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I had already written a review of Never Sleep Again when it was released on DVD in 2010. The ‘feature’ section of this review is a slightly edited version of that one.

Feature


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, documented facts. Sure, there were some amusing bits (love the Dokken music video) and the interface was the first of its kind, but fans spent more time navigating the menu system than learning anything new. It’s been more than a decade and we finally have the in-depth documentary they’ve been clamouring for in the form of Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.

 Never Sleep Again
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. Farrands and Kasch managed to score Nightmare footage and footage from the non- Nightmare 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 of the highest quality, at least not compared to major release documentaries, but it is 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 surely 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.

 Never Sleep Again
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

Video


Never Sleep Again made a decent anamorphic DVD, but the team’s Friday the 13th doc, Crystal Lake Memories, was definitely an improvement in terms of overall clarity. The announcement of a Never Sleep Again Blu-ray was good news. Unfortunately, and I hate, hate, hate to admit that the SD to HD upgrade is not, in this case, particularly valuable. This usually isn’t an issue with the 1080p disc, but with the mix-and-match footage itself. The interviews aren’t shot using homogenized lighting and some are really dark, leading to minor noise and blocking effects. The more brightly-lit talking heads do show an uptake in natural detail and dynamic element separation. The DVD’s occasional combing effects have also been eradicated. The behind-the-scenes videos are mostly shot using either 8mm or VHS/Beta, so the upgrade offers nothing in this arena, though the stills are definitely crisper. Most, but not all, of the footage from the series itself appears to have been taken HD prints. Some of the ‘messier’ shots flit by so quickly that edge enhancement and noise are the only things my critical eye was even able to notice, so it is possible I am mistaken (the Freddy’s Revenge scenes look a bit fuzzy in particular). Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the footage deleted from the fifth film is not presented in HD (or widescreen, for that matter).

 Never Sleep Again

Audio


Never Sleep Again is, once again, presented with a no-frills, compressed Dolby Surround track ( Edit: according to specs, it is actually a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, but, to my ears, it still sounded compressed, so the rest of this section still applies). 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.

 Never Sleep Again

Extras


The extras more or less match DVD release and include:
  • Commentary with directors Andrew Kasch and Daniel Farrands, co-producer/writer Thommy Hutson, and cinematographer Buz ‘Danger’ Wallick – This epic-length track was not available with the original DVD release, but did appear on the ‘collector’s edition,’ where it, a slip cover, and a poster were the only new items.
  • Extended interviews (1:41:00, HD) – These are divided by film, including some stuff about the 2010 remake. They fill in the business and personal sides of things, along with some extended technical details. These make for fantastic supplemental features, but probably would’ve also worked well within the film. Interesting 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 more from the alternate drafts of Freddy vs. Jason.
  • First Look at Heather Langenkamp’s I Am Nancy documentary (6:50 with introduction, HD) – I’m still not convinced this isn’t a joke, mainly because it doesn’t seem to have come out yet. It’s comparable to Bruce Campbell’s brief fan doc on the Evil Dead DVD.
  • For the Love of the Glove (18:20, HD) – On the not very compelling search for an original glove prop from the first film.
  • Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans (12:50, HD) – An exploration of obsessive fandom and the massive collections of collectables and homemade memorabilia it spawns.
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street (23:10, HD) – An episode of the web/TV series that explores the still-standing locations of celebrated horror films, hosted by Sean Clarke.
  • Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd (5:30, SD) – An episode of the amusing online video series where an angry video game nerd (naturally) reviews terrible original Nintendo Entertainment System games. The short begins with the nerd himself offering a light-hearted intro and interim commentary.
  • Expanding the Elm Street Universe (15:50, HD) – Concerning the many ‘extended universe’ novels and comic books.
  • The Music of the Nightmare (13:40, HD) – On the various composers that worked on the series, including interviews with most of the composers themselves.
  • Elm Street Poster Boy (7:30, HD) – An all-too-brief look at Matthew Joseph Peak incredible poster art for the first five films.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes (10:10, HD) – Wherein the interviewees quote the original film…for 10 minutes.
  • Teaser trailer


 Never Sleep Again

Overall


Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is still better, more entertaining, and more in-depth than any of a number of other recent straight-to-DVD horror film documentaries, including genuinely good ones, like An American Nightmare or Going to Pieces. It’s even better than the same team’s Crystal Lake Memories and off-shoot production (different technical staff, same production staff) More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead. The Blu-ray upgrade isn’t quite worth the double dip for thriftier fans, but this release does contain every one of the extras packed into its previous DVD versions.

P.S.: Never Sleep Again is also available in HD on Hulu Plus, so all the Nightmare on Elm Street fans that can’t/won’t be buying either the DVD or Blu-ray versions still have a chance to check it out. Of course, they’ll have to have paid for a Hulu Plus subscription…

 Never Sleep Again
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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