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Old 05-22-2010, 11:01 PM
Scored: 10
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Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy

Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: May 22, 2010

Released by: CAV Distribution
Release date: 6/4/2010
MSRP: $24.99
Region 1, NTSC
Progressive Scan
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes

inline ImageWhen Anchor Bay released Halloween: 25 Years of Terror it was like fandom had finally taken over. No longer were special features relegated to big production houses or sterile talking heads. A feature length documentary on the whole legacy of the Halloween franchise, 25 Years of Terror was finally able to answer the questions fans had always been asking. It wasn’t just a special feature, either – it was now the film, the entire package. Taking a cue from that, Daniel Farrands, who had written Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and had contributed material to the 25 Years of Terror set, decided to embark himself on the Friday the 13th legacy. The resulting film was His Name was Jason, another tender tribute to one of the icons of eighties horror. With A Nightmare on Elm Street being remade by Platinum Dunes, it finally allowed Farrands, along with Andrew Kasch, who did a great job with the “Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited” extras on the Friday discs, to embark on the history of the third titan of eighties horror, a one Frederick J. Krueger.

With eight films under one legendary production house, the Elm Street movies have had quite the history, and similar to His Name was Jason and Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, Never Sleep Again aims to ask all the questions fans have had about each sequel and house them all under one sprawling documentary. There are over 100 different participants…are you ready for Freddy?

EDIT: Timed to cash in on the home video release of the recent A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, 1428 Films have released a modest update to this already robust package. Check the supplemental material section for the full gory details.

The Story

The documentary is broken up by film, with each segment introduced with a cute stop motion animation. After an extended stop motion introduction that recreates several favorite moments from the series en miniature, we jump right into documentary with a teaser of things to come with “Welcome to Elm Street”. It serves as a nice introduction with many of the participants giving a bullet point sort of summary of the appeal of Freddy, the franchise and what makes the films just stand apart.

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Next is a focus on the first film, aptly titled “Don’t Fall Asleep”. Those who bought the Infinifilm DVD and Blu-ray discs will no doubt recognize most of the participants, Wes Craven, Bob Shaye, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, John Saxon, Nick “Up Yours With A Twirling Lawnmower” Corri. Co-producer Sara Risher is here too, as she is for almost all the other sequels, and she helps explain the genesis of New Line along with Rachel Talalay who’d work her way up the ranks on the Freddy movies until ultimately directing Freddy’s Dead. The creative crew, like DOP Jacques Haitkin and effects master Jim Doyle are also aboard, as are some of the less notable figures like Bob’s sister, Lin Shaye, who played the teacher or Don Hannah (brother to Daryl), who played the surfer guy who read Hamlet during the same school scene. It’s that breadth in exploring the series from the biggest elements to the smallest that really sets this all apart. While many of the anecdotes on making the film will be familiar to those who have seen the other Elm Street extras over the years, there are still plenty of tiny new tidbits here deconstructed that fans will love. Probably the most surprising moment is Jsu Garcia (Nick Corri)’s confession that he’d be hard into drugs during the filming of the film, but has since licked the addiction and has been clean for years. You wouldn’t get that kind of probing sincerity in a studio-made DVD extra.

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“Kill For Me” covers A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and finally…FINALLY outs all that gay subtext and forces all the participants to address it – and there are a lot of them. As far as actors go, there’s the two leads, Kim Myers (still looking like a hotter version of Meryl Streep) and Mark Patton, as well as “I’m sleeping over at your house” friend Robert Rusler, the father, outspoken Clu Gulager, the ass whipping gym teacher, Marshall “Quaaaaiiiiiddd” Bell, England and a few other Freddy victims. On the crew side we get writer David Chaskin, director Jack Sholder, special effects master Kevin Yagher and more, and all are forced to reconcile just how amazingly queer that movie is. It’s all pretty hilarious, between Patton dubbing himself “the first male scream queen” and Yagher calling this undoubtedly the “gayest movie ever made”. Farrands is able to find a balance between the inevitable chuckles and the telling behind-the-scenes insight, whether he gets the participants to deconstruct the effects, the shooting schedule (and how Patton had to improvise that infamous dance on the spot) and some of the core series questions like the film’s choice to bring Freddy out into the real world. It’s a great piece, and finally something that does the fascinating Freddy’s Revenge justice.

