Documentaries: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019) - Reviewed

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) has become infamous over the years as audiences reevaluated its gay subtext (which at some points become the actual text) and discovered that Mark Patton, who played the lead male role Jesse, was horror's first male "scream queen". After starring in the film, however, Patton disappeared from the public eye and quit acting. It was only after the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again that he reemerged and discussed his experience working on the film. What was the catalyst for him leaving the film industry? Scream, Queen! explores the context of the gay Hollywood experience in the early '80s and how the AIDS outbreak fueled homophobia and subsequently ruined his career.

Much of Scream, Queen! follows Patton's upbringing and his early success as an actor in New York. After starring in a Broadway show and a movie adaptation of that show, he was ready to try out being the leading man. Horror films were having a boom in the '80s so he was delighted to snag the role of Jesse in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. The film was a box office hit, but Patton faded into obscurity afterwards. The catalyst for this ended up being the explosion of AIDS cases and the stigma and homophobia attached to the disease, which at the time was new and not fully understood. Gay men were blamed for the spread and many actors went back into the closet to try to hide from the media and negative connotations. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 can be read as a film about a young man who is struggling with revealing his sexuality and Freddy represents his desires struggling to get out. There are numerous homoerotic scenes with one taking place in a gay bar and another with S&M undertones. Jesse himself takes the role of the "final girl" and his vulnerability, which is usually reserved for the women in these films, is an intriguing subversion of horror tropes. Quite frankly, audiences in the mid-eighties were not ready for this kind of thing, which made the film the black sheep of the franchise for many fans. This brings up the point that, as a whole, the horror community can be intolerable towards diverse ideas (more recently seen with the push back of new voices like Jordan Peele). Even in this documentary there are some interviews with horror convention attendees who ridicule A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 for being "too gay".

Mark Patton is a great storyteller with a lot of energy and passion and it's fascinating to get his perspective on what it was like to be a gay actor in the '70s and '80s and his struggles and triumphs. He was a star, vanished from the spotlight, and returned to finally get the accolades he truly deserved from a demographic that to this day doesn't have much representation in horror. Scream, Queen! is a fantastic and poignant documentary that all horror fans should seek out.

--Michelle Kisner