Every week Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a horror movie worth checking out. Today: All you wanted to know about Freddy Krueger but were afraid to ask.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy has been on my list of DVDs to watch since it was released last May. When the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street was released in theaters last summer, I threw myself feet first into the original franchise (a series of films I had only seen a handful of entries in) by watching all eight Freddy Krueger movies in one marathon sitting. By the end, I was a little crazy, a little in love with Wes Craven’s creation and just a little tired of watching Robert Englund hack and slash his way through dreaming teens.
Thus, Never Sleep Again, a four-hour documentary on the series, set in my queue — waiting like a one-night stand I never called back. Well, it was high time I made that call.
Never Sleep Again really is the definitive look at the original Nightmare on Elm Street series. Exhaustive in its scope but told with such a smooth pace and wit that viewers really won’t feel the four hours’ running time slipping away, Never Sleep Again is a must see for any that consider themselves a fan of Freddy Krueger.
Beginning with the early origins of both New Line Cinema and writer/director Wes Craven’s story, Never Sleep Again traces the series from the rocky road getting financing and distribution for A Nightmare on Elm Street, one of the original indie horror films and a movie that nearly bankrupted series producer Bob Shaye, to the resulting seven sequels. Nearly equal time is given to every film in the series — with interviews with everybody from Craven to Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. Heather Langenkamp, star of the original movie, provides narration for the film in addition to being interviewed.
The number of cast and crew interviewed really is staggering. Over 100 people who either worked on the series or were involved peripherally are given a chance to share memories (not all of them good) about bringing Freddy Krueger to life. Even Dokken is interviewed, for crying out loud.
(Quick aside: What’s going on with Lezlie Deane. The former star of Freddy’s Dead appears in her interviews drenched in fake blood and dressed in what looks like a prom dress. A silent goth Lolita sits at her side, head rested on Deane’s chest. I’m confused.)
Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch really are to be commended for their thoroughness in putting together this documentary. There is nary a stone left unturned as the two pile in everything from vintage interview, television clips, production photos and early makeup tests. You will leave Never Sleep Again with a whole new perspective of the series. I even have a newfound respect for Freddy’s Dead, my least favorite film in the series, after watching the documentary.
While a lot of horror franchise documentaries will give the short stick to later films in the series — spending the lion’s share of time covering the original movie — Never Sleep Again treats every movie like it’s potentially somebody’s favorite. Even the universally derided Nightmare 2 (a film I actually happen to enjoy) gets a good shake — with interviewees finally admitting that some of that famous homosexual subtext may have been put in on purpose.
Besides the film’s content, the disc looks good too. Great crisp visuals help keep the eyes from drifting during the film’s mammoth running time. Clean editing and some fun sound effects help keep the film at a steady pace. Also great are the stop motion animated transition cards that introduce each new chapter of the documentary.
In addition to the film’s four hour running time, there is a second disc with even more goodies.
First up is a section dedicated to extended interviews for each film. In total there are nearly ninety extra minutes of interviews with the longest time given to Freddy vs. Jason (19 minutes) and the shortest given to the at-the-time unreleased remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (two and a half minutes).
“First Look: Heater Lagenkamp’s I Am Nancy” is a 7 minute peek at yet another documentary on A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s legacy — this one directed by Lagenkamp and offering an amusing look at her life post-Krueger.
“For the Love of the Glove” is an 18-minute look at Freddy’s glove — from its origins to online entrepreneurs that sell replicas.
“Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans” is an almost 13 minute featurette about Nightmare fans and the impressive amount of merchandise that has been made for the series.
“Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street” is a 23 minute episode in an online series from Sean Clark where the original film’s sets are revisited.
“Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd” is a five-minute segment in James Rolfe’s online series where he takes a look at the original Nightmare on Elm Street video game.
“Expanding the Elm Street Universe: Freddy in Comic Book & Novels” is a 15 minute featurette about the many literary offshoots of the Nightmare series.
“The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers & Songwriters” is a 13 minute look at the music of the series — including the revelation that at one time there was an Angelo Badalamenti score for Dream Warriors!
“Elm Street’s Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak” is a seven and a half minute profile of the artist who designed the film posters for the first five films in the series — in addition to doing the DVD artwork for the documentary.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 minutes” is an expended version of the documentary’s really fun closing credits bit where actors from the series recite their lines in a tongue-in-cheek style.
Thanks in large part to the documentary’s successful release last summer, a new collector’s edition of the DVD was released earlier this week to coincide with the remake dropping on DVD and Blu-ray. The collector’s edition comes with a new slipcase (oh, how I hate you slipcases), a collectable poster folded up inside the case and a new four-hour commentary track for the four-hour movie! You haven’t lived until you’ve watched commentary about the commentary about a series of films starring a burnt child molester dream killer.
Never Sleep Again really is highly recommended. The film is the best possible documentary about the series — exploring the movies warts and all. Watching the film, I actually was rejuvenated in my appreciation for the movies and am already jonesing to rewatch some of my favorites. I don’t suppose there is anyway we can get the sequels released on Blu-ray, though?
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.