With the passing of the great Wes Craven, I revisited one of my favorite horror films, A Nightmare on Elm Street – a movie that not only started a successful franchise but introduced a classic horror icon that’s so ingrained in our culture that even non-horror movie watchers know who he is.
And after that, I felt the urge to re-watch one of my favorite horror documentaries of all time, Never Sleep Again – The Elm Street Legacy.
Narrated by Heather Langenkamp and clocking in at over four hours, Never Sleep Again takes the audience on a detailed tour of Elm Street, starting with Wes Craven’s creation of Freddy Krueger right through to the inevitable end of the series. Each chapter is devoted to a different movie, includes interviews with the directors, cast and crew and is introduced with some delightfully clever clay animation created by stop-motion artist Michael Granberry. Nothing is overlooked – even Freddy vs. Jason and the short-lived TV series Freddy’s Nightmares are included. There’s also a brief nod to the new Nightmare movie, which was scheduled to come out after the documentary release. (Apparently no one thought it was a good idea, and with the end result can you blame them?)
Some of it’s funny – an in-depth look at at the gay subtext in the second Nightmare film will make you laugh out loud. Some of it is super-interesting, including a look at a young upstart named Peter Jackson’s proposal for a Nightmare movie and the wild ideas writers were pitching for the Freddy vs. Jason film. Some of it’s just plain cool – like Wes Craven’s daughter insisting he cast an unknown Johnny Depp after his audition, despite Wes’s reluctance to do so.
Speaking of Johnny, he’s noticeably absent, as is Patricia Arquette, but that’s too be expected and you won’t miss them much. The cast that do appear are entertaining and all too happy to share their experiences. And of course there’s the seemingly inexhaustible Robert Englund, who touches on every Freddy movie, even the less popular ones, and does so with a graciousness that few actors in the genre genuinely have.
Never Sleep Again is smartly written and edited – the filmmakers have an obvious love for the series and it shows. The interviews range from the hilarious to the poignant, and the viewers get a whole new appreciation to everything that went into making every Elm Street movie with behind-the-scenes stories, onset mishaps and little-known facts. It’s also interesting to see how New Line Cinema became “The House that Freddy Built” as well as Wes Craven’s take on the character he created and how disappointed he became at how it later strayed so far from his original vision.
Never Sleep Again is also available in a 2-disk collector’s edition which contains a second bonus DVD including commentary by the documentary filmmakers, extended interviews and more. It’s worth it, especially if you’re a die hard Elm Street fan.
Rating: 10 out of 10