Scream, Queen! Fantastic Fest Review

If you were to ask 100 people to name the gayest horror film ever made, 99 of them would probably respond with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

In the 34 years since the film’s release, it has become the butt of many a joke within the horror community. No one person has been affected by the film’s reception more so than the film’s star, Mark Patton. Unable to get steady acting work after the release of the film, Patton eventually disappeared from the public eye. It wasn’t until the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy began production that Patton took to the internet and witnessed firsthand all of the hatred not only toward Freddy’s Revenge, but also toward him.

Because of this, he was motivated to tell his story and participate in the documentary. His one condition of participating, however, was that he would be allowed to confront Freddy’s Revenge screenwriter David Chaskin about the role he had in ruining his career. That confrontation never happened.

Enter Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, a documentary that aims to set the record straight (for lack of a better term) on Mark Patton’s story. The end result is a touching, poignant film that’s less about the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and more about how one man took control of his narrative and used it to empower not only himself, but millions of queer horror fans around the world.

Scream, Queen! began as a Kickstarter back in 2015 (yours truly was a backer), and directors Tyler Jensen and Roman Chimienti have devoted the past four years of their lives to crafting this documentary. Jensen and Chimienti are able to capture moments that Nightmare fans have only dreamed of witnessing. They take a deep dive into the inner workings of the queer horror community, which has been becoming more and more vocal over the past few years. The film briefly looks at why the horror genre is so important to the queer community, but Patton is the focus here, and rightfully so.

Following a brief prologue that sets the stage for the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 in 1985, the film chronicles Patton’s early childhood and career before hitting the road on his tour of various horror conventions in 2015. The overarching narrative sees Patton coming to terms with his resentment toward Chaskin, with the endgame being their climactic confrontation. Jensen and Chimienti wisely decide to focus on the heart of Patton’s post-NOES life, however, rather than that resentment. This is a film about hope, not hatred. It wants to look toward the future rather than the past. It has a heart, and it’s that heart that makes Scream, Queen! such a winning documentary.

The emotional core is what will win over many viewers. The film takes the standard documentary approach using talking heads, but it’s at its best when it is being a slice of life film showing Patton in his daily routine. Yes, there is a stagy element to these scenes, but the raw honesty is there. It is during these moments that Scream, Queen is the most successful.

Scream, Queen! bites off a bit more than it can chew with the number of topics it tries to address, many of which deserve more screen time and analysis. What starts off as a personal story about Patton quickly bounces around between the history of the AIDS crisis (a lofty subject if there ever was one) to an analysis of Carol Clover’s Final Girl theory to various other topics. These are all important subjects that play a role in who Patton is today, but the end result is that some of the spotlight is taken off of Patton as the film’s scope widens during its second act. It isn’t fully able to devote the proper attention to the deeper subjects it addresses, making their analysis feel slight in the process. It quickly course-corrects to revert the story back to Patton, though.

Finally, I have one minor quibble with the film’s ending:

***Spoiler warning***

The film’s climactic sequence is a conversation between Patton and Chaskin. Chaskin’s “apology” is unsatisfactory and disingenuous, yet the film seems so intent on having a happy ending that it tries to morph it into a satisfying conclusion. As a result, there’s something artificial about the conclusion of the film. Patton seemingly lets go of the resentment he has held for over three decades, but there is something bittersweet about it that the film doesn’t address. That being said, who am I to say that Patton shouldn’t be satisfied with the way things are left? I haven’t spent the past 34 years dealing with the repercussions of Chaskin’s words and actions. All that really matters here is that Patton is satisfied with it; but as a gay man myself, I’m still angry. Would the film have been as uplifting if Jensen and Chimienti had opted to end it without that hint of the bittersweet? Maybe not, but it would have felt more honest.

***End Spoilers***

A somewhat flawed conclusion shouldn’t take away from the sheer emotional power that Scream, Queen! has. Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, this is still a wonderful documentary that chronicles the life of a gay man from the height of the AIDS crisis in 1985 to his journey for resolution in 2019. Patton’s story is an inspiration. Seeing him go from a pariah in the Hollywood community to the social activist and horror royalty he is today makes for a rewarding viewing experience.

This won’t be the last documentary on queer horror (Shudder has one coming out next year), but it’s set the bar very high. Don’t miss it.

Scream, Queen! had its US premiere at Fantastic Fest and is currently seeking distribution.

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