Fantastic Fest Review: SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
Mark Patton is a name you probably wouldn’t recognize (unless you’re a Nightmare on Elm Street fan) and for pretty good reason. As closeted gay actor working in Hollywood in the throes of the AIDS epidemic, he was driven into obscurity after being unwillingly outed by his big break, Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge — a film that has since been forever immortalized as “the gayest horror movie ever made.” With Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, first time directing duo, Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen, chronicle Mark’s personal journey as he attempts to come to peace with the demons of his past.
When A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was released in 1985, fans thirsting for more Freddy Krueger mayhem weren’t prepared for what’s been called “the gayest horror movie ever made.” Now, over 30 years later, the film’s star — Mark Patton, the first male scream queen — gathers cast and crew from the infamous sequel to reevaluate its legacy and its queer aesthetic, and to confront the Hollywood homophobia that derailed a career meant for superstardom.
In 1985, Mark Patton landed the role of his life in the hotly anticipated Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, but he had no conceivable idea about where that role would take him. Though it’s certainly not subtextual now, the infamous homoerotic themes in Freddy’s Revenge weren’t obvious to its cast and crew during the production — even screenwriter David Chaskin famously went back and forth on his intentions. With Mark being front and center, he found himself facing a stark reality he wasn’t prepared for. The film not only yanked him out of the closet, but it ruined his career and thrust him into the center of a media circus, which caused him to retreat from show business and leave the country entirely.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street brings Patton out of hiding after 30 years, and it’s really cool to see him finally embracing the film that turned him into a gay icon overnight. It’s nice to see him engaging with the fans and the NoES material again, finding joy and happiness in the thing that inflicted so much hurt. The documentary helps give Mark the closure he needs, finally giving him the opportunity to confront Freddy’s Revenge screenwriter David Chaskin about the film. It’s the big moment that the film builds toward, and it doesn’t completely deliver the catharsis needed to truly satisfy, which is far and away its biggest problem.
It’s very easy to get swept up in Mark’s story though. He is still full of charm and charisma, and his story is both compelling and inspiring. It’s a real joy hearing him talk about the promising potential of his early career, which brought him into contact with some iconic figures like Cher and David Bowie — who kissed him on the steps of an NYC theater. Mark’s joy is contrasted by the torment the film caused him and career (some of which is self-inflicted), which gets even darker when he discusses his personal battle with HIV and tuberculosis.
The documentary’s structure sometimes gets in the way of things and obscures Mark’s story. It probably would have benefited more from a linear approach and a more streamlined focus. Chimienti and Jensen bite off a bit more than they can fully chew, and they have some difficulty capturing some crucial moments (like the Freddy’s Revenge hotel reunion). They want to tell Mark’s story while also simultaneously examining how attitudes towards the controversial sequel have changed along with the social mores of both Hollywood and society, and it doesn’t entirely stack up or stick everything neatly together. The film’s got a bit of pizazz (particularly in the opening sequence and titles), but overall, it’s lacking in production quality or nuance.
Regardless of its facial scars, horror fans are going to find an immediate connection with Mark and his story. Despite being a bit structurally out of whack and suffering from a few technical issues, the film tells a fairly comprehensive story, which will hopefully cause more folks to appreciate — and even celebrate — the unique differences in Freddy’s Revenge and each other.
Recommendation: This is really only required viewing for Nightmare on Elm Street fans, but tells a story that should resonate with anyone who’s ever felt like a pariah.
Rating: 3 bedroom dances outta 5.
What do you think? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!