"Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street"


Anyone who calls themselves a horror fan has seen all of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, usually more than once.  When the original came out in 1984 it was a revelation in the world of horror and the birth of Freddy Krueger, the fire-scarred child murdered with the razor finger glove.  A year later the sequel “Freddy’s Revenge” left people stunned, confused, and a bit angered by its homoerotic undertones.  It is now widely regarded as the gayest horror movie ever made, but it also destroyed the career of its star Mark Patton, a young closeted gay actor trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood.  The 2019 documentary “Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street” explores the life of Mark Patton and his experiences.

In the early 1980s horror was entering a golden age with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees leading the way.  Young actors like Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, and others were launched their careers in these new slasher films, Mark Patton was no different.  The filmmakers take us through his childhood where Mark reminisces that he knew he was gay when he was 4 years old.  How he didn’t have the best of childhoods (seriously who doesn’t) and leaves home at 17 for New York City where he finds his people and starts to make a life for himself.  After finding success in a Broadway show Patton moves to Los Angeles and quickly finds work in commercials and Television.  He then got his break in the Elm Street sequel as Jesse Walsh, a typical teenage boy who also happens to be possessed by the spirit of Freddy Krueger.  This film was directed by Jack Sholder and written by David Chaskin who still claims that he didn’t write a “gay” movie.  Some movies will have a hidden gay subtext, but in “Freddy’s Revenge” nothing is hidden.  Jessie’s bedroom dance is something that is extremely 80s and extremely funny.  There is a scene in a Leather Bar, and a sort of S&M scene in the boys' locker room just to name a few.  Mark also became the first male scream queen who could give Jamie Lee Curtis a run for her money.

Upon the release of the film, the country was also being griped by the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.  Anger, fear, anxiety, and hate were being thrust upon the gay community, and Mark’s boyfriend at the time, Tim, tested positive and eventually died from the disease.  The pain of living a lie and not being able to come out of the closet tormented Mark and many others, who feared losing work if they were outed.  Mark mentions that he also contracted HIV and had other medical issues but miraculously survived after being hospitalized for over a year.  He chose to walk away from Hollywood and disappeared into Mexico and now lives with his husband Hector.  When the filmmakers of another documentary on the Elm Street films called “Never Sleep Again” sought out Mark he was completely off the grid and unavailable.  Eventually, he was found and was completely unaware of the cult phenomenon “Freddy’s Revenge” had become.  Like many other aging horror actors, he hooked up with the festival circuit and toured the country meeting the fans and signing autographs at Horror Conventions.

This climax to the documentary was a sit-down meeting between Mark and screenwriter David Chaskin who in the past has not been too kind to Mark when discussing the homoerotic vibes that permeate the script.  Chaskin has denied writing a gay film and instead says that the way Mark interpreted and acted in the film is what made it gay.  This is complete bullshit to anyone who has actually seen the film.  Chaskin does apologize to Mark and they seem to have buried the hatchet.  This is a great doc not only for horror fans but for anyone who likes life-affirming stories of people who hold true to who they are.  For Mark and thousands of others in the LGBTQ community its not a choice but the only way to survive.