“Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” is an eye-opening and often heartbreaking look at the real life horror behind a cult classic.
Mark Patton grew up in a small town in Missouri. At a very young age, he discovered and embraced his sexuality. Though being gay was a source of pride rather than shame, he knew he had to escape the threat of those who didn’t share his enlightened viewpoint. Thus, as soon as he graduated high school, he packed up and moved to New York to pursue an acting career.
Almost immediately, Mark found success. He quickly started securing work as a popular commercial actor before making his way to Broadway alongside legends like Cher, Kathy Bates, and Karen Black in the Robert Altman play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. He then reprised his role in the 1982 film adaptation.
Mark’s blossoming career took him from New York, a place he felt loved and accepted, to Hollywood. Despite seeing all his dreams come true, Mark’s glamorous new life came with a price. Though his breakout role was playing a gay young man, he was not allowed to do an interview with the LGBT-interest magazine, The Advocate. And he was told by his agents that, in order to really be successful in Hollywood, he would have to prove he could ‘play straight’.
Then came the break that was poised to skyrocket his career and make him a household name.
He was cast as the lead in the much-anticipated sequel to the blockbuster hit A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was a coveted role in a major horror franchise, at a time when every up-and-coming actor in Hollywood wanted to be in a genre film. And Mark was to play a straight teen with a beautiful girlfriend. All the pieces were in place.
But instead of launching his career, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge derailed it — permanently. Instead of becoming a star, Patton became the center of controversy and was thrust into the wrong kind of spotlight.
Forced to remain closeted during a time of intense AIDS-related panic and the extreme anti-gay sentiment of the 1980s, he suddenly found himself at the center of what was being hailed one of the gayest horror films ever made.
After losing his lover to AIDS and overwhelmed by the stress and shame of having to keep his sexuality a secret, Mark left Hollywood for good. He moved to Mexico and started a new life, completely off the grid and far outside the public eye.
For nearly 30 years, Mark remained unaware of the film’s resurgence in popularity, or his own iconic status in the queer horror community.
But now Mark is being given the opportunity to embrace the love of his fans, confront his own personal demons, and share his truth. Thanks to a wonderfully moving and powerful documentary directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen called Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, Patton is able to come to terms with his painful past while helping advocate for a better future.
Interviewing all the major players involved, as well as film and queer culture luminaries like Peaches Christ, the film honors the legacy of Freddy’s Revenge — its evolution from franchise pariah to beloved cult classic — while tackling the film’s problematic, often heartbreaking history head on.
It’s gut-wrenching to hear how the film’s 25-year-old star became the poster boy for the film’s disappointing failure and fan fury.
The vitriol against the film’s gay themes and subtext fell squarely on his shoulders, as both the film’s director Jack Sholder and its writer David Chaskin denied any responsibility. The latter even went so far as to publicly blame Patton for an overlay gay portrayal of the film’s lead character, expressing his own overtly homophobic views.
The pain caused by this level of betrayal haunted Mark for three decades. But this documentary gave him a chance to finally confront Chaskin about the damage his words caused, setting the stage for one of the most intense and emotional parts of the film.
For those who didn’t live through the turbulence of the 80’s AIDS epidemic, it’s difficult to grasp the level of pain, fear, and trauma so devastatingly depicted by Mark during his interviews for the documentary.
When viewed through a modern lens, the fallout from Freddy’s Revenge seems grotesque and unthinkable.
And that’s entirely the point.
Because, as much as this documentary is concerned with telling Mark’s story and giving him some much deserved and long overdue closure, it’s even more focused on putting this real-life nightmare into a larger historical and political perspective.
This brilliant and thought-provoking film highlights how far society has come in accepting the LGBTQIA+ community — an acceptance which has helped reshape the perception of and appreciation for Freddy’s Revenge — while acknowledging how far we still need to go.
Patton echoes an old but meaningful refrain: those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.
Now an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, he fully embraces his new platform for affecting change. And he values his opportunity to tell, not just his story, but the story of everyone who has been persecuted, oppressed, victimized, or made to suffer in any way due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
He recognizes the vast sea change that turned an outcast into an icon, but he also understands that the tide can turn swiftly and wash away years of hard-fought progress.
“My generation is gone,” says Patton, in a heartbreaking reflection on the responsibility he now feels to protect future generations from the unspeakable sins of the past.
“I have no friends my age. I want people to know their history. I want them to at least hear from somebody that the way the world is now…it wasn’t this way five minutes ago.”
This is a beautiful and deeply affecting film that is so much bigger than a single film, or a single man.
It’s not just a film for horror fans, or even for members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a film about humanity and how we treat one another. It’s about who we’ve been and who we want to be, about where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
Scream, Queen! is about society at its ugliest and most reprehensible: a cautionary tale from our shameful past. But it’s also about our capacity for love, forgiveness and change: a beacon of hope for the future.
As soon as you can, whenever you can, watch this important and eye-opening film. It’s a revelation.