Mark Patton is the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, which now has something of a unique place in horror history. Once viewed as one of the worst entries in the beloved franchise, the conversation has shifted over the years. It has been called the gayest horror movie ever made. Complex as its legacy may be, in recent years, it’s started to find its audience. As the new documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street shows, the movie’s legacy is quite complex.
Despite starring in a hit movie, Mark Patton who, at the time, was a closeted gay actor, he decided to leave Hollywood behind, disappearing from the public eye for decades. In recent years, Patton has actively been embracing his role as horror’s first male scream queen and has taken a very active role in the horror community. Much of that time has been spent shifting the conversation surrounding Freddy’s Revenge.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street recently played at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. I was lucky enough to speak with Mark Patton, as well as directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen about the project, which has been several years in the making.
Freddy’s Revenge has had a certain reputation for a while now, but for me, I remember sitting around watching cable movies all the time. I could watch this Oscar-winning drama, or the third Nightmare on Elm Street movie, or whatever. I remember watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 growing up way before the internet and the reputation really took off. It was only later that I realized the reputation of this movie.
Tyler Jensen: I feel like a lot of us did. I saw it right when it came out. I came to it a decade later, and by the time I got to it in the nineties, the reputation had it was referred to as a lesser than sequel, and it wasn’t worth my time, so I definitely overlooked it. And I watched all of the other films. I loved them. And it wasn’t until, like, 2010 when the internet culture called it the gayest horror movie ever made that I was like, “What?” I had to go back and see it for myself.
A documentary is such a tremendous undertaking that people maybe don’t realize, because of the amount of work that goes into it. So what made you guys feel so compelled to do this?
Roman Chimienti: Well, I absolutely think this movie was awesome. I loved it from the get-go. And I remember the backlash at first was just like, “Oh, it’s not as good. I don’t like that one.” And then when it became, “Oh, it’s the gay one therefore, I don’t like it.” That’s what I was like, “That’s bulls***,” because that’s not a reason to hate the thing, because I identify with that. So that’s where it really just became a more personal issue for me, and I’m used to liking what other people aren’t into. But that’s when it became a personal issue. And of course for Mark, he’s the one that kind of ignited the whole thing. We kind of just all bonded together over that.
The thing I most wanted touch on is that I’ve always found… I was a skateboarder. I like metal music. I like horror movies, and there are so many misconceptions about these groups where people just have assumptions about them. Yet, I’ve always found in all of these groups that people are great. People are embracing. Have you found the horror community to be embracing like that?
Mark Patton: Oh, absolutely. But when I first started coming back… I came back after the documentary Never Sleep Again. So I came back to do that. And although it’s a lot of fun, for an Elm Street fan, that’s a great movie to look at. But It really wasn’t what I was thinking that it was. It wasn’t really a documentary. It was more of just “Hi, these are these people and their memories of what happened.” But I had come back with the idea that I was gonna get to tell the story, and then they turned it into, I felt like it was a blowjob joke to be honest with you, that film. I felt like I deserved better than that. Jesse deserved better than that, and the film deserved more than they had given it. So I signed a contract and I went off on the road for Elm Street. And then I began to meet the people. Now, at the beginning, I have to say there were a lot of people who were like, straight guys who just didn’t want to have anything to do with me. They would get Kim’s autograph, but they wouldn’t get mine, and they’d be very pointed. Then, as I began to open up and go on this mission that I was actually on, people began to open up to me. To be honest and not totally arrogant about it, I think we’ve completely changed conversation over the past few years. I intended to change the conversation. That was my idea. I went in with a three-pronged… I’m gonna talk about the first year I’m on the tour. I’m gonna talk about bullying, because all of these people understand bullying because they’re all from sidebars. the skaters, the rock people, everybody’s had their turn in the barrel of somebody being mean to them. Second-year, I wanted to talk about homophobia, and then that really opened a door. That was amazing, because so many people came out to me. I mean, I had people coming to me, “Oh, I’m rainbow.” They were like in Iowa. That was the code word for I wear red Socks. Then on then I went on and I said, I’m gonna talk about HIV, and then I came out with that, and it ended up on CNN. So the power of the glove I recognized very quickly. Throw that on and you you get lots of attention.
