Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street chronicles the life and career of actor Mark Patton, who started his career with some degree of success in commercials and television and some acclaim from working with the likes of Robert Altman and Cher, only to suffer a major career threatening stumble when he was tapped to star in the horror franchise picture A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. While the film was a box office success at the time of its release in 1985, it wasn’t well liked by critics or fans and was considered for the longest time as one of the series’ lesser entries by a wide margin. What turned the overall reputation of the film around in recent years, however, were critical and scholarly reappraisals of the work that heralded it as one of the first mainstream examples of a queer horror movie (which is really hard to miss if you’ve actually seen Freddy’s Revenge, with all its towel snapping, leather bar asides, a random dance sequence, and the fact that the villain only kills men in this entry).
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street finds a remarkably candid and introspective Patton giving his most in-depth look at his life to date with the help of filmmakers Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen. Only in the past several years has Patton felt comfortable talking about his complicated relationship to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and particularly his contentious relationship to Nightmare 2’s screenwriter, David Chaskin, who in previous interviews blamed the film’s inability to connect with audiences on Patton’s gayness. Patton, who really was gay but like many actors was closeted at the time of the film’s production for the sake of his career, largely stopped acting and moved to Mexico and out of the limelight for a few decades, with the adoration of the film’s newfound fan base and his chance to share his side of the story seemingly being the only things to coax him out of his life away from the screen.
While it functions perfectly well as an overview about the production, reception, and aftermath of Freddy’s Revenge, Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (with interviews from most of the major parties involved) is more fascinatingly a look at a man who’s been given a unique chance to cathartically get a huge weight lifted off his chest. There was a lot more to Patton’s life and career than starring in one of the most (in)famous horror movie sequels of the 1980s, and Chimienti and Jensen look back on that decade insightfully to provide a greater deal of context. Patton lived through the height of Reagan era homophobia and the AIDS epidemic (of which he’s a survivor), and the actor and filmmakers provide a considerable amount of cultural nuance and gay history to go along with its examination of one of the most curious and unintentionally transgressive works of pop culture from the latter half of the twentieth century.
If you have a love for all things 80s horror, Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street is required viewing. If you don’t, Patton’s life and career are fascinating enough on their own.
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