night with him. It’s all verbalized when Jesse says “Something is trying to get inside my body!” and Grady replies “Yeah, and she’s female and she’s waiting for you in the cabana… but you want to sleep with ME.”
Please take a moment to examine the above picture. Limahl, ladies and gentleman. Or, I guess, LiMAHL. Li-fuckin’-MAHL, folks!
SPOILERS FOLLOW >>> THOUGH I SUSPECT THAT READING THIS WOULD BE 10 TIMES MORE INTERESTING THAN THE “SURPRISE” OF WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE… AND COME ON, DO YOU REALLY NOT KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
So Jesse falls asleep, and apparently running away from Lisa and acknowledging that he wants to spend the night with Grady is enough to unleash “the beast within,” because he GIVES LITERAL BIRTH [through his chest] to Freddy, the dark force living within him. Freddy kills poor Grady, then rampages through the pool party, killing two boys [please note that this Freddy seems to exclusively kill males], though what he does more of is flip over pool chairs and preen menacingly. Then Lisa, at the zenith of her hideous mousiness, realizes that it’s Jesse in there, tells her she loves him, and kisses Freddy/Jesse. This is after Jesse has said “He’s inside of me and he wants to take me again! He owns me!” It is clear that Lisa’s professions of love are causing actual pain to Freddy. There’s a huge fire [which mysteriously leaves Lisa unscathed…Jesse dude, that was your big chance], then Jesse is LITERALLY REBORN out of the charred Freddy. We then have a epilogue in which Jesse, who, seems to me, has wholly embraced his gay identity [see below], is now dating Lisa Mouse, but no, Freddy emerges once more by killing their friend, the only female that gets killed in the entire movie.
So it would seem that the story is that Jesse is fighting with dark urges—easily read as homosexual impulses—within himself. He rejects the advances of an insistent girl, preferring to be either alone or with his male friend. His home life starts to suffer, and his parents don’t understand what he’s going through, and he feels that he can’t tell them. He goes to a bar, where he is threatened by a male authority figure. Jesse psychically turns the tables on his tormentor by using traditional male roughhousing techniques [throwing a ball at, snapping another’s ass with a towel]. Then he ties him up, nude, in a bondage posture, and allows his evil self to take over and kill him.
Please note that while much of this movie takes place in fantasy, Jesse does literally go to a questionable bar where he does meet his gym coach, who does apparently dress in leather and like pretty boys, and who does, in real life, appear ready to tie Jesse up after a shower, having exhausted the boy through physical expercise.
Jesse then is tormented by knowledge of the dark impulses taking him over, which he cannot talk to his parents about. He resists the advances of the girl, until at last he gives in, only to find that his impulses are too phallic and violent [and, literally, too big] for her, and runs immediately to the attractive male friend who he has engaged in sexualized roughhousing with previously, and always felt safe and affectionate with. Only then can his dark impulse be released, and it is literally born from within him.
The girl states that she “understands” him, and promises love, in spite of Jesse’s nasty impulses and the violence he’s done. Her professions of love physically hurt Jesse’s dark side, which is literally burnt up, from which the good Jesse emerges once again. He then seems much freer, though a final act shows that his dark side will emerge once again, only targeting women as well as [or instead of] men this time.
I would argue that most of the resolution and ending is disingenuous, meant to return us to a state of moral familiarity, rather than truly resolve the story as it has been presented. I say this because all of the energy of the movie up until this point is directed at the attractiveness of boys and the excitement they provoke. The male members of the cast are sexually admired by the camera [Jesse’s pants pulled down on the field, Jesse dancing on his bed and popping his cork, the threat of coach forcing him into bondage sex, the multiple locker room scenes, the pool party, etc.], whereas the women are virtually invisible; except for Lisa, who consistently dresses like an asexual girl’s doll, insistently pursues the boy, but offers mostly understanding and affection rather than sexual satisfaction. The point of view of the movie also, in taking Jesse’s side, encourages the viewer to want him to live out his impulses—especially as the rest of the film has gone so far to make the boys look really sexy and fun.
But we have to bring the story back into the accepted moral order, so the professions of love the girl offers literally hurt his evil, lustful side, and her kiss compels his lust to burn itself out [the presence of Freddy is always accompanied by extreme heat in this movie], revealing the boy within. Also note that the figure of Freddy is a MAN, not a boy, which also casts Jesse's lustful urges as mature sexual impulses, different than what he has felt thus far as a teenager.
The last bit in the bus, I think, has more to do with the wish to tack on a “shocking” “It’s not over!”-type ending than with any actual statement of the movie. You can speculate that the experience Jesse went through has oriented his murderous / lustful impulses toward women, or against women and men… but I think the reality is probably that the filmmakers wanted one last shock at the end. < < < SPOILERS END
Aside from all of the above, it is difficult to put one’s finger on the overwhelming gayness of the entire movie. Many little details just add up to form that impression. For one, these teens do not act like any of the normal teens we’ve come to expect in movies. I see written in my notes: “It’s as if every single guy is openly gay.” There is the aforementioned sexual interest the camera shows in men [discernable in the frequent shots like the one above], not to mention the simple decision to have an attractive, frequently shirtless and sweaty boy as a main character and object of the camera’s affection. There are shots like the one showing Jesse closing a drawer in his room with his ass, as well as the fey disco music that all teens in this movie seem to listen to. Of course we don’t want to stereotype, but I was 15 when this movie came out, and the only boys I knew at the time who listened to tinny, cheesy disco music were unquestionably gay. It all adds up to an undeniable aura of gayness throughout. In fact, looking back, it’s charming and amazing that so many straight [and gay!] teens sat through this movie during its heyday with nary a clue of what was going on right in front of their face.
I would love to know what the screenwriter and director have to say about this movie--were they trying to slip something subversive out into the marketplace? Did anyone at New Line Cinema notice? All these questions linger about a movie that, the more it is removed from the context of being a thrilling horror movie, looks unquestionably like a parable for a gay boy's discovery of his homosexuality.
Yes. It is amusing enough as it is, and then there's the whole gay angle.