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The coming out story of Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street
For decades, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was sneered at by many horror fans, who considered its campiness and gay subtext cringe-worthy. Such a rough reception is a major part of what chased its leading man, Mark Patton, out of Hollywood's spotlight. But since its 1985 debut, this slasher sequel has found a cult following in the queer community. Now, both the long-maligned movie and Patton himself are celebrated in the striking documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.
Ahead of the film's US premiere at Fantastic Fest, SYFY FANGRRLS sat down with producer/star Patton and co-directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen to uncover the path from Freddy's Revenge infamy to reclaiming the narrative of its self-proclaimed scream queen.
For Chimienti, his fascination with Freddy's Revenge began at a seminal slumber party. "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was the movie that made me fall in love with horror in 1985 or '86 when I saw it at a junior high sleepover with my friends," he explained. "It was the first time I watched a real scary movie, and it was terrifying. It was a real challenge for myself, a lot of things happened that night. From there I became a true horror fan. But remember in the '80s and '90s, being a gay horror fan wasn't really a popular thing. Even when I met Tyler, I was still considered a weirdo. It wasn't part of gay culture at that time."
Both freelance filmmakers, Chimienti and Jensen met during the production of the gay dating show Love Is Blind, where they were working in sound and video editing, respectively. "I overheard Roman talking to the producer about starting Scream, Queen!," Jensen recalled. "He was like, 'I'm going to make this documentary about Mark Patton and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, the gay one.'"
It was a bit of ink that served as an introduction and the start of a pivotal partnership. "Without interjecting myself into the conversation," Jensen continued, "I lifted up my tee shirt and I showed him my Freddy tattoo as like, 'Oh, I'm a nerd as well and I'm going to be part of this project. I don't care how. You're not going to be able to get rid of me.'"
To emphasize his point, Jensen lifted the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a tattoo of the tongue-protruding phone from A Nightmare on Elm Street.
At the time of this fateful meeting, Chimienti and Patton had already been collaborating on the doc, having forged a friendship through Facebook around 2015. And it all began with a burst of curiosity.
"Out of the blue I thought, 'Whatever happened to Mark Patton?' And I looked him up, and he had just come back into society," Chimienti said. "He's talking on Facebook with fans. He had just started going to conventions. And everyone was super excited. Like, 'Oh my God, we forgot about this guy. What happened?'"
From there, Patton shared with Chimienti what his life had been like since he left Hollywood, a story explored in detail in Scream, Queen! "He told me all the details, my jaw dropped," Chimienti said, "I had no idea all this was going on."
Patton had told Chimienti he'd been trying to get his life story out into the world by developing a film called There Is No Jesse. "I said, 'I want to join in, I'll do sound,'" Chimienti recalled. "'I just want to be a part of something that I think matters.' It was in its infancy stages then. We thought it would be one thing, but as the crew came together and the situation grew, we just let it grow organically. And then it exploded."
"It went off the rails actually, the original piece, but at each point in the road, one of us saved it," Patton said, gesturing to Chimienti and Jensen. "At that particular moment, it was Roman, because I was finished." Following this setback, the filmmakers regrouped and renamed the project with the title Patton had intended for an autobiography: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street.
After years of seeing his Google search results being filled with insults and gay slurs, Patton wanted to reclaim his name and make googling work in his favor with some cleverly chosen keywords. "It was really premeditated to get those Freddy hits," he explained. When I remarked that it was pretty incredible that he learned something positive amid so much Internet hatred (some of which is screengrabbed in the doc), Patton replied, "Well, I'll tell you a little secret about me, sister. I'm a smart cookie."
Paraphrasing Working Girl, he continued, "In the '80s, I didn't know I had a brain for business and a body for sin. I didn't know that because nobody had allowed me to be smart. I learned. I learned through the course of my life to pick up things and use them, to ask questions, and to ask people for what I needed as opposed to just close my eyes and wait for it to appear out of nowhere."
"So, Roman and I started talking," Patton recounted, "And I was very impressed with how professional his sound studio was and his music and the videos. I was like, 'Oh my God, we got a real winner here.' And then when [There is No Jesse] was about to fall apart, Roman said, 'You can't stop now. You just can't.' He powered us through to the next level. And then Tyler came on board and he powered his way into the center, because he thought, 'These people don't know what they're doing.' Which was true on a certain level! We didn't know what we were doing at that point. And then — for lack of a better word — God had us all in the same room together. And that's when it really started. That's when it took off, when the three of us combined our energies together."
Speaking to how their collaboration created this final, fantastic film, Jensen said, "I feel like when I got onto the project, we weren't quite sure if there was a feature to be made at all. We were going to that reunion [of the Freddy's Revenge cast at Shock Pop Comic Con] in Florida [which is a major set-piece in the doc]. And we were going to try to interview as many people as possible. If we weren't lucky, then it would've just been a short film. It would've just been like "Mark Patton Today." But we got super lucky."
The horror fans at Shock Pop made this tenacious trio realize there was more to the story of Freddy's Revenge than the film and even Patton. "Everyone talked to us," Jensen said. "Not only that, but we witnessed firsthand the fans coming up to Mark, and all of the energy that they brought with them, and how connected this movie is to their life. Because it hit them at the right time in their development, it's very precious to them. Listening to all this connection with all the fans and then hearing Mark's own personal story, the wheels started spinning in the head. It was a much bigger story than what we had thought it was. It wasn't just limited to the Nightmare series. It was about all of us."
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street made its US premiere at Fantastic Fest alongside a revival screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.