[Horror Queers] Scream, Queens, It’s ‘Nightmare 2: Freddy’s Revenge’ AKA the Gayest Horror Movie Ever Made!

Each month in Horror Queers, Joe and Trace tackle a horror film with LGBTQ+ themes, a high camp quotient or both. For lifelong queer horror fans like us, there’s as much value in serious discussions about representation as there is in reading a ridiculously silly/fun horror film with a YAS KWEEN mentality. Just know that at no point will we be getting Babashook.

As two gay men, we have opted to use the moniker “Horror Queers” for this series of articles. It is a word that has a complicated history due to its derogatory use by bullies and hateful people, but has increasingly been adopted as a term of empowerment and a unifying term that recognizes the many complex identities that make up the LGBTIQQ community. Queer has become commonplace in academia, politics and pop culture over the past three decades. We understand and recognize that the term is still very hurtful for some people, but we believe that the more people that proudly reclaim it, the more the wounds and stigma surrounding the term are reduced. Using the word “queer” is intensely personal, but it is a decision that we are committed to. Please don’t be an asshole when using it and we’ll get along fine.

***SPOILERS for NOES 2 to follow.***

Synopsis for NOES 2: A teenage boy named Jesse (Mark Patton) is haunted in his dreams by deceased child murderer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who is out to possess him in order to continue his reign of terror in the real world.

Queer Aspect: I mean…literally everything?


Joe

Well Trace, here we are: we are tackling what may just be the most queer horror movie ever created. We’ve been doing this series for eleven months and this has been by far the most requested movie that readers ask us to cover, so we’re doing it. I’m so excited, I can literally feel Freddy inside of me!

In all seriousness, there’s very little question that this film has a queer subtext. Some would even claim that there is no subtext; it’s actually just text. According to the film’s production, Freddy’s Revenge was never intended to be explicitly gay – at the time of the film’s release (one year after Wes Craven’s original) everyone claimed they were simply making a sequel that took the franchise in a different direction. Later, star Mark Patton claimed that he was essentially thrown under the bus when homophobic fans complained about his effeminate “scream queen” performance. Meanwhile, screenwriter David Chaskin and director Jack Sholder denied any awareness of the underlying queer themes (Chaskin has since admitted that he actually beefed up the subtext in rewrites throughout shooting). A quick Google search about the film indicates that there remains a great deal of tension between Patton and Chaskin/Sholder about how they and New Line handled the fallout after the film was released. The blame wound up significantly affecting Patton’s career and his self-identification as a gay man, though his appearances at conventions and his long-in-development documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street suggest that he’s in a better place now.

Mark Patton, Robert Englund

Let’s return to the film itself to consider whether its reputation is earned. Here’s a bullet list of the quote/unquote gay stuff contained within the film that fans/detractors have identified:

  • Patton’s overall performance
  • Dialogue like “He’s inside me and he wants to take me again!”, “Something is trying to get inside my body”, etc
  • Jesse’s high pitched screaming
  • Grady (Robert Rusler) pulls Jesse’s pants down and they wrestle provocatively
  • Mentions of an S&M club and how Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell) likes pretty boys
  • Freddy caresses Jesse’s body in their first encounter
  • Jesse’s impromptu dance session, including a close up him using his butt to close a drawer
  • Jesse’s door sign, which reads “No Chicks”
  • The Probe game in Jesse’s closet
  • The shower death of Coach Schneider, including some light bondage with skipping ropes and a towel whipping
  • Jesse leaves a makeout session with Lisa (Kim Myers) to jump on a shirtless Grady in bed
  • Freddy literally emerging from within Jesse’s body
  • Grady’s short shorts
  • All of the literal “flaming” imagery

There’s probably some other stuff, but I got tired of mining the depths of the internet for big ol’ homo signifiers. In all honesty, it feels like the pendulum has swung so far the other way that people delight in finding something gay in every little thing about the film; Freddy’s Revenge is no longer considered a slasher film or an oddball entry in an emerging powerhouse horror franchise – it’s now simply a gay horror film. While I appreciate that there’s a canonical queer horror text, this categorization diminishes the other (often more interesting) things going on in the film.

