Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (US - DVD R1)
Gabe stops sleeping to make it through this exhaustive Elm Street documentary
If you’re like me, you bought the original A Nightmare on Elm Street DVD collection, and you tore through the ‘Labyrinth Game’ disc in hopes of learning behind the scenes stories of the series only to find yourself disappointed with the general lack of hard, documentary facts. Sure, there were some amusing bits (love the Dokken music video), and the interface was the first of its kind, but fans spent a lot more time navigating the menu system than learning anything new. It’s been more than a decade, but fans finally have the in-depth documentary they’ve been clamouring for in the form of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.
Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch get their hands on the majority of the important members of the original films’ casts and crews, everyone but Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, and Breckin Myer, though Depp and Arquette are pretty well covered by the other interview subjects, and there’s an Inside the Actor’s Studio clip of Depp mentioning the film. Equally important, there’s plenty of footage from the films themselves, which is used well to make points and create context. When I discovered Never Sleep Again was an independent production, not a documentary made as an extra for a Blu-ray release, or an official, studio commissioned documentary, I was afraid New Line and Warner Brothers wouldn’t allow the directors to use the copyright protected movie sequences. Not only did Farrands and Kasch score Nightmare footage, but they’ve included footage from films that relate to the discussion, such as Black Christmas, Last House on the Left, Halloween and various Friday the 13th films. The general art direction is not the highest quality compared to major release documentaries, but among the highest I’ve seen on an independent production of this kind. I’ve also had problems in the past with sixty or ninety minute docs that feel like crammed and abridged Cliff’s Notes on their subjects. Never Sleep Again does not suffer this problem. The doc is long, two hundred and forty minutes long, but the pacing is incredibly fast, and I imagine even non-fans will be amazed at how quickly the time passes. At times the pace is so frantic one wishes the doc was released in a longer form with future Blu-ray releases, but if we’re including the extras disc this is pretty much as close to ‘end all’ as any fan can expect to get.
I personally learned the most from the parts of the doc that cover the sequels, since the story of the first film has already been covered ad nauseum in DVD and Blu-ray featurettes and commentary tracks over the years. The deleted effects footage from the third film (my personal favourite) is a huge highlight, as is the revelation that Linnea Quigley was one of the bodies trapped in the giant Freddy chest, the brief shots of deleted gore from The Dream Child, information on Peter Jackson’s unused part six script, alternate takes on Freddy vs. Jason, and any information concerning the Freddy’s Nightmares television series, which I’ve never seen. The story behind Dokken’s ‘Dream Warriors’ music video is surly the biggest surprise. The film and the interviewees’ willingness to poke fun at the less successful aspects of the series goes a long way too. Too many independent and fan made documentaries default to hero worship, or at least tend to overlook the more obvious shortcomings, but fans should appreciate the good with the bad and celebrate the hairiest of warts along with the more blemish free zones.
The best moment in the whole doc comes with the A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 screenwriter admitting once and for all that he intended the film’s gay subtext (though perhaps he’s confusing subtext with text proper), followed by the rest of the cast and crew saying they didn’t get it until they saw the final film. If the filmmakers had overlooked the undeniable homoeroticism of the second film I might’ve been forced to write off the whole documentary, but my sad obsession with the subject has been fully satiated. As a fan I’m also happy to see some genuine appreciation of The Dream Child’s wonderful art design. The fifth film isn’t particularly good, but probably the best looking of the entire series.
Never Sleep Again doesn’t look particularly cheap, but I don’t think anyone will ever mistake this anamorphic, 1.78:1 DVD transfer for a hi-def release. The interview footage is all shot very darkly for the sake of mood, and the quality of the image differs from interview to interview depending on the contrast of key lights. Details here, and during some of the stills, are the sharpest in the film, but combing effects and minor blocking are a more obvious problem here (especial around the green screen edges). Things are definitely sharp enough to make out all the less than stellar plastic surgery, though I’ll be polite enough to not name specific names here. The behind the scenes video footage looks about as messy as effected, but is all clean enough to discern what’s happening. I was personally more curious about the quality of the original film footage. Overall this stuff is more or less identical to the original DVD releases, with iffy details, and slightly flat colours, but no major problems to report.
