A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE – Christopher Young
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
In the wake of the massive, and unexpected, success of A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, New Line Cinema realized they had a potential franchise on their hands. Audiences had responded very positively to Freddy Krueger, the wisecracking maniac with a striped sweater and a gloved hand full of knives who kills people in their dreams. Despite him having apparently been vanquished at the end of the first film, they found a way to bring him back for a sequel, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge got the green light for release on Halloween weekend, 1985, under the direction of veteran Jack Sholder. With the exception of Robert Englund as Freddy, the film featured an all-new cast, focusing on Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), a teenage boy who moves into a new house with his family, without realizing that it is the same house where Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) fought Freddy years previously. Before long, Jesse is having nightmares about being stranded on a school bus with two girls and being stalked by a deformed killer; Jesse and his friends soon uncover information regarding Freddy’s legacy, but things quickly turn violent, and it becomes apparent that, instead of Freddy murdering people in their dreams, he is actually possessing Jesse’s body so that he can carry out murders in the real world.
The score for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was written by the then 27-year-old composer Christopher Young. Young was still in the fledgling days of his career at that time; Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was just his ninth theatrical film, and was by far the most high profile assignment of his career up to that point – previously, his only really major projects had been the post-apocalyptic thriller Def-Con 4, and the undercover cop action flick Avenging Angel. Young is a composer with a very unique and stylish original voice, but what’s immediately striking about Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is how much a large part it of sounds like early James Horner. Director Sholder clearly loaded the movie’s temp-track with music from Horner’s earliest efforts in the horror genre, specifically Wolfen, as well as music Horner wrote for several New World Pictures releases, especially Humanoids from the Deep. Having not yet established enough of a reputation to be able to ignore it, Young combined these temp track influences with his own personal interest in musique concrète – that is, music composition using recorded sounds as raw material – to create the score for the film. The end result is a very difficult, challenging, but intellectually rewarding score.
Young’s score is not theme-driven, but instead concentrates on eerie textures and disturbing moods to set the scene. The “Main Title” is a perfect example of the temp-track bleed over from Wolfen, revisiting the lonely horn solos and even some of the orchestration and accompanying chord structures from that score. The only real recurring thematic idea in the score is a flute texture which Young introduces in the second half of the cue, and which carries through in the background of several subsequent cues, including “Furnace Flare-Up,” the second half of “Kissing Freddy on Catwalk,” and others. This idea becomes more and more important as the score develops, as it clearly underscores the concept of Freddy “seducing” Jesse in order to get him to do his murderous bidding. It’s not in any way romantic, but it does sort of have a come-hither beckoning quality, albeit one laced with danger and menace. It really comes to the fore in “Kill For Me,” my personal favorite track on the album, a disturbing, enticing piece with waltz-like undertones, in which Freddy works his charms on the hapless, impressionable Jesse. This concept also plays into the film’s obvious homoerotic subtext, which screenwriter David Chaskin has repeatedly stated he intentionally worked into his storyline.
Cues like “And Leave the Driving to Us,” the first half of “Kissing Freddy on Catwalk,” the first half of “Chest Burster,” “Firebird,” “Dream Heat,” “Necromancer’s Spell,” and “Sports Attack/Threatening Angela,” are pure horror dissonances, filled with insect-like skittering strings, piano trills, clattering percussion, and the like. Some of the string textures in these cues are again heavily influenced by Horner, from scores like the aforementioned Humanoids from the Deep, as well as things like Deadly Blessing – which, ironically, was also directed by Wes Craven. These cues are also the ones in which Young conducts his musique concrète experimentations, using what sounds like whale song, among other unusual sounds, to create his disturbing atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is very little action in the score, but parts of “Chest Burster” and “Firebird” pick up some more intense percussion rhythms.
Interestingly, there is virtually no reprisal of any of the thematic ideas from Charles Bernstein’s score for the first Nightmare on Elm Street. “Jump Rope” briefly repeats the “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you” nursery rhyme, but other than that, every other aspect of Bernstein’s music is excised. I’m not sure what the thinking was behind that decision, but it does create a slight disconnect which makes it seem as though the films are not really related, but this should not detract from the quality of Young’s work. Even more interesting – and perhaps more surprising – is the lack of any music that hints at the truly great horror composer Young would become. Considering that, within five years of this score, Young would write two Hellraiser scores, Haunted Summer, and The Fly II, there is nothing here that you can really pinpoint as being the genesis of those scores. It would seem that Young was still very much in the process of developing his compositional style at this point in his career, and that it would not really come together until Hellraiser two years down the road.
The score for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was released on LP by Varese Sarabande at the time of the film’s release but, curiously, it has never been released as a standalone CD. It was coupled with Charles Bernstein’s original Nightmare score on a 2-for-1 CD released in 1989, and this remains the best and most affordable digital presentation of the score, although the score has also featured in several compilations, including a “Best of Nightmare on Elm Street” set released by Varese in 1993, and the Nightmare on Elm Street 8-CD collector’s edition box set released a few weeks ago, the latter of which contains 17 additional bonus cues, expanding the running time to just over an hour.
It’s always very difficult to recommend scores like this to people, just because they are so difficult to listen to. There aren’t many people who can actually sit down and enjoy 30 minutes of music like this, with all its shrieking and clattering and clanging, because it’s not meant to be enjoyed as a traditional listening experience; Young is trying to create a mood of unease and terror, coupled with a twisted seductiveness, and the fact that he succeeded in doing that means that anyone with an aversion to full-on dissonant horror scoring will find a large part of the score totally unlistenable. However, for those more inclined to seek out music with a more disturbing flavor, fans of the franchise, or those curious enough to want to discover Christopher Young’s earliest genre efforts, I give this score a cautious thumbs – or knives – up.
Buy the Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Main Title (2:30)
- …And Leave the Driving to Us (2:00)
- Furnace Flare-Up (2:14)
- Kissing Freddy on the Catwalk (3:18)
- Chest-Burster (3:50)
- Jump Rope (1:42)
- Fire Bird (3:12)
- Dream Heat (1:10)
- Necromancer’s Spell (2:27)
- Kill for Me (2:38)
- Sports Attack/Threatening Angela (2:35)
- Freed of Her (1:38)
- Snake-in-the-Class (0:50)
Running Time: 30 minutes 04 seconds
Varese Sarabande VSD-47255 (1985/1989)
Music composed by Christopher Young. Conducted by Paul Francis Witt. Orchestrations by Christopher Young. Recorded and mixed by Jeff Vaughn. Score produced by Christopher Young. Album produced by Tom Null.