So Trace, now that I’ve stolen all of the identifiers, what else did you pull out of Freddy’s Revenge? Are you able to watch the film without playing “spot the homo” or is that where the film’s power lies? And what do you make of the film’s historical trajectory from maligned Nightmare entry to queer icon?


Mark Patton

Trace

*sigh* I haven’t necessarily been looking forward to covering this movie, Joe. Not because I don’t like it (I rank it above The Dream Master, Freddy Vs. Jason, The Dream Child and Freddy’s Dead…in that order), but because I don’t really know what we can possibly add to the discourse on this very, very gay horror film.

Writing about Freddy’s Revenge seems so….unoriginal. Countless discussions have been made about this film. Tons of articles have been written about its queer (sub)text. As you mention, Patton has a full-blown documentary about the very topic that we are discussing (though it hasn’t been released yet, something that is a bit disconcerting since I donated to the Kickstarter over three years ago).

Does anyone really want to know what we have to say about A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge? I don’t know. Let’s see!

Before I jump into the film’s undeniable queerness, I do want to point out one thing that has always bothered me about this film: the rules about how Freddy operates are very ill-defined. Most of the film takes place in the real world, with Chaskin & Sholder opting not to utilize a creative premise to their advantage like Craven’s original did. This makes sense, as Sholder has admitted that he doesn’t like the original very much, but it makes Freddy’s sudden ability to possess someone and use his powers in the real world a bit unrealistic. It’s no big deal, as the film never ceases to entertain, but it’s always bugged me.

Now on to the queerness!

While Jesse’s sexuality is never really in question, I’m more concerned with how the film links Krueger’s obsession with being inside/becoming him and the first film’s implication that he is a child rapist. Before readers come after me in the comments with pitchforks: yes, I’m fully aware that Freddy’s pedophilia is never explicitly stated (at least, not until the atrocity that is the 2010 remake). Wes Craven admitted that his original script described Freddy as a child molester, but the explicit reference was removed to avoid exploiting a wave of highly publicized child molestations occurring in California in 1984. So while it isn’t explicitly stated, it is heavily implied.

If we assume that Freddy is a child molester, then what does it look like when you have him possess a queer man? Linking Freddy’s urge to molest and murder children with Jesse’s queerness (or really, Freddy’s queerness – if you view him as representative of homosexuality) is a dangerous path to take, especially in 1985. This film isn’t really sympathetic to queerness, and the less said about predatory Coach Schneider the better (Sidebar: What even is that character?)

Freddy’s Revenge is a product of its time, so the fact that any queerness was injected into the proceedings is a minor miracle, but it is troubling watching it through a 2018 lens.

My reading of the film is that Freddy is representative of Jesse’s homosexuality. When Jesse is confronted with it (running into the Coach at the BDSM bar, freaking out after kissing Lisa and running into Grady’s arms), he/Freddy kills. Is the film trying to imply that homosexuality is evil, then? The ending would certainly have you think that, since it is Meryl Streep Lisa’s love for him (and/or his love for Lisa?) that exorcises Freddy from Jesse’s body. Again, the rules are ill-defined, but that seems to be the case. Does heterosexuality save the day? Or are we to believe that their friendship is what saves Jesse?

Kim Myers, Mark Patton

I realize I’ve taken a negative approach to the film’s stance on homosexuality, but it’s more me playing devil’s advocate. I don’t think the intention was to condemn Jesse’s queerness or queerness in general. I’m merely suggesting that it could easily be viewed that way, especially at the height of the AIDS crisis when this film was released.

What can be appreciated about Freddy’s Revenge is that it does what a sequel should do: try something different. Freddy’s modus operandi is completely different and the overall tone is much darker from the first film, while simultaneously leaning into its camp elements (i.e., the aforementioned dance scene).

The world in the film also feels rather contained. The first film did a good job of fleshing out the world around Nancy, but Freddy’s Revenge focuses so closely on Jesse and his own private world that you don’t really get a sense of the town around him. If this was intentional, it’s a brilliant way of mimicking how lonely growing up queer can be. You feel contained in your world. You feel alone. You feel like a freak. Freddy’s Revenge stands out among the pack of NOES sequels because it is a freak. It is the red-headed stepchild of the franchise. It is different. Thank god for girlfriends like Lisa; they make the loneliness bearable.

