Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
Studio Line: New Line Cinema - The First Name In Terror Returns...

Five years have passed since Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) was sent howling back to hell. But now, a new kid on Elm Street is being haunted every night by gruesome visions of the deadly dream stalker. And if his twisted soul takes possession of the boy's body, Freddy will return from the dead to wreak bloody murder and mayhem upon the entire town.

When A Nightmare On Elm Street made a killing, horror fans shrieked for more. Soon the diabolic Freddy was resurrected with a vengeance -- along with some of the most terrifying special effects ever to spatter the screen. Look for Robert Englund minus his Freddy face in the opening sequence. He's a real scream!

Director: Jack Sholder
Cast: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Tom McFadden
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, standard 1.33:1; audio English DD 5.1 & Digital Mono; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 26 chapters; rated R; 87 min.; $24.98; street date 8/22/00.
Supplements: "Jump To A Nightmare" Scene Navigation; Original Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM Features: Read The Screenplay While You Watch The Film!; New Dream World Trivia Game -- Test Your Nightmare Knowledge!; Up-to-the-Minute Cast, Crew, Trivia Info and More!
Purchase: DVD | The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection | Freddy's Favorites: Best of A Nightmare on Elm Street - Soundtrack

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/C+/D-

As inevitably as day following night, such is the likelihood that a sleeper hit of a horror film will inspire a sequel. Precisely that pattern occurred in 1985, when we received the first sequel to the prior year's surprise success, A Nightmare On Elm Street. That picture became something special because it was different. Instead of the usual superhuman threat ala Halloween or Friday the 13th, ANOES presented a different kind of villain, one who attacked us from inside our dreams when we were at our most vulnerable.

Who hasn't been spooked by nightmares and sometimes felt absolutely convinced that our dreams were real? ANOES capitalized on those fears and convictions in a compelling manner that made it unique.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, however, just capitalized on the success of the first film. On its own, it's hard to find a reason for this movie's existence; it appears for no reason other than to make some more money based on the first picture's reputation.

ANOES 2 has been badly criticized over the years as one of the weaker horror sequels, and those statements make sense, though I don't think the film is nearly as terrible as so many seem to believe. Actually, I think it's greatest sin is that it lacks any true spark and it seems too much like a generic rehash of the first movie without any creativity of its own.

In that way, ANOES 2 comes across much more like a generic slasher film than did the first movie, which appeared so creative and fresh. In the sequel, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) seems less like a spooky supernatural force than just some nasty baddie.

The story involves none of the same characters as the first film, which is another miscalculation. Instead, we find teen Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), whose family moves into the same house in which the first film's heroine Nancy lived. Strangely, although the story is supposed to take place five years after the first one, no styles have changed at all - sure looks like the mid-Eighties to me! Okay, it may be too much to expect the filmmakers to anticipate future trends, but the dated look of the project doesn't help it.

We quickly learn that Jesse is haunted by nightmares that involve a certain F. Krueger. Thus we find another problematic deviation from the first story. In that one, Freddy was supposed to haunt the children of the Elm Street adults who killed him. As far as I can tell, Jesse and his family have no connection to that event; they become attached to the problem just via haunted house syndrome, something that makes no sense in the context of the original plot.

I guess it gives them an excuse to bring back Freddy, and that's all they wanted. The usual fears and doubts occur as Jesse wonders if he's nuts, and the tale actually features a mildly promising premise in that Freddy somehow is trying to make Jesse his human agent. I have no idea how this is supposed to work, but hey, it's a horror movie; if we can accept a creepy guy who kills people in their dreams, then the rest of it works as well.

Except when the story deviates from the already-established rules. As so wonderfully mocked in the Scream series, horror films have to work on some sort of internal consistency; we'll buy pretty much anything as long as it continues along a seemingly sensible line. ANOES 2 further deviates from the standard in that one scene actually shows Freddy in real-life. Granted, I suppose it's possible that this external Freddy was just a manifestation of Jesse, but I didn't get that impression; I'm pretty sure he's actually supposed to be a separate entity.