You spend all this time trying to change the conversation. Now you’re about to go to one of the most genre friendly places in the universe. So how are you guys feeling? Because now people are going to see this and really know this story.
Tyler Jensen: We are super excited to be at Fantastic Fest. It’s our first genre festival. It’s our U.S. premiere. It’s a brand new cut. So we’ve road-tested this in a few spots, did select special screenings, and we’ve gotten incredible response from non-horror communities, from non-gay communities. There’s a power in this film that’s connecting a lot of different people. Now, to bring it to a horror community, which we know they’re gonna love it. We want to see how they respond to the other stuff as well.
Roman Chimienti: I don’t think I would say I’m nervous because I believe in it completely. I mean, part of me is a fan, and also as a gay person this means so much to me. So I’m excited for it to come out, but also we’ve been laboring over this. It’s our baby, so I feel an attachment to it. I guess the nervousness is because I feel like it’s being set free. I’m not insecure about the content. I think everyone’s gonna love it.
Mark Patton: Yeah, we were lucky because Fantastic Fest was really generous with us. We tested the water in some really powerful places. I think I was most nervous myself, actually, when we did Frameline in San Francisco on gay pride at the Castro Theatre because that was filled with real horror nerds and hardcore AIDS survivors. It was everything that we address in the film. We were all in a room together, and I really wish that everybody could have experienced the energy of, like, a theater lifting off the ground. I mean, we got a 10 minutes and innovation, it was pretty wild. And we’ve had that experience in Toronto, San Francisco. Now we’re comfortable. I’m not nervous about “Oh, you know, the film is just gonna let there.” We know what’s gonna happen, and it’s sold out here. Scream, Queen is a very hot ticket all the way around here. We’ve planned a lot of fun. We have an album coming out here, an LP. This for us, this is just the Oscars, and we won. We’re celebrating. We’re taking a victory lap because we don’t have a slot here. We have a day, right? We’re not 10 p.m. in the corner with two tickets. All Sunday is us. We do our podcast. And then we do Scream, Queen, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and then a big drag ball, and it’s my birthday.
Oh my god! Happy birthday!
Mark Patton: Tomorrow! Yes, September 22nd is my birthday. And Connor Jessup and Dustin, Lance Black are Coming, and Susan Sarandon [laughs]. No, we’re having a drag. They’re having a drag ball tomorrow night. That’s the big party for Sunday night at Fantastic Fest.
You’ve had an interesting relationship with this movie. Obviously, because you’re the lead in one of the biggest horror sequels ever.
Mark Patton: Oh it was huge!
How is it coming full circle? Like you just said, you get a full day at a film festival. How does that feel for you now, taking this long journey and getting all the way to this, what I imagine is a very satisfying point?
Mark Patton: The people have been calling this movie different things, and some people pick up and say It’s Mark’s revenge, which is fine. I think it’s Jessie’s revenge, actually, to be honest with you, because I was really beholden to this character. I loved it. Just the other day on Indiewire or somebody did some really fabulous thing about us. But they said, “Oh, Nightmare on Elm Street. 2 was a failure at the box office and was really hated.” That’s not true. I reiterate that again and again and again. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 made a lot of money, got really great reviews from the New York Times, from the London Herald. Just look it up. It was sold out on every screen in every theater in New York City. So when all these years later for people to say, “Well, you know, it was a flop.” It doesn’t fit in the… I don’t want to call it a cannon because Shakespeare has a cannon, I don’t know if Wes Craven really does. It doesn’t really fit into that. When Wes made Part 3, he intentionally ignored part 2. There’s no reason that it should fit because he went out of his way to say, “This has nothing to do with you.” So it’s a standalone movie. I’m super proud of it. I feel like we own the scream queen thing. I was with all my Elm Street friends in Los Angeles when we had our premiere, and everybody came. All of the kids from Elm Street. They just elected me Mr. Nightmare on Elm Street. Now when Robert [Englund] is stepping aside, you are Elm Street, and I was like, “That a boy. Because I have really worked for it. I work for the franchise. I work for us. So I am super, super, super proud.