I didn’t really get to answer your questions, Joe, so I may just tackle them in my next response, but what do you think the film’s stance on homosexuality is? Is there a positive message that can come out of this film? Or does the final product make that impossible? Also: do you think the film can be excessive at times? I mean, the title card has three different fonts, for Christ’s sake.


Mark Patton

Joe

Ugh, let us never speak of the 2010 remake again! I just rewatched it for another piece on lessons learned from Halloween 2018 and that attempt to reboot Freddy is completely insufferable.

Despite your uncertainty about bringing something new to the conversation, I think you’ve distilled a nuanced interpretation of the film. I looked at it a little differently, though I confess that I don’t have all of the finer points worked out.

I wound up seeing Freddy as a threat to Jesse’s burgeoning queerness. He is a manifestation of Jesse’s own internalized homophobia, so when sexual situations arise that might naturally encourage Jesse to consider his “unorthodox for the 80s” sexuality, Freddy pops out. Consider that in a film with very few murders, the two explicit ones both involve men that Jesse has a sexualized relationship with: predatory Coach Schneider and potential love interest Grady. I appreciate, however, that we’re essentially using the same scenes to argue for different readings; a big problem (or opportunity) with this film is that it is so open that you can argue for either side.

I do want to seize on your observation about Jesse’s isolation, though. What really stood out to me on the rewatch is the way that Jesse’s family, and in particular his father, treats him. The entire Nightmare franchise is founded on the idea that the parents of Elm Street are terrible. This began when the Elm Street parents chose to burn Freddy in an act of vigilante justice rather than care for their own kids. The original Elm Street is filled with latchkey kids: teens whose parents aren’t around to watch over them. Arguably this isn’t because they’re neglectful parents, however, it is because they’re too wrapped up in their own shit (Nancy’s father is overwhelmed with the murders and her mother can only process her role in Freddy’s murder with booze).

The Walsh parents in Freddy’s Revenge introduces a new narrative: sequel after sequel confirms that the Elm Street kids have been abandoned, dismissed or medicated into oblivion by their guardians.

Hope Lange, Mark Patton, Clu Gulager

Jesse’s parents establish the tropes that dictate how parents in the series are portrayed moving forward. His mother (Hope Lange) is a doormat and his father (Clu Gulager) is a belligerent, demanding dick. (In reality, the mother is barely even a character. The closest thing she and Jesse have to a legitimate moment in the film is her wry smile when she and Lisa catch Jesse dancing in his room).

Jesse’s father, however? Well we could delve deeper into some antiquated psychology about how masculinity is associated with a (queer) boy’s relationship to his father figure, but let’s just accept that Jesse’s father routinely disregards his opinions, bosses him around and relegates him to his room at the expense of making social connections with his peers (Seriously, why is Jesse’s dad so desperate for him to unpack his damned room? Who cares that much about a room that they don’t spend any time in?!)

The reason that I think that Jesse’s father is important is because he typifies the unsupportive parent of a gay child. He doesn’t know anything about his son and seemingly has no interest in rectifying that. His domineering bossiness, his antiquated “father knows best” approach to addressing the mysterious circumstances befalling the household and his dismissal of Jesse’s claims do nothing to encourage Jesse to open up or involve his parents. How can Jesse possibly come out to them in such a restrictive, repressive environment?

In the queer community silence = death, but in the Walsh household, that’s just business as usual. Watching the film through modern eyes and considering the studies that correlate mental health and well-being among queer youth with parental acceptance, it’s not hard to imagine a variant (or modern) draft of this film where Freddy’s Revenge ends with Jesse self-harming, possibly even committing suicide.

I think there’s one other integral queer component of Freddy’s Revenge that we need to discuss and that’s how the film alters Freddy into much more of a wisecracking smartass and, in so doing, (unintentionally?) turns Freddy into a queer icon. Why do you think so many queer audiences prefer Freddy over his mute ‘80s franchise companions, Trace? And what is the legacy of Nightmare on Elm Street 2?


Robert Rusler, Robert Englund

Trace

It’s curious that the openness in the film bothers you, as that is what I find to be its most interesting aspect. The fact of the matter is that we will never truly know what the real intention behind the film was. Such is the case with all forms of art, right?

