Color, 2019, 99 mins. 3 secs.
Directed by Roman Chimienti & Tyler Jensen
Starring Mark Patton, Robert Englund, Jack Sholder, David Chaskin, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Marshall Bell, Clu Gulager, Joann Willett
ETR Media (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Virgil (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Back in 1985, horror fans had no Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Streetidea what to make of A Nightmare on Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm StreetElm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, which New Line quickly rushed into production without creator Wes Craven's involvement. Here final girl Nancy was replaced by Jesse, the new kid in town whose trouble fitting in at high school is complicated by the fact that he's living in the house from the first film -- and supernatural, dream-stalking icon Freddy Krueger is finding ways to possess the teen and go on a killing spree. Loaded with humid, homoerotic imagery and clearly a slasher film for the AIDS era, the film became a source of fascination for many viewers trying to parse out what was going on here -- as well as an object of scorn given the extreme culture of bigotry around sexual orientation at the time. In retrospect the film became the most fascinating example of '80s horror films laden with various levels of gay subtext, a roster that also includes beloved classics like Fright Night, The Lost Boys, and The Hitcher. In 2010, Freddy's Revenge started to make a lot more sense with the release of the epic documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, which took a lengthy look at the film's creation and the awareness (or lack thereof) of its themes courtesy of interviews with director Jack Sholder, screenwriter David Chaskin (who fessed up to being the architect for the subversive aspects of the film), and co-stars Kim Myers and Robert Rusler. However, the big coup here was getting the film's star, Mark Patton, who had retired from acting soon after the film and had seemingly gone off the grid for decades. Bursting onto the acting scene with his role on stage in Come Back to Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Streetthe Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Streetand its 1982 film by Robert Altman, Patton forged ground as the first male "scream queen" in a horror series (with the slasher standalone honor most likely going earlier to Brian Backer in The Burning). Now living in Mexico with his husband, he had been unaware of the film's massively growing cult following and its impact on generations of horror fans who had grown to appreciate its merits.

That brings us to 2019's Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, a crowdfunded documentary that delves much deeper into Patton's life and perspective on the film including the positive and negative aspects of its legacy. Starting with Patton's 2015 convention tour to celebrate the film's 30th anniversary, the film tackles a lot including a look at Patton's path to becoming an actor, the immense challenges of being a closeted gay actor in the '80s, the release of Freddy's Revenge and the flack Patton took at the time, and the personal crises he faced including his HIV-positive status and the death of his partner at the height of his career. Where this really soars is the depiction of Patton's life now and a fantastic Freddy's Revenge reunion that could've been an entire film unto itself. The synthwave soundtrack is a nice plus as well, though it's baffling that artist Bright Light Bright Light came aboard without using his cover of Jesse's signature song. Not as successful is the reality show-style attempt to build the story as a road to a confrontation between Patton and Chaskin, which (at least in its current edited form) comes off as a forced blame game to provide some kind of climax. Otherwise it's a very worthwhile portrait of Patton and a surprisingly poignant look at how to grapple with one's demons, even if they aren't wearing finger knives.

Initially rolled out with festival screenings and given its streaming bow on Shudder, Scream, Queen! was given a low-key DVD release from Virgil in 2020 but fares much better with its 2022 Blu-ray from ETR Media, distributed by Vinegar Syndrome sister Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Streetcompany OCN Distribution. The feature itself looks Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Streetgreat considering it's a patchwork of many different sources including some archival SD material; everything shot exclusively here looks great. The DTS-HD MA English 5.1 track (with optional English subtitles) is also excellent with most separation given to the music. Patton is joined by directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen for a lively chat about how they met, the desire to put his full story on film (including an aborted earlier attempt), their own takes on the horror genre and interactions with fans of all stripes, and the process of putting this whole thing together as well as its impact. "Backstage with Scream, Queen!" (5m3s) is a quick but fun look at the initial stages of shooting and some extra highlights along the way, while "Bedtime Story" (2m58s) is a convention tribute by Patton to Wes Craven. The fireside chat from the main feature is presented here in extended form (12m36s) with Patton, Myers, Rusler, Sholder, and Marshall Bell sharing more thoughts with each other about how they approached their work together, a lot of it extremely perceptive. Next up is a "Split Second" music video by Skeleton Head, a Zoom panel discussion of "Femininity in the Horror Film" (40m21s) headed by Dr. Andrew Scahill with BJ Colangelo, Isa Mazzei, and William J. Nazareth Jr. discussing what they perceive as horror archetypes and the patriarchy, and a solo Scahill discussion, "The Monster Is Queer" (9m13s), about his approach to teaching a class on the topic. Finally the disc rounds out with an alternate "psychic" opening sequence (2m42s), the trailer, and a soundtrack spot, plus an insert featuring a Monsters in the Closet-style rundown of gay elements throughout the history of horror by Colangelo.

Reviewed on March 26, 2022