A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 (1985) is the first film in this month-long horrorthon that I have never actually seen before. Out of the Elm Street series, I’d seen 1, 3, 7 and Freddy vs. Jason, and most of those were when I was a teenager. It’s a series I need to become more familiar with, especially seeing as I own the DVD boxset.
The credits call this ‘Part 2’, but as that appellation became very associated with the Friday the 13th series, it seems to have been quietly dropped in subsequent merchandising.
The film opens with a loner-looking teenager, Jesse, on a school bus, being laughed at by the other kids. It becomes apparent that this is a nightmare when the bus drives off the road and away over a field, and is revealed to be being driven by Freddy Krueger. The ground opens up, and the bus plunges back and forth on a precipice, threatening to fall.
Cut to suburbia where Jesse has just woken up from the bad dream. Apparently nightmares are common for him, judging by the reactions of his family. He drives to school with Lisa, his sort-of girlfriend, and we cut to gym class, where it’s revealed Jesse is no good at sports. He gets into a fight with another boy, Grady, but they sort of make up in a boy way while being forced to do punishment press-ups by sadistic Coach Schneider. When Jesse explains that he’s just moved into the area and is living on Elm Street, we get some backstory from Grady: the house that Jesse and his family have moved into is Nancy Thompson’s old house. The story around town is that Nancy went crazy after watching Glen get killed in the first film. Jesse doesn’t believe Grady.
That night, Jesse investigates a noise in the garden, which is a very Elm Street scene – suburban gardens with lots of trellises and trailing plants. Freddy appears, trying to influence Jesse’s mind rather than killing him – he clearly needs to use Jesse to achieve his evil ends.
Jesse, understandably, doesn’t sleep well for the rest of the night, and the next day, a boring biology class sends him to sleep. He dreams a snake is strangling him, causing him to yell out and wake up, only to find himself holding a real snake from one of the classroom tanks. The teacher thinks he’s messing about.
Back home, Jesse intends to go out and meet up with Lisa, but his dad insists that he clean his room first. Jesse plays loud pop music (Touch Me by Wish and Fonda Rae, a very minor hit that nevertheless has its own Wikipedia entry) while doing so, which is not very suited to the situation – some metal or punk would be more rebellious. This is quite a silly sequence, with Jesse singing into a pretend microphone and dressing up in daft accessories until Lisa arrives, having convinced Jesse’s mother that he’d invited her round to help sort out his room.
Jesse and Lisa find Nancy’s diary on a shelf. Apparently the events of the first film took place five years ago, which is infuriating if you’re enough of an ’80s fan to have a keen eye for the changing fashion trends throughout the decade. The first film was released in 1984 and this one in 1985, meaning that they both look emphatically mid-’80s. You couldn’t even get away with saying that the first one was set in 1982/1983 and the second in 1987/1988, because the fashions and decor trends of each year of the decade are so completely distinctive. Obviously in 1985 they had no way of predicting what the world would look like in 1989, but it’s still a real annoyance. To me, anyway.
That night, Jesse finds Freddy’s glove in his dream. ‘Kill for me!’ says Freddy, still trying to turn Jesse into a puppet.
The next day, the whole of Jesse’s family are complaining about the heat in the house, but Jesse’s little sister tells them to shush, because the pet birds are sleeping – there’s a cover on their cage. Unfortunately, the cage starts shaking bizarrely, and then explodes. The pet birds go nuts and start flying at Jesse’s dad’s face to peck him, drawing blood in a nice callback to The Birds, before exploding in a shower of feathers. Nasty.
Completely randomly, Jesse wakes up in the middle of the night and sneaks out to a nightclub. Coach Schneider is also at the club, catches Jesse, and takes him back to school (still in the middle of the night) to make him run circuits of the gymnasium. This whole bit is so bizarre that at first I thought it was supposed to be a dream sequence, but apparently not. There’s lots of Adidas product placement here too, which is distracting.
After a scene where all the basketballs and tennis balls in the gym equipment come flying out to attack Schneider, he’s dragged into the showers by an invisible force. There’s then a bizarre telekinetic towel whipping sequence, before Freddy, possessing the body of Jesse, kills Schneider.