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is open to interpretation. I view Freddy as a physical representation of Jesse’s queerness and you view him as a physical representation of Jesse’s internalized homophobia. Neither one of us is wrong, but it’s fascinating that we are having this discussion over what is arguably a cheap cash-in sequel to a very good, original slasher film. Have any of the Nightmare sequels been discussed as much as Freddy’s Revenge for their (sub)text? Maybe New Nightmare, but only Freddy’s Revenge has the distinction of boldly going where no Nightmare film has gone before (or ever would again, thanks to the poor reception of the film at the time).

To go back to your original questions, Joe: will this film only ever be known for its blatant homosexual themes? Sadly, yes, that’s always going to be the case. Even when queerness becomes more normalized in the future, the film will be viewed (or even commended) for being the ‘80s slasher that was brave enough to tackle themes that, at the time, were not common in mainstream cinema. Intentional or not, Freddy’s Revenge is just as topical today as it was in 1985. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in movie theaters when this film was playing! Will this be its legacy? I think so…but I also don’t think that that’s a bad thing.

You have to feel bad for Patton. As much as this film (and the people behind it) supposedly hurt his career, it is an important landmark in queer cinema. This film is and will always be his legacy. It’s a rather sizable contribution to the genre. He seems to have taken it all in stride, though. His Jesse is one of the more interesting Final “Girls” to come out of the ‘80s slasher boom.

Robert Englund

Is Freddy a queer icon, though? That’s up for debate. The debate being how you view Freddy in this film (and the films after it). The five sequels that followed eschew any and all queer themes that Freddy’s Revenge introduces. That being said, Freddy is a sassy little fucker. That sassiness would become the hallmark of the franchise by the time Freddy’s Dead came around (that image of him getting jiggy with the chalkboard will forever cement for me the moment that the franchise died). In my experience, Freddy hasn’t gelled as much with queer audiences as much as, say, Scream’s Ghostface has, but that’s a conversation for a future Horror Queers article. Freddy’s Revenge is the outlier of this franchise, not the norm.

People like Freddy for the same reason that they like Chucky and Ghostface: because they talk. There are two types of horror fans: those who prefer talkers and those who prefer the silent type. Jason and Michael are scary because they are mindless killing machines. Freddy and Chucky (and to some degree, Pinhead) are scary because they do have minds and taunt their victims. Sure, much of that taunting involves humor, but facing a killer who knows what he’s doing is scary. The Nightmare sequels gradually increase that humor, making Freddy increasingly campy, which is quite possibly what many queer audiences latched on to (I’m more into Freddy’s darkness than his harsh digs, but to each their own).

What else can be said about Freddy’s Revenge? As I mentioned above, I was loathed to discuss the film because doing so just felt so….basic. A queer series of horror articles tackling what has been frequently referred to as “the gayest horror film ever made?” Please. But I am glad that we were finally able to talk about it. It only took us 11 months! Hopefully, we’ve added something to the discourse that our readers can appreciate and, if not, well, there’s always next month!

Next time on Horror Queers: Now that A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is off our bucket list, it’s time to turn our attention to a kooky off-cycle entry about…killer dolls? That’s right, we’re diving into Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s terrible/awesome 2007 film, Dead Silence!

NOES 2 is available to rent on Amazon Prime for $2.99.

And don’t forget to catch up on our previous Horror Queers articles here!

‘Hellbent’ is a Halloween Slasher Film That’s Fit to Slay

Everyone knows that there’s no shortage of horror movies, and more specifically Halloween horror flicks, to screen on All Hallows Eve. If, however, you’re looking for an unconventional choice, look no further than Paul Etheredge’s Hellbent, the self-proclaimed “first gay slasher film”. Shot on location over two consecutive years during West Hollywood’s infamous Halloween parade, writer/director Etheredge’s low budget queer slasher film Hellbent wound up with its unique moniker when it was released in 2004.

