CUFF Review: 'Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street' Is an Overdue Look at Homophobia in Horror Directed by Tyler Jensen and Roman Chimienti
Published Nov 11, 2019A New Nightmare was director Wes Craven's big swing at revitalizing the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. In the seventh film of the series, he wrote himself and the actors from the first entry into the movie as characters, bedevilled by the monstrous Freddy Krueger who, through some evil magic, made the leap from silver screen to real life.
There's something of that in actor Mark Patton's story, too. As an interview puts it in the documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, audiences "weren't ready for a male scream queen," and, consequently, Patton wasn't the same after his own experience with Krueger.
Patton starred as Jesse Walsh in 1985's Freddy's Revenge, the first sequel to the original, to be followed by a string of films where the knife glove-wearing burn victim and child killer would torment teens in their dreams. It's also considered by sections of the fandom to be the low point of the series, though I'd imagine the recent reboot must've unseated it by now in even the staunchest Revenge hater's eyes.
Part of the rejection of that film comes from parts of the audience uncomfortable with the homosexual subtext of the movie. Scream, Queen! illustrates this with online comments, but also with in-person interviews with horror fans willing to say that anything gay encroaching on the territory of their precious Freddy is icky. A scene in a leather bar, a man murdered in a school shower after being whipped by Freddy with a towel, and Patton's dancing in his character's bedroom are some of what earn the film this tag.
Some of it is Patton himself, an actor who, at the time, was in the closet, taking on the horror archetype of the "final girl," screaming and all. The melange of these elements would derail Patton's career, scuttling his chances at being hired in an industry unprepared to consider gay characters or actors.
Scream, Queen!, as narrated by Cecil Baldwin and with Patton's active participation, follows the actor as he attends a series of fan conventions around the anniversary of Freddy's Revenge. Through this, the filmmakers explore Patton's life, from his childhood to his entry to Hollywood to his difficult exit from show business and his struggles as a gay man during the AIDS crisis. Throughout, the doc also finds new and emerging critical perspectives on Freddy's Revenge.
The film acknowledges the homophobia and repression of typical horror conventions but also how that's changing and evolving. The most moving stuff here is Patton and fans reclaiming his character and the story of a gay horror hero.
The filmmakers bring more interest than finesse to the project. There are four different cinematographers credited, and it shows in the final product. The film also builds towards a climax that underwhelms in its revelation.
By contrast, seeing Patton emerging from this traumatic experience and eventually sharing the film and his life with fans is heartening. He doesn't feel the need to completely resolve the experience — he can celebrate it, whether its watching fans earnestly talk about what Freddy's Revenge has meant to them or having a drag queen in Freddy Krueger accoutrement recreate scenes from the movie with him.
(The End Productions)