He’s been the star of eight movies and a television show. He’s had hundreds of toys and dolls created in his image. He’s been the center of video games and the subject of songs. For a child murderer, Freddy Krueger has done pretty well for himself.
The definitive account of the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, the four-hour film features a who’s who list of interviewees — including just about every actor or crewmember that had anything to do with a Nightmare on Elm Street film.
Before Never Sleep Again, Langenkamp had already been working on a documentary of her own called I Am Nancy, a film that would focus on who the fans were that wait in line to get her autograph during horror conventions.
“It took a funny look at why Freddy Krueger was so popular,” Langenkamp said. “People use their love for the films as a way to convey aspects of their own life. They talk about how Nancy was an inspiration or how they had been abused as a child. It was concerning that we were living in a society where people were suffering and looking towards movies to help them for solace and inspiration. A hundred years ago, people had relatives that could help them in dealing with terrible solutions. Now people come right up to me and lay a story on me that can be quite shocking and just thank me and tell me how much the move was important to them.”
Langenkamp got involved with Never Sleep Again through the help of her friend Thommy Hutson, the film’s writer and producer.
Huston, who had previously written His Name Was Jason, a documentary exploring the Friday the 13th series, suggested doing a documentary about A Nightmare on Elm Street and Langenkamp jumped at the chance.
“Heather and I had talked for a while about doing this — the definitive Elm Street documentary,” Hutson said. “She has a lot of friends from the franchise and so did I. Coincidentally, Daniel (Farrands) had also been working on his own documentary with a team of people. He called me up and asked if I was available to work on his. Heather and I combined forces with his team and it all worked out. The timing was perfect.”
Farrands also believes the film was the result of a bunch of stars aligning.
“It was a bunch of people coming together to make this a reality,” he said. “A lot of different things were happening at the time and a lot of the projects we were working on a the time started to take on a life of their own and a family unit was created of editors and directors of photography. This band started to coalesce.”
Andrew Kasch, the film’s co-director and editor, has had a long relationship with his co-director Daniel Farrands — the two worked together on His Name Was Jason along with collaborating on a wide-variety of DVD supplemental material.
“DVDs are film schools on disc,” Kasch said. “Everybody knows aspiring filmmakers love watching the documentaries and commentaries. That whole world has opened up a new way to learn about movies. Over the years, though, we noticed that the supplemental material had become really watered down. There was a concentrated direction to take the warts out.”
Kasch and Farrands made their own concentrated effort — to not go in that direction when filming Never Sleep Again.
“We let the crew really tell their stories. Some of the movies didn’t exactly come out too good. Mistakes were made and people talk about that.”
Over a hundred people were interviewed for the film, Kasch said.
“We didn’t know how we were going to be able to pull off but once Heather was involved, everybody started coming out of the woodwork,” he said.
From the interviewees to Charles Bernstein (the composer of the original film) returning to create a new title score for the documentary to the wonderful poster art created by original series’ artist Matthew Joseph Peak, people came out to show their support for the film.
While the film was originally designed as a 90-minute documentary, the film continued to grow and grow until it was in its currant state. But even at four hours, some stuff was left on the cutting room floor.
“When you think that each film employees 50 to 100 people — you could probably do ten of those documentaries and still have stories that were untold,” Langenkamp said. “One of the goals of this DVD is to bring new things out that people haven’t necessary heard before. If you are a real fan, we can guarantee there are stories that you haven’t heard before.”
Besides covering all eight of the films in-depth, Farrands and Kasch even cover some of the Freddy Krueger movies that never got made.
“One of the most fascinating things we uncovered while making the film was just how many writers, filmmakers and directors came on board for the various drafts of all of these sequels,” Farrands said. “You look at some of the films that resulted and you think to yourself, ‘Gosh, why didn’t they use the Peter Jackson draft for part six?'”
Kasch agrees said he and his co-director tried their best to cover as much as possible.
“There was no way we could make this and not short-change the subject,” Kasch said. “That said, even some hard core fans will have trouble sitting through all four hours without taking a break. We designed it in a way that it can be broken up into sections. It’s easy to stop the movie and than jump back in. The pacing is fast-paced, though, that you can watch the film in on sitting if you would like. It works both ways.”
“We really tried to go over the stuff that the die hard fans would want to explore,” Kasch said. “From the homoeroticism of part two to part five’s script problems. At the same time, we wanted it to be accessible to those who had not seen the films.”
Conceived as a tie-in to the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, filming was done on a mad-dash schedule.
“With the remake rebooting the franchise and bringing in a new face as Freddy Krueger, we saw it as a perfect time to pay homage to what Wes Craven bought,” Farrands said.