Set over a single tumultuous Halloween night in West Hollywood, the film follows a group of five men who dress up in quintessential gay costumes (cop, cowboy, leather, drag) and set out for a night of drinking and partying, only to find themselves stalked and murdered by a masked killer. The fact that the entire core cast is comprised of queer characters (4 gay men, 1 bisexual man) helps to make Hellbent distinct. Even its killer is (arguably) queer.

The protagonist is Eddie (Dylan Fergus), a reserved, verging-on-virginal young man who dreamed about being a police officer like his father until he failed the physical due to a childhood eye injury (naturally the impairment winds up playing an instrumental role in the film’s plot).

Eddie is joined by sexually frustrated twink Joey (Hank Harris), beefy model Tobey (Matt Philipps) and Chaz (Andrew Levitas), the group’s most sexually active member and its resident bisexual. Chaz’s clown car-like introduction, wherein both a man and a woman climb out of his backseat, reinforces Hellbent’s sexually progressive stance, as well as its cheeky sense of humour.

Early in the film Eddie spots the object of his affection, Jake (Bryan Kirkwood) who is we immediately identify as a “bad boy” courtesy of visual signifiers such as his motorcycle and tattoos. The meet/cute between the men verges on romantic-comedy territory, and refreshingly serves as Hellbent’s emotional foundation. Where other slashers (and several of Eddie’s companion) focus on sexual conquests, there’s something undeniably charming about Eddie and Jake’s flirtatious “will they/won’t they” courtship.

Hellbent Horror Queers

In true slasher form, Etheredge opens the film with an urban legend-inspired death set piece in which a pair of lovers lose their heads during a hot and heavy car make-out in the woods. The buff masked killer (Luke Weaver), who is never named and does not speak, is referred to as the Devil Daddy because he is older and for his trademark red Halloween face mask and scythe. Not unlike another famous silent Shape, Hellbent encourages multiple readings for the Devil Daddy’s killer motivation. Some have speculated that he is a homophobic villain out to kill queer men; others read him as a repressed gay man who lashes out at sexually active members of the community that he is unable to join.

Whatever the reason, Devil Daddy fixates on our quartet after they capture his attention with an ill-advised prank in the woods en route to the parade. From that moment on, he stalks and murders them in gruesome fashion, including an infamous bathroom attack, a strobe-lit slash fest on the dance floor, and an alleyway plea deal.

The sexually-charged, queer-designated murder locations and the integration of gay elements into slasher tropes make for a fascinating critical reading (which Trace Thurman and I tackled during our Horror Queers discussion back in June). And while Hellbent isn’t without its flaws (its visual aesthetic is a little cheap and the film’s narrow depiction of queer lifestyles is exclusively focused on young, white, buff men), but its importance in queer horror cinema history remains undeniable. The film may have earned its “first gay slasher” label in part to help sales on the LGBTQ film festival circuit, but to this day, Hellbent remains unparalleled in its inclusivity. No other slasher film is so unabashedly gay.

Regardless of its politics and its place in history, the film is easily enjoyed as a “straight” forward slasher thanks to its close adherence to familiar character types and the conventions of the subgenre. As a counterpoint to traditional seasonal horror picks, Hellbent is a Halloween slasher film that’s fit to slay.

[Horror Queers] Talking Troma, “Bad Movies” and Juvenile Humor In ‘Rabid Grannies’

Each month in Horror Queers, Joe and Trace tackle a horror film with LGBTQ+ themes, a high camp quotient or both. For lifelong queer horror fans like us, there’s as much value in serious discussions about representation as there is in reading a ridiculously silly/fun horror film with a YAS KWEEN mentality. Just know that at no point will we be getting Babashook.

As two gay men, we have opted to use the moniker “Horror Queers” for this series of articles. It is a word that has a complicated history due to its derogatory use by bullies and hateful people, but has increasingly been adopted as a term of empowerment and a unifying term that recognizes the many complex identities that make up the LGBTIQQ community. Queer has become commonplace in academia, politics and pop culture over the past three decades. We understand and recognize that the term is still very hurtful for some people, but we believe that the more people that proudly reclaim it, the more the wounds and stigma surrounding the term are reduced. Using the word “queer” is intensely personal, but it is a decision that we are committed to. Please don’t be an asshole when using it and we’ll get along fine.

