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Default Nightmare Series Encylopedia, The




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: November 15, 2003

Released by: New Line
Release date: 9/1/1999
MSRP: $129.95 (Box Set)
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1 | 16x9: No



The Nightmare on Elm Street films have spanned two decades, six sequels, and have thousands of fans. Perhaps more importantly though, the series alone is responsible for making New Line Cinema the movie giant that it is today. If it weren't for the endless profits that the Elm Street films brought them, New Line would have been stuck distributing little-seen films to small colleges and audiences. As Freddy's Revenge director Jack Sholder put it, "New Line was the house Freddy built". Therefore, it is no surprise that New Line has given the Elm Street series the royal treatment on DVD.

Analysis

In addition to the films, there is the jam-packed The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia, full of hours of video footage as well as a lengthy and elaborate labyrinth maze included in the box. Everything from new interviews to 80's MTV spots have been included on this disc, so lets suit up in green and red and slash through this monster disc.

The first major supplement of the disc is the "Welcome to Prime Time" documentary. It runs a little over 46 minutes, and chronicles the development process of the first film in extreme detail. Recollections are given by Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham, Robert Shaye, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund, and plenty of other people show up momentarily as well. Wes begins it by talking about how he got the original idea for the film, and then talks about his attempts to pitch the film.

Sean Cunningham stated how he didn't think Wes could do it, and then Bob Shaye talks about how he believed in Wes's creative ability. Cunningham then talks about the horror boom that was happening at the time, and brings in talk of his Friday the 13th film for good measure. Casting is then talked about at length, with character motivations, acting decisions, and other such anecdotes by a very enthused Langenkamp and Englund.



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All the creative decisions, from makeup to the coloring of Freddy's sweater are then discussed, and then the actual shoot all the way to the finished product are elaborated. The documentary is nicely produced, and everyone involved really knows what they are talking about. Cunningham and Englund perhaps provide the best material, but everyone else does a commendable job as well.

After the documentary, the viewer can then choose between entering the Labyrinth or the Index. All supplements on either are presented in 1.33:1 Full screen. The labyrinth is a maze that rewards the player with special Freddy clips and interviews, depending on what rooms are explored and what objects are found. The whole thing is done by using the directional buttons on the remote, and can be quite time consuming (more on that later). For those who are strapped for time, all of the major extras have been placed in one large index.

The index is broken into the respective films of the series, and under the films are the listed supplements. A Nightmare on Elm Street rightfully has the most supplements, but the rest of the films are still filled with retrospective interviews and some other great footage.

Freddy's Revenge has gained a favorable cult following because of its subversive gay undertones, and thankfully New Line reserves a good portion of the supplements for Part 2 strictly for sexual banter. There is talk about the absence of a female lead, and the fact that the lead male is a very feminine replacement. Director Jack Sholder then talks about how the film contains homoerotic subtext and lists some examples. There is talk about Freddy's makeup and his looking like a witch. The beginning of Freddy's rise to cult figure is also explored here. Lastly a very intense theatrical trailer is included.



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The Dream Warriors index contains what is probably the most eyebrow raising supplement on the disc. In the "That's show biz" clip, Robert Englund goes off on a tangent about transvestites and eating hot dogs, and explains how those exiting prison are looking for nothing but "nookie". How he knows this we will never know. Director Chuck Russell and the screen writers muse about some of the motivations of the script and the direction they wanted to take the film. There is also significant time devoted to the fan following Freddy was receiving. The great trailer is included, but the best supplement is the perfectly 80's Dokken "Dream Warriors" music video.

The Dream Master features banter about the writers guild strikes that were happening at the time of production and how it affected the finished film. Renny Harlin, the director of Part 4, directs all his interviews back to the fact that Bob Shaye apparently hated him during the making of the film. It is good for a few laughs to see the somewhat divergent recollections by Shaye and Harlin. The trailers for all these Elm Street films are great, and the one for Part 4 is one of the better ones. There are also a couple of hilariously bad music videos for the film, including one by The Fat Boys. Seeing three extremely obese brotha's wearing striped shirts while riding on mopeds and rapping about Freddy is good for some belly laughs.

The index for The Dream Child features a few good little featurettes. Stephen Hopkins talks about the way he approached the film, and how he used his art direction talents to make the film highly visual. There is talk devoted to the subconscious element of the screenplay as well as the elaborate and surreal stair sequence in the film. The trailer features one of the most oft-putting children tunes ever.

