Back when we first discussed A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge,we touched on the story of Mark Patton, whose role as final boy Jesse was once said to be only subtext, but really is one of the first out gay characters in a mainstream American horror film. There’s no subtext at all as you watch this movie with eyes beyond its 1985 release.
Patton — the star of this film — has struggled with his anger over his horror role for years, as he felt betrayed as the filmmakers knew that he was in the closet. That, again, was the world of 1985.
Director Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, The Hidden) claims that at the time that he made that film that he didn’t have the self-awareness to think that the film had any gay subtext. Meanwhile, writer David Chaskin(I, Madman, The Curse) would state that Patton played the role in too gay of a way.
So what is the truth? And where do we go from here?
This film, directed by Roman Chimienti (who also worked on Wrinkles the Clown) and Tyler Jensen, this movie is at once a look back at 1980’s horror films, an examination of the reassessment of them decades later, fan culture and Patton’s story. Any one of these could have made for a great documentary, but I feel that the need to work them all into one story leads to somewhat of a lack of focus.
That said, the scenes of Patton finally confronting Chaskin are quite emotional and the examined thought that the star is finally getting the notoriety for the role that once ruined his life is pretty interesting.
I wanted to love this more than I did, but again, the lack of focus at times bothered me. Some may see Patton as someone who never got past his grudge against Hollywood, but I’m of the mind that we can’t judge someone’s life because we have not lived it. I may have grown up in the years of people being forced to stay in the closet and the aftermath of AIDS, but I never directly confronted either of these life events that obviously shaped who Patton is today. Of all things, he’s a survivor, which is the most life-affirming part of this interesting film.