***SPOILERS for Rabid Grannies to follow.***

Synopsis for Rabid Grannies: When given a demonic present by their black sheep nephew, two kindly old grannies are transformed into demons who proceed to gorily knock-off their greedy relatives.

Queer Aspect: Surprisingly enough there is one! Eldest niece Erika (Bobette Jouret) is a lesbian…which just means that she literally dies first.

Joe

Trace, of all of the “off-cycle” picks on our list, Rabid Grannies is probably the oddest of the bunch. This film first came to my attention when I was watching the 2016 documentary Forgotten Scares: An In-depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema last year; Rabid Grannies is featured prominently in both the trailer and the promotional stills for its practical effects and gory execution. Part of the attraction, for me at least, is that it looks like a Flemish version of Peter Jackson’s Dead/Alive, which is one of my all time favourite horror films.

It looked absolutely insane and immediately vaulted up my “Must See” list. I knew — despite the fact that it isn’t a queer cult film per se — that I wanted to check it out for this series.

Now that we’ve screened it, I have to say that I’m a little sad because it’s much more of a mixed bag than I had hoped.

The opening of the film actually reminds a bit of your last pick, Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, because it’s essentially just an extended bitch session. The frenzied series of car rides featuring a diverse group of relatives jockeying for position en route to Grannies Elizabeth (Danielle Daven) and Victoria (Anne-Marie Fox)’s mansion has a kinetic energy, even if it is also confusing as hell. The fact that every single one of these people is reprehensible and money-grubbing establishes an odd relationship with the audience: you either find them comedically amusing in a terrible way or you abhor them and just have to wait patiently for them to start dropping like flies.

Rabid Grannies feels like it was inspired by a deep appreciation of low-budget American horror films, particularly Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films. There’s also a Clue-esque vibe in the gathering of a group of characters who don’t particularly care for each other who are separated in a desolate mansion and picked off. While Rabid Grannies can’t quite replicate or sustain the high camp energy of Rami’s or Lynn’s films, it does share a similar madcap sensibility that, particularly early on, makes it a strong horror-comedy entry.

Part of where the film begins to falter for me is its unorthodox choice of survivors. I will confess that I was delighted to see a sharp-tongued older lesbian among the relatives, particularly since her barbs are among the best aside from rotund Fred (Guy Van Riet). I was looking forward to watching Erika fall apart or leer at Fred’s new wife Jessica (Françoise Lamoureux), so it was extremely disappointing when Erika was the first to go. Sure her death is one of the best of the film — dragged (literally!) across the table and straight into the unhinged jaws of Grannie Elizabeth — but why kill her and leave dull as dishwater father John (Elie Lison), warmonger Harvey (Jacques Mayar) or, worst of all, family virgin Bertha (Florine Elslande)? There really is no rhyme or reason why someone survives longer than anyone else, but it feels like the more outlandish and entertaining the personality, the sooner they perish. Perhaps this says more about my appetite for drama and bitchy one-liners, but I’ll admit that I was perplexed by some of these narrative decisions.

The screenplay is arguably the film’s weakest link. While it hardly takes any time to transform the Grannies into their rabid demonic state, there’s not much narrative ground left to explore afterwards. The guest list is extensive enough that there are plenty of bodies to pile up, but everything after the dinner is a variation of the same repetitive development: a small group of survivors hide, the Grannies discover them and at least one person is attacked, mutilated or killed. It’s not dissimilar to a slasher film, but Rabid Grannies also feels more slight (possibly due to the comedy, which lands more often than not, but still makes parts of the film read as shallow).

Perhaps this is a good point to turn it over to you, Trace: did you like Rabid Grannies? Which characters did you prefer? Were you surprised by any of the deaths or gore? And is this film a perfect acquisition for Troma, who wound up releasing the film to cult status in North America?

Trace

Jesus, Joe. I know you weren’t crazy about Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives but did I really deserve this? I’m glad you brought up Dead Alive, though, because all I could think of the entire time was that Rabid Grannies was a mixture of that and Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. I dislike one of those things, and it isn’t Faerie Tale Theatre. I imagine it must come as a shock to you that I am not a fan of Dead Alive, but I’ve just never been able to get behind the film. Other than the outstanding gore, nothing in that film works for me. Some laughs throughout, but I roll my eyes. The poor production value (and terrible dubbing) didn’t make this experience any less painful. So to answer your question: no, I did not like Rabid Grannies.

