As part of this year’s October screenings, I decided to focus on “2s” in the horror film genre. For many reasons, sequels carry the weight of inferiority, a sense of unworthiness. Even if I’m seen some of these “2s” before, I decided to revisit them and approach them from the ABC method introduced by film studies scholar, Robert Ray, that is rooted in the philosophical work of Wittgenstein, amongst others, that challenges us to consider the “particular”– or that odd detail that might reveal a new way of seeing the film.
In any case, I’m sure I’ll get better at this the more I do it. “Nightmare on Elm Street 2” suffered the franchise disease as New Line producer Robert Shaye hoped to develop Freddy into a tentpole endeavor. It worked. Elm Street 2, while not received as well as others in the anthology, established Freddy as a commercial icon.
Craven apparently did not like many aspects of the script. Despite making some suggestions, Shaye and others involved in Elm Street 2 did not adhere to them. The film has an odd feel to it overall, as if you can overtly tell Craven is missing and his style elusive from the film’s engine. Freddy spends more time in our reality, which likewise makes the film odd. In addition, our protagonist is male this time which generates a different dynamic between Freddy and primary victim. The gender issues here render the film less effective in building any sense of tension, unless you read it through a queer lens, which is a solid interpretation.
P: Parrot- the strangest sequence in the film to me is the parrot attack scene. It comes out of nowhere. It plays as utterly humorous. The family parrots escape their cage whilst the family sits in the living room one evening. They fly around and swoop down for pecking attacks. The father attempts to swing a broom at them to no avail. Eventually, the parrots simply explode and way too many feathers fall to the ground. The moment plays out like a group of middle schoolers trying to pay homage to Hitchcock’s “The Birds”- only with no budget, the kids could only afford to buy one parrot to establish the terror. What purpose does this scene serve? Was a piece of Freddy’s soul inhabiting the green parrot in order to attack? This parrot moment to me is precisely what Ray wants us to reveal in the ABC method– trying to remove the “veil” without removing the “magic”– for some reason, the parrot sequence dominates my image and idea of Elm Street 2– the bird as the sequel idea itself, caged, and once unleashed, becomes laughable and explodes, unable to contain its own ridiculousness- but we watch regardless- it’s magic.
B: Bus- the overarching image- it both opens and closes the film. Freddy is driving the bus at the start and close. The bus becomes representative of the Freddy franchise itself, on a route and mission, stopping to let people off and on along the way- but with Freddy driving- it is a visual exertion of producer Shaye’s desire for how to end Elm Street 1, with Freddy driving that car, only Craven refused to do it. This time, however, the message is clear- this Freddy franchise trip has begun, he is in the driver’s seat- and he alone can make it go or stop. We’re all along for the ride or we can get off at any stop. It certainly seems to be what Craven himself played upon with New Nightmare- Freddy becoming so powerful he crosses over into our reality– the bus leads me to consider if New Nightmare would’ve or should’ve been Elm Street 2 all along. At least then we might’ve been spared Roseanne Barr from Elm St 6.
Above: the bus from Elm Street 2– headed off the beaten path- into the desert