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Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

RLJ Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/21/2014

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/16/2014

Honesty time: I've been reviewing DVDs and subsequently Blu-ray Discs for nearly 15 years now. And after all of this time, I can tell you, I am sick of special/extra/bonus features. I know that some people drool over the tidbits which are packaged with movies, but I'm far more concerned with impressive video and audio than the extras. Why? Because, after all this time, they all run together. We often get a "making-of featurette" which simply rehashes the movie we just watched and doesn't really give us any in-depth information. The stars chat about their roles (which, again, we just saw), but we rarely learn where the idea came from or why the producers believed in the project. It seems that in order to get a truly educational "making of", we have to turn to massive projects like Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a mammoth documentary which looks at all of the Nightmare on Elm Street films.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a four-hour documentary which looks at all eight Freddy Krueger films, and the short-lived Freddy's Nightmares television show. (The 2010 remake is not mentioned, although the participants would have had to have known that it was in the pipeline.) Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch, along with Writer Thommy Hutson, has amassed what I can only imagine was hours of interviews with cast and crew members from each of the nine projects profiled. Narrated by Nancy herself, Heather Langenkamp, the film opens with an in-depth exploration of A Nightmare on Elm Street and moves on from there, devoting an average of 25-minutes to each movie. The piece explores the stories behind the film, the production, and the problems, while incorporating clips from the movies, behind-the-scenes footage, and concept art. At the same time, Never Sleep Again also explores how New Line Cinema, a small company which was born in the trunk of Bob Shaye's car, grew to be a prominent player in Hollywood due in no part to the success of the Elm Street films.

What makes Never Sleep Again so successful? Two things. First of all, we have the depth and scope of the outing. The director of every film is interviewed here, with series creator Wes Craven getting a great deal of attention. New Line founder Bob Shaye and series producer Sara Risher comments on every movie. The primary actors from each film are interviewed, which one would expect. But Farrands and Kasch have also dug up many second and third tier actors from the movies, some of whom basically had cameos. (Don't knock yourself looking up the bulk of these actors on IMBD.com, as most of them didn't work much after their appearance in a Nightmare movie.) We also hear from the various writers, special effects makeup, and mechanical effects crew members, who share their experiences on the movies. The only exceptions aren't surprising -- Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, and Breckin Meyer don't appear here, but the other participants do speak highly of them. (Although, given what a nut Depp is, I was sort of expecting him to pop up at some point.) The really odd thing is that Craig Wasson, one of the main actors in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, isn't even mentioned by name, although we see him in some clips. Did he ask that he not even be acknowledged? Is it because he looks just like Bill Maher? If you want proof of how comprehensive Never Sleep Again is, they even interview Dokken, who supplied the theme song from Dream Warriors.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we have the raw-faced honesty shown here. Again, most extra features on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are worthless because the pieces are part of the film's promotion and everyone is saying very positive things about the movie, no matter how bad it is. I've found that the best documentaries are the retrospective kind, where it's been years since the movie was released and the participants give us an honest assessment of their experiences on the film. That exactly what we get here. Prepare to hear "We didn't have a finished script." and "The script didn't have an ending." a lot when the latter films are being discussed. We hear some frank talk about the budgets, the schedules, and the actors. Deleted scenes and discarded ideas are mentioned, and we hear about some special effects which didn't work. The most interesting comments come when A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is discussed. In the event that you weren't aware, many people pick up on some homosexual overtones in the film, and this is addressed head on here.

If you are a fan of the Elm Street films, you must see Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Even if you think you know everything about the series, I guarantee that you will learn something here. (I know that several things which were new to me certainly got my attention.) However, the appeal of the film goes beyond Freddy fans. My wife is a typical Gen X'er who has seen some of the movies, but isn't a devotee. But she sat through all of this documentary due to the fact that it's so well-made and supplies an endless stream of interesting information. If all making-ofs contained the detail and love for the genre that Never Sleep Again does, I would actually welcome DVD extras.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy grabs its crucifix on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The documentary contains various elements, so the video varies. The interviews are very sharp and clear. The clips from the various movies range from sharp to slightly soft. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The important thing here is that we understand the interviewees clearly and this works out quite well. Music sounds fine and the audio is always well-balanced on the various clips.

The Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Blu-ray Disc contains a wealth of extras. As odd as this may sound, the documentary is accompanied by an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Directors Andrew Kasch and Daniel Farrands, Writer Thommy Hutson, and Cinematographer Buz Danger Wallick. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "Extended Interviews" (101 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like, as it offers more footage of the interviews from Shaye, Craven, Englund, and many others who touch on a variety of topics. "First Look: Heather Langenkamp's "I Am Nancy" (7 minutes) offers a sneak-peek at a documentary about her character. "For the Love of the Glove" (18 minutes) profiles fans who collect or make Freddy's famous weapon. "Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans" (13 minutes) shows us some examples of the collections that fans have amassed, as well as some home-made Freddy art. "Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street" (23 minutes) is another installment of Sean Clark's impressive series which visits the real-life locations of famous horror movies. "Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd" (6 minutes) shows us the Nightmare on Elm Street-based episode of this web series. We get a taste of how authors have kept Freddy alive, as well as adding new stories, through literature in "Expanding the Elm Street Universe: Freddy in Comic Books and Novels" (16 minutes). "The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers and Songwriters" (14 minutes) profiles those who made the music for Freddy. "Elm Street's Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak" (8 minutes) interviews the artist who created the one sheet for the first five films. This is a great piece because he addresses the fact that the snake from Dreamscape appears in the poster for the first film. "A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes" (10 minutes) has actors from the first film performing random lines from the movie. The final extra is the TEASER TRAILER for Never Sleep Again.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long