There’s a knock on the door at Jesse’s house, and his parents answer to find the police bringing Jesse home after apparently finding him wandering naked along the highway. The next day, Jesse’s dad fits bars to all the windows, just like Nancy’s mother in the first film.
Another dream sequence, where Jesse finds Freddy’s glove in a drawer in his bedroom, then goes into his sister’s bedroom to find her skipping to the creepy ‘One, two, Freddy’s coming for you’ rhyme.
In the morning, Jesse confronts his father, asking angrily if he knew about the previous goings-on in the house, with Nancy going crazy and Nancy’s mother apparently committing suicide. Apparently Jesse’s dad did know about it, but didn’t care ’cause he was getting a good deal on the house. This is pretty much the same plotline as what happens with John Strode and his family in Halloween 6, which was released a decade later, so I guess Halloween 6 copied this one.
Lisa has been busy since they found the diary. She drives Jesse out to Krueger’s old boiler room and shows him all the research she’s done into the backstory. Jesse is too panicked about the dreams to listen to her – he believes that he’s going crazy and killed Schneider himself.
In Jesse’s next dream, Freddy nearly gets him to kill his little sister. Jesse starts taking pep pills to try and avoid sleeping.
Nobody at the high school seems to care much about Schneider having been brutally murdered (as we’ve seen multiple times this month, the standard motto of every horror film high school is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’), and so the topic of conversation in the cafeteria at lunchtime is the party that Lisa’s throwing. Grady says he can’t go, ’cause he’s grounded.
At Lisa’s party, her parents go to bed early as promised. This results in a bizarre moment where the party gets wild and loud as soon as all the party guests see the lights go out in the parents’ bedroom. Just as I was about to ask, ‘surely the parents can hear all of this?’, we do indeed cut to the parents in bed, looking surprised at the fact that the party kids are stupid enough to think they won’t hear anything. However, Lisa’s mother persuades her husband to leave the kids be. The whole sequence is a bit weird and unsatisfying.
Jesse is so stressed he’s close to a panic attack, but Lisa calms him down by dragging him into the cabana for some alone time. However, Freddy tries to take over Jesse while he and Lisa are making out, and so he runs off, leaving her confused and annoyed.
Jesse breaks into Grady’s bedroom through his window and wakes him up. In an awesome and much-appreciated bit of set dressing, Grady’s room is super super ’80s – triangle-patterned wallpaper with Stray Cats and Limahl posters everywhere! Jesse makes Grady promise to watch him while he sleeps to make sure Freddy doesn’t appear, but once Jesse’s fast asleep, Grady gets bored and decides to go to sleep after all. However, Jesse then wakes up, and there’s a grisly body horror moment as Freddy breaks out of his chest, killing Grady and causing everything in the house to explode. This whole telekinetic power thing of Freddy’s is not very well explained – I don’t remember it being a thing in the first film.
Jesse becomes himself again and returns to Lisa’s house, but then turns into Freddy again and starts to chase Lisa. He slashes Lisa’s leg, but Lisa can’t kill him knowing Jesse is somewhere inside Freddy. There’s then a confusing sequence where Freddy keeps disappearing and reappearing as he goes through doorways, kills a bunch of kids in front of loads of witnesses including Lisa’s parents, then disappears again. I’d love to know how Lisa’s parents explain that one to the police, but of course it’s never followed up.
Lisa drives to the boiler room to confront Krueger, and has to cope with a bunch of hallucinations including creepy dream dogs with human faces and her leg wound being infected with locusts. After a final chase sequence, in which Lisa refuses to believe that Jesse is dead, keeps imploring him to fight Freddy from within, and then finally kisses Freddy (ew!), Freddy seemingly burns to death, and we get a ‘love conquers all’ victory with a burnt Jesse emerging from Freddy’s corpse. The whole thing is a bit confusing.
Cut to daylight, where an unburnt Jesse (apart from a bandage on his arm) waves goodbye to his mother and goes off to catch the bus to school, meeting up on the bus with Lisa and her friend Kerry. This school bus sequence is seemingly another dream, especially when Freddy bursts out of Kerry’s chest and the credits roll. It’s just as unsatisfying an ending as the first film, with more questions than answers.
Oh, and there’s some completely out-of-place old-timey music over the credits (Bing Crosby’s Did You Ever See A Dream Walking).