Never Sleep Again is aurally presented in the form of a no frills Dolby Surround track. The audio design is pretty basic, mixing audio from the original films, original music, some minor additional effects, and, of course, the interview dialogue. A full 5.1 track would be ideal simply for the discreet centre channel, as the dialogue tends to wander a bit depending on the interview subject (Renny Harlin in particular), but isn’t necessary otherwise. The non-discreet LFE doesn’t make much of a difference, and the rear channels get almost no play, but the music still stands out nicely against the dialogue, and occasionally sound effects create directional movement in the stereo channels. The music is, interestingly enough, composed by original Nightmare on Elm Street composer Charles Bernstein, which definitely adds some production value to the film.
The extras, which are plentiful enough to garner their own disc, start with a series of ten pieces of extended interviews (totally about 103:00), divided by film, including some stuff about the new movie. These scenes (which don’t feature any finished green screen backgrounds) fill in the business and personal sides of things, along with some extended technical details. These work perfectly as supplemental features, but most of them would’ve worked pretty well within the film as well (it’s already four hours long, after all). Interesting additional bits include Friday the 13th director Sean Cunningham shooting second unit, Craven acknowledging similarities between his film and Dreamscape, behind the scenes problems on Dream Master, writer David Schow acting as Freddy’s hand for the Dream Child trailer, Stephen Hopkins’ early insistence on a PG-13 rating, and a lot of info on the alternate drafts of Freddy vs. Jason.
The deleted scenes are followed by a first at Heather Langenkamp’s I am Nancy documentary (06:50), which I’m not convinced isn’t a joke, but it’s not an unfunny one. It’s comparable to Bruce Campbell’s brief fan doc on the The Evil Dead DVD. ‘For the Love of the Glove’ (18:10) covers the not very compelling search for an original glove prop from the first film. ‘Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans’ (12:50) explores the why of obsessive fandom, and their massive collections of collectables and homemade memorabilia. ‘Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street’ (23:00) is an episode of a TV series that explores the still standing locations of celebrated horror films, hosted by Sean Clarke. It’s a good addition to the disc, but not particularly entertaining in my humble opinion. ‘Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd’ (05:30) is an episode of the amusing online video series where an angry video game nerd reviews terrible original Nintendo Entertainment System games. The nerd himself offers a bit of more light-hearted commentary between scenes. ‘Expanding the Elm Street Universe’ (15:50) explores the many extended universe novels and comic books. ‘The Music of the Nightmare’ (13:10) covers the various composers that worked on the series, including interviews with the composers themselves. ‘Elm Street Poster Boy’ (07:30) briefly covers Matthew Joseph Peak amazing poster art for the first five films. Things end with ‘ A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes’, a collection of quotes from the interviews, and a teaser trailer.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is better, more entertaining, and more in-depth than any other number of recent straight to DVD horror film documentaries, including genuinely good ones like An American Nightmare or Going to Pieces. Its scope is so wide it doesn’t quite match last year’s best movie doc, Not Quite Hollywood, but it’s comparable to the celebrated Easy Riders and Raging Bulls. This delightfully packed two-disc DVD, features a whole lot of deleted footage, and featurettes, that equate an additional two hundred and forty minutes of stuff. If you’re a fan of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series I can’t think of any reason not to get your hands on this collection.
Check out the film’s official website here: elmstreetlegacy.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 4th May 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Surround 2.0 English
Extras: Deleted and Extended Interviews, I Am Nancy, For the Love of the Glove, Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans, Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street, Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd, Expanding the Elm Street Universe, The Music of the Nightmare, Elm Street Poster Boy, A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 minutes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Wes Craven, John Saxon, Renny Harlin
Length: 480 minutes
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