The movie would serve as a bookend to the franchise, both directors agreed.
“We started shooting seven months ago — most documentary features you see take years to make. Just to dig through all the material in seven months wasn’t an easy thing to do — especially when you’re an indie production. It was fun every step of the way, though.”
Langenkamp says the documentary covers some of the weirder aspects of the series’ fandom — including the sometimes-bizarre merchandising that bears Freddy’s image.
“There are plushy bears dressed liked Freddy Kruger,” she said. “They are getting cuter and cuter. There are little onesies for your baby that have Freddy quips on them. Those kind of things mystify me.”
Hutson agrees with Langenkamp about some of the crazier stuff that has Freddy’s name plastered all over it.
“Our jaws dropped thinking about the Freddy Krueger pajamas,” he said. “Let’s market the child serial killer to children. ‘Go to bed darling and make sure you keep your Freddy pajamas on. At the end of the day, a lot of the series is marketed to kids.”
It isn’t just through clothing that fans can show their allegiance to the Dream Master, though.
“The tattoos have really become elaborate,” Langenkamp said. “Some of the people who are devoting their flesh real estate to Freddy are kind of amazing to me. It’s a life long commitment to have this guy’s face on your thigh or leg. This is really incredible.
As they worked on the film, Kasch and Farrands started to joke about the worst that could happen.
“We were joking and making cracks that with our luck, the night before we delivered the film something terrible would happen — a fire or an earthquake,” Kasch said. “The night I was finishing, I began to smell smoke and I ran outside just to see our tenant’s car explode and catch the building on fire.
Even with their brush with their very own Freddy’s curse, the two finished the movie and have recently released it on DVD.
Available to purchase at most video stores and online at www.elmstreetlegacy.com (and if fans order in the next few days, they can get a copy of the documentary’s poster hand-signed by Heather Langenkamp) the current plan for distribution is strictly for home video release. There are talks, though, of a small theatrical run — something for hard-core fans and the cast and crew.
After seven long months working on the film, they crew are ready for their next project.
While Hutson hopes to do more work in narrative films in the future, he won’t rule out returning to the world of horror documentaries.
“I still think I would one day like to do a look at the Scream franchise,” he said. “It reinvigorated the horror genre and I’m a huge fan of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven.”
After writing Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, writing a book and directing a documentary about Friday the 13th and tackling the Elm Street legacy with Never Sleep Again, Farrands doesn’t believe there is much more else for him in the horror genre — at least from the holy horror trinity.
“I don’t know who else we could possibility take on,” he said. “We’ve survived all three of the big horror movie icons. I think that makes us the ultimate horror movie survivors.”
Farrands has a few projects lined up — including a follow-up to the ghost film he produced a few years back, The Haunting in Connecticut and a remake of a horror film from the ‘80s he can’t talk about too much.
“I can’t name it just yet but let’s put it this way: It’ll be fun to go back to camp again,” he said.
Kasch jokes that he would like to make a giant ten hour Maniac Cop retrospective but in reality he’s not too sure what the future holds.”
“At this point, I don’t know there is a whole lot more we can do with documentaries,” he said. “I’m pretty sure there is no way to top Never Sleep Again but if something comes along, we’d be down for it.”
Don’t hold your breath for a retrospective look at the Leprechaun series, though.
“Or any epic Wishmaster documentaries,” Kasch added. He doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into horror, Kasch said.
“The horror community is like its own separate community — we are the bastard children of the film community. Free of ego and free of Hollywood personalities. It’s easy to become enraptured by that and churn out nothing but horror stuff but it’d be nice to break into comedy.”
Since acting in the Nightmare on Elm Street films, Langenkamp moved onto a successful career as part of a special effect and make-up studio she co-operates with her husband. One of the projects her and her husband’s studio, AFX Studio, is working on is the upcoming Joss Whedon produced, Drew Goddard directed horror film, Cabin in the Woods.
“We were hired to create animatronics and make-up for the creatures,” she said. “It was a huge job and I can’t wait to see this movie. Drew Goddard is such a story telling genius. I can tell it’s a fantastic movie just from the way they shot it.”
Langenkamp has come a long way from the days where she was running screaming from Freddy Krueger. She remains happy, though, that the role A Nightmare on Elm Street has played in fans’ lives has been therapeutic.
“[A Nightmare on Elm Street] brings people together and it can represent what a teenager is feeling,” she said. “It’s also is just really fun to get together and watch a horror movie. I was never expecting to come out on the side of being warm and fuzzy towards horror movies. I have developed a much greater appreciation for what they mean.”
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.