There's your third strike, and nothing else about ANOES 2 can overcome those flaws. The characters are tremendously thin and the acting does nothing to beef up the parts. Patton is absolutely terrible as Jesse; he presents an exceedingly bland and unengaging presence and I never felt the slightest interest in him. Really, this kind of movie works best with a female lead, as - excuse any possible sexism - women seem more believable as pursued victims. It's tough for a guy in that situation to not come off as whiny and weak, and when the actor in question is as milquetoast as Patton, the going is even more difficult.

ANOES 2 does feature a major female participant in the person of Jesse's girlfriend Lisa (Kim Myers), but she also seems drab and bland. She's a cute girl who bears a striking physical resemblance to Meryl Streep, but her acting chops aren't quite on the same level, and she fails to ignite any spark in the character.

Were it not for its brand name, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 would have been forgotten long ago. Its connection to the famous series keeps it in the public eye, but even compared to some of the later lackluster sequels, this one appears weak. Honestly, it's not a terrible movie, but it seems quite generic and proves a let-down after the invigoratingly original and creative first film.

The DVD:

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen edition was watched for this review. Although the picture shows both its age and its low-budget origins, I thought it looked quite good for the most part.

Sharpness seems consistently strong, with very few instances of softness. Interiors - particularly those at the high school - look murkier than other segments, but they retain a nicely crisp appearance. Moiré effects were present but rare, and I saw only occasional artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. The print itself seemed very clean, with only light grain and a few speckles throughout the film.

Colors tended to be very strong, with some well-defined hues present. Lisa's pool party stands out in this regard, as it displays a nice variety of colors that replicate cleanly and brightly. Black levels appeared appropriately dark and deep, and shadow detail suffered a little from the film's general flatness - a victim of the budget - but seemed acceptably thick without any excessive heaviness. Ultimately, I found the image to appear very satisfying.

Nightmare 2 offers a choice between the original mono mix that appeared theatrically and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 track; I opted to watch the film accompanied by the latter, though I occasionally flipped to the mono mix for comparison. This track opens up the audio pretty nicely, though don't expect anything terribly special. The forward spectrum presents some well-localized sound that spreads appropriately to the various channels and also blends accurately between them. The surrounds seem less well-utilized as they generally offer basic ambiance, but a few more active examples exist, and I also detected some slight split-surround usage.

Quality is acceptable but somewhat weak. Dialogue consistently sounds clear and intelligible but also flat and dull; I could easily understand speech but it lacked warmth. Effects came across in a similar manner, as they were a bit brittle and thin but appeared adequately realistic. A fair amount of variation occurred within the sounds; for example, the clacking and scraping of Freddy's blades seemed awfully wan and tinny. Music sounded fairly bland as well, with acceptable fidelity but a generally bland effect; neither high nor low end seemed very positive. For a 15-year-old movie of low-budget origins, the sound is adequate, and the 5.1 track certainly improves on the original mono mix, but the audio nonetheless only earns a slightly-above-average "C+".

ANOES 2 definitely skimps on supplemental features. All we get here is the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature - which is an unusual version of "scene selection" in that it'll send you straight to any of the film's "nightmare" sequences - and six cast and four crew biographies. These biographies come from the press kit that accompanied the theatrical release of the movie; the filmographies have also been updated, however.

ANOES2 includes some DVD-ROM content as well. It features the screenplay - which can display corresponding scenes as you read - and gives us part six of the "Dream World Trivia Game". The latter provides 20 questions about the movie; if you correctly answer at least 13 of them, you get a congratulatory message but nothing special. (The games found on the boxed set's discs provide a code that you can use to access a final contest on the eighth DVD, but that feature disappears here, for logical reasons.). I found these questions to be pretty tough, but not impossible. They vary from try to try, so while you'll probably encounter some of the same queries each time through, the roster of posers isn't set in stone.

Finally, the DVD contains web links to New Line's Nightmare On Elm Street home page and to "up to the minute" details on the film's cast and crew. That means if you click the link, it'll send you to IMDB's facts.

As a horror film, you could do worse than A Nightmare On Elm Street 2, but you could also find many more valuable entries in the genre. It also seems disappointing as part of a very successful series. The DVD itself provides pretty good picture and sound, but it lacks substantial extras. ANOES 2 is worth a look for big fans of the series, but others should skip it in favor of some of the other entries.

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