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Fantastic Fest 2019: “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street”

A feature documentary with a witty title, “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” had its U.S. premiere at this year’s Fantastic Fest on Sunday, September 22, at 5 p.m. One of the documentary’s subjects is “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” which screens the same night at 8 p.m. These events also happen to coincide with star Mark Patton’s birthday.

The second “Nightmare on Elm Street” film was released in 1985, and lead actor Mark Patton disappeared from the public eye shortly after. He was asked to participate in the “Never Sleep Again” documentary in 2010, which put him back into the spotlight, leading to appearances at horror conventions to meet fans. With “Scream, Queen!” Patton finally gets to tell his side of the story.

The film opens with a bit of education about the horror genre and its tropes; specifically, vulnerable women being put in peril and becoming the hero (or Final Girl). Once Patton himself is introduced, he begins to tell the story of his life leading up to his first starring role. There are plenty of interesting anecdotes, from working on Broadway and in film with Cher (“Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”) to meeting his first long-term partner, actor Timothy Patrick Murphy.

But, while the documentary’s focus is on Mark’s experiences and the behind-the-scenes of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” it’s about the bigger picture as well. HIV/AIDS is not as taboo as it was in 1985; nonetheless it’s not necessarily something many people are willing to talk about. “Scream, Queen!” and its contributors do talk about it. Patton himself is HIV-positive and wants to break the stigma. The personal stories of what the Reagan administration and conservative movement led to for the LGBTQ+ community (and anyone suffering from HIV or AIDS) in the 1980s are heartbreaking.

There are also parts of the film that focus more on horror’s cultural history and relationship to LGBTQ+ portrayals — which we all know are not always good. From “Psycho” to “Sleepaway Camp” to “Silence of the Lambs,” they cut a whole montage of scenes of characters that are identified as ‘abnormal’ in one way or another. This movie isn’t demonizing anyone, but it will make you think twice about your favorite movies and the way their characters are portrayed (if you haven’t already).

This all sort of leads back to the gay undertones (or overtones, depending on who you ask) of “Freddy’s Revenge.” Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger, admitted he absolutely knew the movie was exploring homoerotic themes: “It was disfigured Freddy playing with Mark’s beauty. It’s ‘Beauty and the Beast.'” It’s so interesting to see the interpretations of everyone involved — as well as “Nightmare on Elm Street” fans, who mostly caught onto its meaning as well.

Some of the tension during and after the movie comes from the statements of screenwriter David Chaskin, who insisted it was a possession movie and that Patton himself “made it gay.” One of the hardest scenes to watch is when Patton is finally able to confront Chaskin about his misleading and hurtful statements in the 30-plus years since the film came out.

Now, Patton is prouder than ever of who he is. He’s become an activist, and he still performs and meets fans, even if it takes everything out of him. He’s known who he is since he was four years old, and it didn’t take long for him to come to the conclusion that “If God doesn’t love me, then there’s something wrong with God.”

“Scream, Queen!” is such an eye-opening documentary, and it covers so much ground in so many subjects — this review was really only able to skim the surface. It’s absolutely worth a watch, and you’re guaranteed to learn something (or several somethings).

Attending Fantastic Fest? You can catch the next screening of “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” on Tuesday, September 24, at 8 p.m.

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