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, “We’re the Dream Warriors” gives exhaustive tribute to what’s commonly called the quintessential Krueger picture, Dream Warriors. Patricia Arquette is once again missing, but that’s no surprise since she couldn’t even be bothered to take part in The Dream Master 15-odd years ago. Don’t expect to see Craig Wasson or Laurence “Larry” Fishburne either. Other than that, though, all those warriors are back, in addition to Langenkamp, Englund, Saxon, Craven, Yagher and other effects-men and writer/director Chuck Russell. There are other crew members included along the way, and yep, we even get a group interview with Dokken. You know you’re dealing with fans when there’s a five minute segment devoted entirely to the music video and how it was the first music video ever to accompany a movie on VHS. For how successful the film was, there’s a surprising amount of drama behind the scenes, with many people doubting Russell’s vision and problems with actors and safety. Craven gets into his original treatment a tad, but sadly the whole story evolution, from Craven’s draft to the modifications done by Russell and Frank Darabont (who sadly isn’t available here) is the lone blind spot in this otherwise grand tribute to the film that cemented Freddy as a pop culture mainstay.

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While The Dream Master may have been a major step down from the expanded universe of Dream Warriors, this “How Sweet, Fresh Meat” segment here on Never Sleep Again is just as solid as the last. This one sees the surviving cast from the previous entry back, as well as the new blood, including Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Arquette-replacement Tuesday Knight, Brooke Theiss, among others. The Dream Warriors crew lament at having being killed off so quickly (Ken “Kincaid” Sagoes is hilarious), and ponder why Patricia Arquette didn’t come back. Also interesting is the story about how Renny Harlin came to direct, and how he didn’t have a penny in his pocket (and smelled like it too!) before Bob Shaye took him on. Since this was one of the most elaborate entries in the series effects-wise, there is a ton of time spent there, too. There’s even a funny anecdote about how the whole ludicrous “dog pissing on Freddy’s ashes to bring him back to life” bit was improvised on the spot as a refute for when James Cameron visited the New Line office. A decent portion is also devoted to Freddy merchandising, which really kicked into high gear with this film, Freddy’s most-seen theatrical entry to this day.

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With Freddy on top of the box office and being merchandized like crazy, it’s no surprise that he was also turned into a TV show, and “Welcome to Prime Time” covers his time spent on Freddy’s Nightmares. The endearing artisan, Mick Garris, shares some smiles while reminiscing about all the crazy productions, and he’s joined along with a few other key episode crew members. Englund gets a lot of time here too, and they discuss how the series began strong and with great focus, but quickly became a playground for whatever could be gotten away with on late-night cable. There’s accolades given to Tobe Hooper’s opening entry, but sadly Hooper is nowhere to be found in the documentary.

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“It’s a Boy!” ultrasounds the production of The Dream Child, and reveals that the genesis for the story lies with series producer Sara Risher and her having shortly before dealt with her own pregnancy. There’s a lot of talk about director Stephen Hopkins and what he brought to the film, particularly his infatuation with comic books, both in the cell-shaded death scene and in the overall pulpy and elaborate set design used throughout. Hopkins is also aboard to talk about the film first hand, as well as the returning cast, new teens like Kelly Jo Minter, Nicholas Mele, Joe Seely and the still sexy Erika Anderson. Probably the most pleasant surprise is seeing Freddy’s child, Jacob (Whit Hertford) all grown up. He had quite the harrowing experience on the set which he thankfully shares. Time is also devoted to why the film floundered at the box office and how Freddy mania was finally starting to fade.

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“Every Town has an Elm Street” sees longtime Freddy crew member discussing her promotion to director in what was at one time “The Final Nightmare”, Freddy’s Dead. Also joining her are the bulk of the teen cast, excluding Breckin Meyer, who was probably too busy trying to bankroll the next live action Garfield sequel. Alice Cooper makes a generous contribution too, but sadly the other icons, be it Yaphet Kotto or Johnny Depp, Tom Arnold or Rosanne sit this one out. Englund admits to the film jumping the shark, but they explain how since they thought it was going to be the end they went the John Waters route for camp (no surprise, since Talalay worked so closely with Waters throughout his eighties output). There’s a little talk about character, some about the effects, and a smidge about the 3D, but overall this polarizing entry in the series is handled with effective balance from both sides.