Freddy's Dead is all about the 3D effects and how director and longtime Freddy producer, Rachel Talalay had to compromise her original vision for the film. Considering the 3D sequence was more entertaining than any of the other parts of this dreadful misfire, Talalay should've just kept her mouth shut. The source of all my childhood nightmares, the trailer for Freddy's Dead is also included in all its red band glory.

A fair bit of supplements are devoted to Wes Craven's New Nightmare, on how Craven prepared for the film. He watched many of the old movies and decided to just go his own way and bring the film into reality. He talks about the problems of sequels and how he tried to right the wrongs of the previous entrees. Also in the index is the very weird and different trailer, that first plays out like a documentary. Considering the film did poor box office, this trailer must have just been too out there for modern audiences.

Lastly, there is a "Conclusions" section with wrap-up commentary by everyone from a university scholar all the way to Wes Craven. They talk about the gothic background of the films, as well as subjects of sadomasochism. This section is a nice finale to the in-depth interviews of the rest of the films.

The supplements on the Index are fantastic. They deal with all the major questions related to each film, and contain some intriguing recollections and real energy. The shear breadth of the material will keep people busy for hours. But the real time consumer comes with the labyrinth. As you make your way through this maze, more and more supplements can be found. Navigating the maze involves going down hallways, opening doors, obtaining keys and solving riddles and codes. Supplements are scattered everywhere, so be sure to keep an eye open.

All of the supplements in the index are included again in the labyrinth, which can make things quite repetitive at times. The footage that is not included in the index is great though, and well worth seeking out. The hidden material contains endless spots for MTV, full of some really funny Freddy quips ("Horror is waking up on a bus with the Beastie Boys!") and even a couple outtakes with Dokken. There is also some interesting footage from a Fangoria convention with interviews of many fans. In a very hidden supplement, one of the fans even ends up being the great John Landis!



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In what is the most shocking and funny part of the labyrinth is a short video about the Nightmare on Elm Street 3 panties that were issued to production staff. Yikes! Not every supplement is video based though, as the disc also includes a random quote generator, a few picture galleries and some more.

The most hidden feature on the disc is the second alternate ending to the original film (the first is on the "Welcome to Prime Time" documentary). It is nearly impossible to get without help, so I therefore recommend checking out here for a great tutorial for more information.

The labyrinth itself is very well constructed and fun to go through. It certainly pushes DVD to its limit when it comes to menu transitions and motion effects. There isn't anything else like it, and it is well worth the journey. It would have been nice if it was kept smaller and only contained the footage not included on the index. Because all the index footage is added, be ready for plenty of repetition. Still, this is a very fun way to spend a day going through.

Yes, I say a day because this disc alone will require at least 4 hours to watch just the video supplements. Add on the time it takes navigating menus and going through the twisty labyrinth, and time adds up quick. More DVD-Rom trivia and even a Freddy download that "haunts the desktop" are also included to occupy even more time. It took me a good 6 hours to explore everything, but in the end it was worth it. This is a horror fan's dream, a disc full of love by New Line, including nearly all the footage imaginable for this fine batch of films. It would have been nice to include the uncut material from Freddy's Revenge and The Dream Child, as well as some of the Elite LD supplements of the first film, but with all the supplements on this disc, there will be little time left to complain.

New Line has proven with this disc and the entire box set that they know how to treat their fans. Comparing this set with Paramount's Friday the 13th releases just shows where New Line stands when it comes to treating their customers to the best possible product. This disc, as well as the two commentaries on the Wes Craven directed films, the 3D ending on Freddy's Dead, the well-written 20 page booklet and the sharp packaging design will make this a box set that will take days and even weeks to fully experience.

Final Thoughts

inline ImageIn what is surely the definitive horror box set currently available, the Nightmare on Elm Street Collection is a fantastic release by New Line. The bonus disc is packed hours of excised footage, games, trailers, music videos and featurettes. This disc is so massive in its scope that it may perhaps be the cure for nightmares...you won't sleep until you go through the whole thing. All of the films in the series can be purchased separately, but given the quality of this disc and the set in general, buying the box set is ultimately the only way to go if you are even remotely interested in the whole Freddy legacy. Sell your soul, become a vigilante, or do whatever you must do to pickup this box set!

Rating

Supplements - A+

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 4 hours 12 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Stereo
Supplements
  • "Welcome to Prime Time" documentary
  • Retrospective interviews with cast and crew of all films
  • Interactive "Labyrinth" with special features and footage
  • Theatrical trailers for all films
  • Music videos
  • "Dream World" trivia game (DVD-ROM only)
  • Freddy desktop scheme

 

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