I actually found the first 30 minutes of the film pretty difficult to sit through. It draaaaaaaaagged. Not only were none of the characters interesting (or likeable), but none of their jokes were funny! For a first act that goes through the motions of setting up the characters and their relationships, none of it was particularly memorable. Seriously, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you any of their names (the only one that stuck with me was Robert Du Bois’ Percival). So put me in the “abhor them and just have to wait patiently for them to start dropping like flies” camp.

Alas, you are correct in that Erika was the most fun to watch, so I suppose she would be my “favorite” character. That’s sort of like picking the prettiest turd in the pile, though. Making a lesbian one of the protagonists is a progressive move, especially for a film made in 1988. I was shocked that there was only one joke made at her expense, and it was from the odious Fred. But of course, Erika dies first. Does the good cancel out the bad here?

The one bright spot in the film, much like Dead Alive, is the gore and make-up effects. They are pretty outstanding, especially for a Troma film. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Troma (this is actually the first film of the studio’s that I’ve seen), but to my understanding they specialize in low-budget films (usually horror) that feature lots of jokes made in poor taste. Nevertheless, all of the money clearly went to the effects, because they certainly didn’t go to the actors. The design of the “grannies” (aunties?) reminded me a lot of Anjelica Huston’s makeup in The Witches (though The Witches was released a full two years after Rabid Grannies).

As you mentioned, the script is the weakest link and because of that none of the jokes really land. The gallows humor present in most of the death scenes are played for laughs, the funniest of which is that woman (again, I couldn’t even tell you her name) getting hit by the car before crashing face-first into a wrought iron fence. The bit right before her death scene in which she is forced to sing “Happy Birthday To You” is one of the film’s few highlights. Rabid Grannies really embraces its ridiculousness so I’ve got to give it that.

Joe, why do you think this film was such a hit in North America? Which version of the film did you watch? Upon doing some research, it seems that the Blu-Ray cut has additional gore scenes that the Troma DVD had removed (they were relegated to the deleted scenes in the special features). The version I watched (on Amazon Prime) was 88 minutes, and it looks like there is a 91-minute cut, so maybe I saw the edited version. Would I have liked it more had I seen the uncut version? I doubt it, but one can hope.

Joe

Oh Trace, I can’t believe you didn’t find some of those ridiculous line readings and sight gags funny! Yes, Jessica’s vehicular/gate crashing death is delightful, but didn’t you find some humour in Fred getting a bite taken out of his ass? Or cringe when John yells at Erika’s younger lover, “Listen lesbian, shut the hell up!” Or when distraught mother Helen (Catherine Aymerie) threatens Percival with a blade to the balls and the line: “I’ll knife those two holy orbs you have so little use for”?

Bueller? Bueller? No, just me?

Your point about the different versions prompted me to investigate which edit I watched. Looks like I also watched the 88 min version – not that I think any additional amount of gore would change your opinion of this film if it’s not up your alley.

Circling back: the question of why it was a hit for Troma is interesting. I imagine that the short answer is because it’s a silly, ridiculous film with some pretty decent special effects. The larger question, however, is what I’d rather we discuss: the appeal of “bad” horror films. I find this topic fascinating because – as we’ve discussed over the past two installments of this series – films that fall into these categories are very polarizing.

Did we disagree on Sorority Row? Yes, but there’s no denying that that film has merit. Contrast that with a film like Rabid Grannies, which is pretty threadbare in terms of plot, acting, direction, etc and there’s a huge distinction. I bet that if we look at the numbers for this post and the Trannies post, they’ll be among our lowest because there is a whole population of horror fans who will simply never watch horror movies that are quote/unquote “this bad”.

Back when I was in university, I did a bunch of research on the subject, which is sometimes captured under the label paracinema (Sidebar: there’s even a magazine based out of Austin entitled Paracinema). It is an umbrella term used to describe exploitation films (like Trannies), as well as cult and camp films. Both of the latter terms have factored into our decision-making process when we’ve been selecting these off-cycle picks.