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Next we move onto the piece about Craven’s New Nightmare reboot, “Meet Your Maker”. The already featured Craven, Englund and Langenkamp are predictably back, but the rest of the key actors in this entry also make an appearance, including a now grown-up Miko Hughes. Craven has a hilarious bit where he talks about how they got Hughes to cry, basically by hiding his mom and telling him she was dead! Hughes has the best bits, recalling his childhood on set and how it was such a highlight of his career that he actually bought the pieces from the park that he memorably fell from in the film. That’s Hollywood! Speaking of Hollywood, there’s also talk of the earthquake that shattered the area during the filming, as well as how the principal crew used their experience on previous films to infuse this one. The special effects get deconstructed, as do the Grimm story references, and Langenkamp’s movie husband even shows us how he would have scratched his nuts had they not used an insert. The segment concludes with shrugs about the D.O.A. box office performance of the otherwise well-received entry.

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It may only be half-Freddy, but Freddy vs. Jason gets a full segment here dubbed “Place Your Bets”. I wasn’t expecting a lot from this, given how recent the film is (although its seven year old age is certainly starting to make me feel old) but there are some fun anecdotes here. Most of the actors are back, and by the time of filming Freddy was such an icon that every actor had a pretty deep appreciation for the franchise, so you see the fan behind every actor here. Brendan Fletcher has the most enthusiastic memories, but it’s nice to see Monica Keena again, and Zack Ward has a few funny bits. Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle is noticeably absent, but Jason Mewes does make a funny cameo. Ronny Yu talks about how he got roped into film despite expressing that he was never much of a fan of the series, and some His Name was Jason creeps in when Kane Hodder talks about being overlooked as the man behind the mask for this entry. And that, my friends, is the series as we know it.

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This epic 4 hour documentary finishes up with a tribute to New Line and how it became a victim of its own success. Shaye and others talk about his squeeze out of the company, but more importantly everyone reflects on the iconic “House That Freddy Built”. There is virtually nothing but smiling nostalgia about the great work New Line produced and provided to the hundreds of people who had roles in bringing Freddy to life.

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It’s an exhaustive documentary, but never does it feel like it overstays its welcome. In fact, like most docs that are interesting, it at times doesn’t even feel long enough, but don’t worry, there is still another disc full of extras. The bad green screen work on most of the interviewees aside, I think it’s pretty safe to say that this biggest, and best, documentary ever for a horror series, Freddy or otherwise. The makers knew all the questions the fans had been wanting to know for years, and even then were able to get a lot of material otherwise unknown. I can imagine how many sleepless nights there were trying to sift through what must have been days worth of footage to piece this together, but let me say, it was worth it. This documentary is a Freddy fan’s dream and nightmare come to life!

Supplemental Material

EDIT: Included in the new upgrade, which is identified by a red "2-Disc Collector's Edition" band on the top of the packaging. The packaging also contains a foil slipcover and a foldout poster (the same as the one that was autographed by Langenkamp for those who bought from the official website). The main attraction for this new set, though, is the four hour commentary with Never Sleep Again writer Thommy Hutson, Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch and DOP Buz "Danger" (Seriously?) Wallick. I wasn't sure what to think of this going in, as to whether or not they'd discuss the movies themselves or the making of the documentary specifically. The answer is a little of both, but it's mostly composed of anecdotes on the rushed labor of love production and their experiences booking and interviewing all the filmmakers you see on screen. There are quite a lot of interesting stories, like how they tracked down Mark Patton, or how they almost got DJ Jazzy Jeff, or how Marshall Bell had no idea about any of the gay subtext in Freddy's Revenge. You'd think four hours talking about a documentary would be far too much, but the group is really lively and have a passion for these movies. It's engaging all the way through, and they even offer their own biased take on the series and broader on remakes today. Those who've already bought the old set probably don't want to hear this, but it's really well worth the listen.

Also listed on the promo flyer are "enhanced interviews" for this new release, but the documentary length is the same and I couldn't tell any differences shot to shot, so they must be talking about some color correcting or other tiny tweaks. They do mention often in the commentary to not being particularly happy about some exposures or some plates, but they don't appear to have been fixed. Not a big deal, at any rate. Lastly, the entire soundtrack has been upgraded to 2.0 Stereo from the original mono track. Are you going to notice? Probably not.

You’d think four hours would be plenty for a documentary, but there are still several more tucked away here on the second disc. There are eleven different extras here, so let’s cut to the chase and carve through them.

inline ImageFirst up, extended interviews. Selecting it brings up another menu with each film given its own line and around 10-minutes worth of excised interviews from the doc. There’s even a segment devoted to the remake, which doesn’t get any time at all in the doc proper. This isn’t just short ends or flubs, in fact, none of it is that. All the footage here, well over an hour’s worth, is all really interesting and certainly worthy of the film itself. As Hitchcock said, though, a film must be made in mind of a human’s bladder, so five or six hours of Freddy certainly would have been too much. It’s great to have it all here, and without all the distracting green screen keying.