Robert, if they ever make a Mount Rushmore of horror icons, Robert is right on there. How does that feel to get that torch passed to you?
Mark Patton: Well, it was actually the kids. they were like, “You’re so good at all of this.” There’s the FredHeads… They said, “we don’t know what to do with this fame.” And they were like, “If you want to know what to do with your fame, look at Mark. He took something that was a powerful little thing, but he turned it into his own entity.” I squeezed as much out of Nightmare on Elm Street fame as I could. I think we’re a good example of what you could do with a little bit of power. If you really stay on focus, stay on your brand, stay on your message and you really have a story to tell. Because we really have a story to tell. We have a story to tell Elm Street people and straight people, Gay people trans people. it doesn’t matter. Everybody, I believe, has been in the position that I was. Maybe it’s just in your high school or your family, but it’s so wonderful to be able to go back and correct what you think is an injustice to you and say, “I was very weak at the time, but I’m a grown man now.”[Director] Jack Sholder just saw our movie. We’re not really sure about how he feels about it at this point. But you see in the movie, Jack says to me, over and over again, “Well, it’s not about you. He and David [Chaskin] are going to get an experience of it not being about them. But people don’t like that. They’re going to get to try on what it feels like. The advice that they gave me all these years is, “Just get over it.” Now they’re gonna have the opportunity to get over it. We were kind to them, but that’s the way it goes.
What do you guys hope that everyone can take away from this? What do you hope everyone takes away from the experience?
Roman Chimienti: I hope that everybody, first of all, can learn to have a better dialogue. I think that we tend to parrot what’s told to us. That’s where the whole mess with A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 began. “Oh, I hate it.” And then it turned into, “Oh, it’s gay.” This is going on and on, and then there’s gay kids that are 16-years-old that are living in that shadow of, feeling like you’re nothing. We want to give them some sense of, you’re all here. You’re okay.
Mark Patton: I think that’s true. Roman said something once to me and I think it applies to the movie. For me, it’s language. People didn’t like the movie, then they called it gay. Some people call it bad because it is gay. Some people call it gay because they think it’s bad. So the language is really, really precise. But Roman, one time said, “they threw away the movie because it’s gay. And for gay people, we get thrown away exactly the same way.” I don’t want to be thrown away just because I’m gay, and I don’t want the movie thrown away because it has a gay subtext. We’re here to empower people. That’s what we came for, and for everybody feel good about themselves. To come to a horror convention or a genre festival on walk in saying, “I belong and I’m fabulous.” You see it here in Austin, what the world can be if we all just get to be ourselves and have fun. Everybody gets the joke, they get the fun and they get the love. That’s what we want.
I guess now that this is this process is sort of close to over for you.
Tyler Jenson: Oh, it’s just beginning! This is our premiere. We’re doing a road tour. We’ve got some fun things.
Pardon my presumption.
Mark Patton: The film really just went on the market this afternoon. You know the process of this. So we’re traveling, basically the world, and we put our cards on the table. Now people are bidding on this, and trust me, it’s gonna be a fun fight, and we’re gonna end up the winner. We’re really excited about that. To be in this situation and know that we’re gonna come out winners is pretty amazing. I mean, we’re pretty secure that everything’s gonna be okay. You’ll see us on television, and you’ll see us on streaming, and hopefully see us in the movie theaters. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Roman Chimienti: Putting the movie out wasn’t the goal. We still have the message to bring out there as well, with us. All of us. It has just begun.
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t have a premiere date yet, but for more information head on over to ScreamQueenDocumentary.com.