May 23, 2010
It feels so good to NEVER SLEEP AGAIN
Unlike other horror blogs, I did not receive a promotional copy of Never Sleep Again, the new Nightmare on Elm Street retrospective documentary from 1428 Films. No, I went online and ordered my own copy of the film, which after shipping and conversion to Canadian currency turned out to be an expensive purchase. Thankfully, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is worth every single cent. Clocking in at over two hours of content for just the first disc, this documentary is the literal definition of bang for your buck.
Hands down, Never Sleep Again is the most comprehensive, heart-felt, funny, and honest look at a horror film franchise ever released. And we need more films like this. Too often we become complacent with the truncated and shallow "making of" featurettes on DVDs or the pithy retrospective documentaries that accompany some "special edition" sets of influential horror and other genre franchises. Most often, these are after-the-fact promotional pieces that recycle the same old anecdotes we've heard again and again about the making of the films in question. Never Sleep Again, however, takes a running leap over these pitfalls and delivers what is truly the definitive look back at each Nightmare on Elm Street film (barring the recent remake), the Freddy's Nightmares TV series, and Freddy Kreuger's impact on popular culture.
Told through interviews with the major players in the film franchise (such as Wes Crave, Heather Langenkamp -- who is also executive producer -- and Robert Englund), the documentary also generates much of its charm through interview segments with the bit players in the series such as Ira Heiden (the Dungeon Master Wizard from Dream Warriors) and Leslie Hoffman (the Hall monitor in A Nightmare on Elm Street).
One highlight of the documentary is the look back at Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Several of the the writers, actors, and crew members profess to have had no intentions of making that film so full of homosexual themes, yet they are openly bemused by how every artistic decision they did make seemed engineered to take that gay subtext and make it pure text. Another highly entertaining part of the documentary is its coverage of Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master and the struggles and controversies between director Renny Harlan, his cast, and New Line producer Robert Shaye.
Finally, and most refreshing of all, this documentary's independence from New Line / Warner Bros. Entertainment means it has more freedom to offer critical or dissenting views about the franchise. While the documentary is clearly made with a love for the series, this is no puff-piece. Numerous writers, directors, and actors talk openly about the problems they had with the series or with the work of others in the series. Never Sleep Again does not shy away from the fact that many of these films began with incomplete scripts and no pretense on an executive level to make something artistic or meaningful (a beef Wes Craven has with every film in the series but his own).
Every installment in the series gets its fair share of exposure. Perfect to watch in installments or to sit down and watch all in one go, Never Sleep Again is a beautiful summary of the series's ups and downs.
If the new Nightmare on Elm Street remake (review) left a sour taste in your mouth, Never Sleep Again will clear the palate and remind you of what is so endearing and enduring about the nightmares Freddy gives us.
Buy Never Sleep Again: www.elmstreetlegacy.com