Next, a 7-minute promo for another Elm Street documentary, Heather Langenkamp’s “I am Nancy” which chronicles her time at fan conventions and the fact that she’s constantly eclipsed by Freddy’s popularity. It could be self-serving or hokey, but she’s having fun at least, and it’s nice to see some extra footage of fandom.

inline Image“For the Love of the Glove” is a fascinating 20-minutes that combines fact with fandom regarding Freddy’s most iconic horror prop. We follow around one of the most tireless collectors, Mike Becker, as he shows off his collection to one of the men responsible for Freddy’s make-up over four films, David Miller. In his possession he has the original Elm Street glove, as well as several other originals used throughout the series. It’s pretty fascinating hearing the two of them talk about the differences and uses for each of the gloves – they’re all surprisingly different. Then there is a lot devoted to all the various Freddy glove recreation websites that offer hand-made replicas for sale. It’s amazing just how many there are, and even still, each one does it a little different. Finally, there are some nice on the set anecdotes and musings about the glove, the best of all being Robert Rusler’s recreation of a memorable speech Bob Shaye gave to the Freddy’s Revenge crew after the glove was stolen from set. This piece definitely does the glove justice!

inline Image“Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans” is a 13-minute look into all the fans and how the A Nightmare on Elm Street series has affected them. Some of the fans, like Jeff Katz, went on to work on a Freddy flick, but most of them just have giant collections in their basements that are highlighted through various photos and videos submitted. While there is a montage of clips of Freddy merchandise from masks to VHS standees, there are also plenty of people, both fans and Elm Street stars discussing just how big of an impact the series has had on people all over the world. There are even some letters written from many people as kids to Freddy or the crew, including a nice bit where Rachel Talalay talks about a particular fan she’s written back and forth with for years. We also get more of Mike Becker’s collection, which features a number of original masks and outfits worn in the series. Not as good as the other bits, but still quite fascinating to see all the different Freddy collections out there.

inline ImageA 23-minute episode from the underrated “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” is also included, showing off almost all of the locations that were used for the first film. It’s made in a fun, informative style that combines factual, accurate comparisons and insight with humorous recreations and recapitulations of the original film. We get tours with the original actors, too, with Amanda Wyss taking us down the alley while Heather Langenkamp takes us to the original Thompson house. There’s even an interview with the current 1428 homeowner. The best bit, though, is not even related to the first film. There’s a cameo from a couple Freddy’s Revenge actors that leads to a pretty funny confrontation. Sean Clark, the creator and host of HHG, both in print online and in video on various forms, really knows the draw of these old locations and his playful reverence and attention to detail really make for great entertainment. Someone, somewhere, pick this series up for a full fledged TV show!

inline ImageThe Angry Video Game Nerd contributes a short piece on this second disc, too. He talks about how Freddy had an impact on him and his show, and includes much of his iconic review of A Nightmare on Elm Street for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The piece runs a short and fairly bland 5-minutes, and it’s too bad they didn’t just include the full review for the NES game instead.

inline Image“Expanding the Elm Street Universe” explores the novels and comics that came out of the successful series. It features interviews with many of the authors that explain the hooks of each book and the different directions they took the series. There is a surprising amount of novelizations, and many of them quite recent. It’s nice to see the love and respect all those involved have for Freddy and continuing his story rather than just wanting to make a quick buck. Not entirely quick, the piece runs just over 15-minutes.

inline ImageThe 13-minute “Music of the Nightmare” interviews a number of the composers. Charles Bernstein has some nice insight and even relates the first film to Fellini’s . Christopher Young talks about how working on Freddy’s Revenge was a dream come true and a start to what would prove to be a long and illustrious career. He also highlights how there really wasn’t much continuity in the series (like there was in the Halloween or Friday the 13th films) because new composers were brought on picture to picture and encouraged to experiment. Case in point, Rachel Talalay talks about how much of Angelo Badalamenti’s score for Dream Warriors was not used because it veered so far away from the original Nightmare soundscape. Other composers and artists are included, but it’s the bits that never made it into the films, like Lisa Zane’s Bond-ish final credits song for Freddy’s Dead or Dokken’s original lyrics for the “Dream Warriors” song that are most eye opening. It all fittingly ends with Bernstein playing a few notes from the soundtrack that we’ll all have stuck in our heads for eternity.

