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Our review of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (Blu-ray), published January 29th, 2014, is also available.
Just in time for Platinum Dunes' 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street comes Never Sleep Again, a comprehensive look back at the original horror franchise and its star, one Freddy Krueger.
Facts of the Case
From directors Andrew Kasch and Daniel Farrands (the latter of whom was also responsible for the Friday the 13th retrospective doc His Name Was Jason) comes Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a massive documentary about every film in the hugely popular Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. It takes us from the origins of Freddy Krueger in the mind of creator Wes Craven, through the increasingly inventive Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and ultimately cartoonishly jokey Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, to the metatextual, postmodern Wes Craven's New Nightmare and ultimately through the high-concept trash of Freddy vs. Jason. Never Sleep Again collects interviews with countless participants, archival footage and even some deleted sequences (including a few MPAA cuts) for a sprawling, totally engrossing engrossing look at one of horror's longest-running, most popular series.
Let's not beat around the boiler room. If you're a fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, the new four-hour retrospective documentary Never Sleep Again is, to put it mildly, awesome. Collecting everyone from creator Wes Craven and New Line (aka "The House That Freddy Built") studio chief Bob Shaye to actors, directors, writers and special effects personnel to the girl who played the hall monitor in Part One and the guy in the "Super Freddy" makeup in The Dream Child, the movie is the best and most comprehensive look at one of the most enduring horror franchises we've ever had.
Never Sleep Again rarely explores Elm Street fandom; there's a bit of generic theorizing about what makes the movies so popular or Freddy Krueger such an iconic character (particularly from Freddy himself, Robert Englund, who can't help waxing pretentious even when discussing Freddy's resurrection via flaming dog pee in The Dream Master), but the documentary isn't all that interested in these questions. (For those interested in that type of film, Heather Langenkamp is making her own film on the subject, called I Am Nancy; there's a brief look at it contained on Disc Two.) Never Sleep Again is only about the films themselves, from the original Nightmare through 2003's Freddy vs. Jason. Each segment focuses on the production of a different film in the franchise, examining the casting (one of the most fun aspects of watching the film is seeing how all of the actors look now as opposed to then; it should come as no surprise that the women have held up a lot better than the men, and many of them look even better now than 25 years ago), the genesis of the screenplay, the hiring of first-time directors, the ways that certain effects sequences were achieved and the general reception to the film once it was released. There's even a section devoted to the syndicated Elm Street spin-off Freddy's Nightmares, which ran for two seasons in the late 1980s. No one involved seems to be particularly proud of that one.
Though some of the bigger names are conspicuously absent (there's no Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, Breckin Meyer or Frank Darabont, who co-wrote Dream Warriors), they're all discussed and remembered favorably by the many participants who are interviewed. And while most everyone involved has a lot of positive things to say about the Elm Street films—a fact which should come as little surprise—no one appears to be shy about discussing what they see as shortcomings, either in their films or in the others in the series. Creator Wes Craven's feelings about where the films took his characters are very obvious, though he remains diplomatic about the matter all the way through to the end. And, yes, there's a good amount of time devoted to the fact that A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge is potentially the gayest horror movie ever made. I guess it would be a hard thing to ignore, though director Jack Sholder continues to plead ignorance about it all.
Among some of the other cool bits of trivia you'll learn in Never Sleep
There's a whole bunch more, much of which I don't wish to spoil. But in addition to being a truly exhaustive look at the making of these eight films, the documentary is filled with new and interesting pieces of information like these.
Never Sleep Again arrives on DVD in a two-disc special edition courtesy of 1428 Films. On the first disc is the four-hour feature film, presented in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Overall, the image quality is good, though it varies somewhat from interview subject to interview subject or depending on the age and condition of archival material. Some sequences are darker or softer than others, but it's never much of a problem seeing as most of the running time is comprised of talking heads. The same goes for the 2.0 stereo audio track, which keeps nearly all of the activity in the front channels but provides a clear, clean presentation. There are optional English subtitles available, which is a thoughtful inclusion.
If you aren't burned out on Elm Street after the four hour feature film (and I wasn't), you'll be happy to know that a second disc containing an additional four hours of bonus material has also been included. First up is a collection of extended interviews (with unfinished backgrounds, meaning the subjects are speaking in front of a green screen) broken up by film. While I wouldn't think there would be much else left to say, many of these extended interviews contained cool facts and commentary and are worth watching for anyone who enjoyed the film. Following those is a collection of featurettes, mostly covering topics peripheral to the films themselves (and which therefore were wisely excluded from the movie): "First Look: Heather Langenkamp's I Am Nancy"; "For the Love of the Glove"; "Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans"; "Horror's Hallowed Grounds: A Return to Elm Street"; "Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd"; "The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers and Songwriters"; "Elm Street's Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes."
Though Never Sleep AgainElm Street isn't mentioned anywhere in the documentary until you get to the extended interviews, at which point there's about 90 seconds of original-series cast and crew saying they think it's a bad idea. I couldn't agree more.
Obviously, Never Sleep Again isn't for everyone. At four hours long, the movie will test the patience of casual viewers. But for Elm Street fans, it's a dream come true.
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