Entertainment » Movies

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Oct 24, 2019
'Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street'
'Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street'  

A story of a lost career, lost love, AIDS, gender politics, homophobia, the dynamics of Hollywood, a 30-year resentment, and, ultimately, retribution, "Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street" explores a lot of subjects in its hour and 39 minute running time, but it all congeals in surprisingly intricate ways.

"Scream, Queen" tells the story of rising star Mark Patton, whose career took a sharp turn into obscurity when his leading man debut in the sequel to a popular horror franchise left a bad taste in audience's mouths for a variety of reasons. "Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge" was a box office hit when it came out on Halloween of 1985, but it was also panned for not living up to the genius of Wes Craven's original. Aside from turning the film into a possession movie and a tone that couldn't figure out if it wanted to be campy or scary, "Freddy's Revenge" was a disappointment to many fans — but no more so than to Mark Patton.

Soon after its release, some publications (and audience members) began talking about some interesting dynamics in the film that pointed to homoeroticism. While writer David Chaskin deftly changed the gender of the traditional "final girl," the switch seemed to draw criticism because of Mark Patton's perceived homosexuality. Add to that a clearly homoerotic subtext, and audiences didn't quite know what to make of the film.

While it's still perceived as one of the franchise's lesser efforts, it has become a cult classic in its own right and one of the more talked about installments in Freddy Krueger's canon. But it's been a long road to get to that point, and no one knows that more than lead actor Patton. When the subtext of the film started to bleed into popular culture, Patton's agents also said that he was being perceived as gay and they'd have to alter the trajectory of his career. So rather than leading man roles, they'd put him up for character actor roles.

Having had success on Broadway opposite Cher in "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (and then the Robert Altman feature film based on the play), Patton was headed toward matinee idol status with guest turns on popular TV shows and now a feature film. But it all fell apart when "Freddy's Revenge" was released, his lover was dying of AIDS, and his agents wanted to alter his future. Soon enough, Patton decided to give up his Hollywood dreams and leave the business.

It wasn't until the 2010 documentary "Never Sleep Again" was being produced that anyone even found Patton, who was living in Mexico. But that doc would open up the floodgates of interest in the film, the homoeroticism, and, in a strange way, make Patton a star once again.

Since then there has been a surge of fan love for the sequel and for Patton, who, we come to find out, was many a gay man's first crush. The film itself gave closeted gay kids (like myself) a hero they could identify with. Freddy Krueger represented the idea of being gay, and Patton's character Jesse was desperately trying to suppress it. Gay kids everywhere understood this, and secretly bonded with the film — something they would admit to years later, as the film has made it into the limelight once again.

What's interesting about Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen's documentary is how it examines the subtext and just how it was mimicking what was happening with gay culture at the time. AIDS was new and scary, and gay people were under even more scrutiny — being a part of nightly news in association with a disease that was quickly killing a lot of young men. This is yet another way to look at the horror sequel even though writer David Chaskin's intentions are still muddy.

Throughout the film, Patton attends conventions for the film and discusses not only his fall from Hollywood, but his rise in recent years. He speaks both negatively of the experience, but also how he's come to embrace it. His biggest stressor surrounding the entire "Freddy's Revenge" debacle revolves around Chaskin's behavior surrounding questions about his intentions when writing the script. At the time he stated there was a slightly "homophobic" subtext, but that Patton's acting ruined it by making it too obvious. Patton has expressed anger about being blamed for the film's failures when it is clear Chaskin wrote something with a homophobic/homoerotic subtext. When the film began causing headlines again, Chaskin admitted it was written that way, sparking Patton's resentment. The film ends with a confrontation between the two.

For fans of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise or fans, of Patton and his character Jesse, this is a fascinating and layered doc that examines a myriad of topics in a way that ties it all together in a concise and compelling way. There's a lot to unwrap here, but it is Patton's "revenge" of now being in one of the most (newly) popular movies in the franchise that is so fulfilling.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.

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