inline ImagePerhaps the coolest extra is “Elm Street’s Poster Boy” which features an 8-minute interview with the man responsible for the iconic poster artwork used for the first five films. Who can’t remember that awesome shot of Nancy for the cover of Part 1 on VHS, or the kids standing on Freddy’s blade for the Dream Warriors art. Matthew Joseph Peak talks about how New Line gave him a lot of creativity to experiment with the art, and how outside of having to change the suggestive abortion art for Part 5 was given the freedom to do what he wanted. All this is spoken in front of the original art for A Nightmare on Elm Street, which has been patched together since being ripped up during a lowpoint in Peak’s artistic career. Fascinating stuff, and something I’m really glad they focused on, because to a lot of fans it’s that artwork that really defined the continuity of the series picture to picture.

inline Image“A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes” is not a claymation recreation of the film or a sped-up run through of the first, but instead a collection of almost all the actors interviewed reciting lines from the film today. It’s all put into chronological order and takes us from the first film all the way to Freddy vs. Jason. The best bits are probably the “Wizard Master” line from 3 and Lisa Zane putting on the 3D glasses from Freddy’s Dead, both complete with some pretty accurate special effects. Mark Patton also has some fun recreating the howler of a dance he did for Freddy’s Revenge. Many of the more notable recreations are included during the end credits of the doc, but in the doc they are window boxed, so here is a way to see them in full, and in order of appearance in the series.

My hands are feeling about as burned as Freddy’s after typing all this, and finally we’ve come to a close. The last piece is the teaser trailer for the documentary that we’d all seen in the months leading up to its release. Glad it’s finally here! Oh, there's an, um, interesting easter egg with random bits of crazy from Charles Fleischer. I really don't know what I just watched.

Now, the film is available online at many retailers, but if you buy it directly from www.elmstreetlegacy.com before June 1st, 2010 you also get a 12”x18” poster (designed of course by Matthew Joseph Peak) that’s signed by Nancy Thompson herself, Heather Langenkamp. Support the fine folks who stitched this red and green tapestry together and buy it direct!

Final Thoughts

inline ImageAs someone who grew up in the eighties, much of my childhood is defined by A Nightmare on Elm Street. Scoping the back of the VHS boxes at the video store, begging my parents to take me to Freddy’s Dead in the theater, renting the NES video game, listening to the Dokken music, dressing up as Freddy for Halloween, watching the TV series at night. It was impossible to shake the incredible mark this franchise left on pop culture, and I’m happy to say that Never Sleep Again has done the near impossible by bottling that entire era of influence and creativity into one robust eight-hour package. The documentary, as exhaustive as any that’s ever been minted for a horror franchise, runs four hours filled with amazing stories and answers to longtime fan questions. The second disc zeroes in on all the niches and extras that couldn’t make the cut but really help to address all the little things that made up the horror mainstay. It’s a monster of a set, Never Sleep Again, and considering just how much stuff is crammed into this 2-disc Elm Street retrospective, you may never sleep again trying to go through it all! On behalf of all the fans, thank you Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch, and the hundreds more who participated in the dock, for making the ultimate Elm Street tribute. It’s a dream, erm, nightmare, come true for Freddy fans.

EDIT: With the nicer packaging, included poster, upgraded sound, "enhanced" interviews and a revealing and passionate four hour audio commentary, the new 2-Disc Collector's Edition definitely sweetens the pot for those who haven't yet bought this landmark series retrospective. Is it worth it for those who already bought the original edition? Doubtful, but hey, quality products from small distributors could always use a little more love. Regardless of whether or not this upgrade was required, it still makes the best horror documentary out there even better. What a rush!


Movie - A

Supplements - A

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 4 hours and 01 minute
  • Not Rated
  • 2 Discs
  • Chapter Stops
  • English stereo
  • English subtitles

  • 4-hour documentary on the making-of the Elm Street movies
  • Extended Interviews
  • First Look: Heather Langenkamp's 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 Freddy Universe: Freddy in Comic Books & Novels
  • The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers & Songwriters
  • Elm Street Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Easter Egg

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Old 09-29-2010, 08:45 PM
Agreed! I'm pissed they re-released this only months later, a big F you to the fans. I e-mailed them to see if they would be offering an upgrade deal or something for those that purchased it earlier, but they never responded back, figures. I definitely won't be running out and purchasing any of their future releases, even if they are really good, I'll just wait and find them used so they don't get any of my hard earned cash.
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