There’s a fascinating, contentious history of paracinema films being banned or edited by film boards and government censors at various times in history (a lot of the films that were classified as video nasties in the UK that have since been “rescued” would have classified as paracinema back in the day). Part of the claim for shelving, trimming or destroying prints of these films is that they do not have a perceived “value”, which is actually an inappropriate use of the term. What critics and censors are really talking about is a matter of taste.

What does any of this have to do with Rabid Grannies? Well, it’s not hard to make the argument that the Flemish film falls into both cult and camp categories, or that its multiple edits (and release under the Troma brand) reinforces its classification as paracinema. It’s unsurprising that neither of us had seen this because it was deliberately made for a very specific niche audience (which clearly isn’t us!).

While I’m actually more in line with you in that I didn’t really like the film that much (I certainly won’t be strongly recommending it to anyone in the near future), I’m also strangely happy that this weird little oddity exists in the world. If nothing else, I’m glad that Horror Queers has given us an outlet to shine a light on underseen, undervalued and – in this case – strange little outliers of the horror canon. Even more importantly, it has enabled us to have a discussion about these films. We don’t have to like everything we see, but paracinema makes the argument that some people’s trash is other people’s treasure.

Trace: what have you taken away from the low-budget, exploitation, camp films we’ve watched these last two cycles? Will you seek out any other Troma films or has this soured your opinion on the brand? And do you have any final hot takes on Rabid Grannies?

Trace

I don’t want to say that Rabid Grannies has soured my opinion on the Troma brand. It pretty much is exactly what I expected it to be; I just didn’t find this particular film to be entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy bad movies! I think our discussions here have made this very clear. But this was…..not for me (also, how dare you compare something as immaculate as Sorority Row to this trash). And no, none of those “jokes” landed for me. Truthfully, I probably won’t seek out any Troma films in the future, but if someone brings one to movie night I’ll give it a chance. I’ve had a friend who has tried to make me watch Luther the Geek for almost a full year now and I keep avoiding it.

I would love to get into what exactly constitutes a “hit” for Troma though. I had never heard of this movie before you forced me to watch it so I just wonder what measurements we’re looking at, here. This is simply going off of the film’s Wikipedia page, but the exact quote reads “Due to its unusual subject and title and its graphic scenes of gore, Rabid Grannies is one of the most infamous titles in the Troma library.” Yes, I am a journalist referencing Wikipedia as a legitimate source, but there aren’t a lot of articles that have been written about this movie!

Like you said, we probably won’t get a lot of readers on this article because some people just aren’t going to watch this movie, even if it’s free (which it is)! One of our goals as journalists (besides inspiring lively discussions) is to help the site we write for get clicks, but I don’t think this will accomplish that particular goal (and to be quite honest, I thought our Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives piece would get clicks if only because of the word “tranny” but I was wrong about that). That being said, I am thankful you introduced me to the world of Troma and that we have a platform like Bloody-Disgusting to bring attention to films like this one.

Even after having a few days to sit on it, I just don’t have a ton to say about Rabid Grannies. I can certainly see why some people enjoy it, but other than the impressive practical effects it doesn’t have much going for it. It’s just an incredibly off-putting film. It’s a shame that Emmanuel Kervyn never went on to direct anything else (though he did have a small role in Kickboxer 2: The Road Back). He shows some talent behind the camera that could have been honed into something a bit better than Rabid Grannies.

So no, Joe, Rabid Grannies was not to my liking. I’m glad you got some enjoyment out of it, though! Maybe we can cover the sequel when it gets released next year (God help me). One of my favorite things about these articles is that A) not only are we becoming closer friends despite not having met in person but B) we’re also learning so much about the different things people find funny. I realize this is a bit odd considering this is a horror column on a horror website, but you get what I mean. What people find funny and what people find scary are both extremely subjective, so it’s enjoyable to read why you find parts of this doo-doo feces movie so funny. I’ll get you back for this one, Joe!

Next time on Horror Queers: We are giving you what you’ve been clamouring for nearly a year: A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (aka the gayest horror film ever made!)

Rabid Grannies is available to watch FOR FREE (with terrible dubbing) on YouTube and Amazon Prime.

And don’t forget to catch up on our previous Horror Queers articles right here!