Released: 9th July (Revelation Film Festival)
Seen: 16th July
In 1985, the sequel to the monster hit film Nightmare on Elm Street was released to an unsuspecting public. The first film was nothing short of a phenomenon, becoming a big enough touchstone to actually be name dropped by the president of the United States so all eyes were glued to the second film in the franchise and oh boy did it get a different reaction. At first it wasn’t well received for reasons people couldn’t quite figure out, some would blame the weird choice to bring Freddy into the real world, some would pin it on Wes Craven not being involved… then people took a second look and realised that they were looking at the gayest horror movie of all time and it was being released in 1985.
1985 wasn’t exactly a great year for the gay community. AIDS had been rampaging through the community and 1985 would mark a turning point as that was the year that Rock Hudson not only got outed as a gay man, but as a man currently dying of AIDS. Here’s how close this movie was released to that dramatic turn in historical events, Rock Hudson died on October 2nd and Nightmare 2 came out on November 1st. It hit at just the right moment to make people uncomfortable with its gay subtext. What it also ended up doing was driving it’s lead out of the spotlight and out of the country.
Scream, Queen! is Mark Patton’s story, the story of what led him to taking the lead role of Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and how the reaction to it affected him. We then leap forward about 30 years to the Never Sleep Again documentary that hired a private investigator to hunt Mark down so they could interview him for their film and to get him to take part, Mark had one condition… namely, he wanted to confront David Chaskin, the writer of Nightmare 2, about Chaskin’s reluctance to admit to the gay subtext in his script and how he’d instead taken to blaming Mark’s performance for the gayness in the film.
The film really breaks these up into neat sections, the opening of it giving us Mark’s genuinely fascinating history and how he worked from commercials to Broadway and then to film, the middle of it exploring how the film would grow to be a gay cult film while Mark was trying to live a normal life (all while also battling several illnesses, including HIV) before ending with the big reunion of the cast and the much needed confrontation with David Chaskin. Each section really helps to put a larger context around a film that, for several years now, has been something of a punchline in pop culture.
The film does falter somewhat in how it proportions these sections, specifically the final meeting with Chaskin. It’s been this big driving force throughout the film, constantly brought up and referenced as the one person that Mark desperately needs to confront to try and put the hurt behind him and when we finally get to Chaskin he says maybe five things and the entire section that includes the talk with him lasts just a few minutes. While Mark seems to get some catharsis from it, the audience is kind of left wanting since we’ve been building up to this moment only for it to fly by in the blink of an eye. This could be because the talk itself was so short that the usable footage was barely enough to make what we saw, maybe it got so personal that they wanted to keep some of it for themselves, I don’t know the reason but it makes the ending of the film feel a little unfulfilling.
Fortunately, the rest of the film is so good that it makes this into a must see film. Not only because it’s another important story of a gay icon, stories we need to document whenever possible, but because it really shines a light on the reality of how important representation can be. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 got made fun of as the gayest horror movie ever, and gay audiences saw it and went “Oh, I’m just like Jesse… so I could be the hero?”. Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street is mostly a tale about what price Mark Patton was asked to pay to be that icon, but it also shows how much one role could mean to so many. If nothing else, it might make you think twice before laughing at a movie just cos it’s got a little bit more gay content in it than you first expected.