While many were arguing over the 2010 remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, this was the project I was anticipating. I can recall my disappointment, even in 1999, with the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia that was included in the box set. It was supposed to be a comprehensive look back at the Nightmare series, and it was anything but. So, when this project was originally announced as the definitive look at the franchise with a running time of 90 minutes; I had bad dejavu. You cannot cover this much material in such a short amount of time. I had no doubt that it would be another fluff piece which breezed over everything, and offered no substance.
It was then later decided that it would be a completely independent, multi-hour documentary that would try to cover everything. That was when I really got excited. With Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, Daniel Ferrands and Andrew Kasch have taken a flight of steps up from His Name Was Jason and righted the wrong of the Encyclopedia, in many ways. It seems to be getting rave reviews across the board; and while it is good, not all is perfect.
Narrated by Heather Langenkamp, the feature presentation is four hours long. I’ll be covering it chapter by chapter, so be prepared to read, my friends. The crews are sort of scattered; in that I mean, they didn’t get every composer, effects artist, and camera man. However, for most of the projects, they got the majority of the casts. That was a big plus in bringing across the type of scope they wanted to convey. I was surprised to see so many clips from other films in this; Horror and otherwise. Not only do we see moments from the Nightmare films, but pretty much anything that's referenced is shown briefly. I liked that in the presentation, because it's usually not the case.
We start with some interesting stop-motion animation featuring Freddy that makes up the opening credit sequence. This was a nice touch I thought, and it would pop up from time to time between chapters. Following that, we go into a very short segment where various participants give their thoughts on what makes Freddy Krueger and the series stand out. Then, on to our first real chapter . . .
This covers the original A Nightmare On Elm Street, and runs just under 40 minutes. After seeing this film get cheap-shotted by the new film’s director; who said it looked like a cheesy music video (some irony there) and it was essentially a missed opportunity (piss off), it’s wonderful to see that the people involved still have the respect and love it so much.
The usual bits from what inspired Wes Craven to write the film, New Line Cinema's humble beginnings, and how they finally struck it big with Nightmare are discussed. This will be the least refreshing chapter for long time fans, since the first film has always been the most talked about. I did learn one new thing that I didn’t know. It’s revealed that another actor was cast as Freddy before Robert Englund. I had heard something about that, but a name is given here.
I enjoyed Jsu Garcia’s comments most; as they felt the most candid to me. Ronee Blakely not taking part kind of surprised me. She’s simply one I assumed would be there, since she did the Infinifilm extras in 2006. Johnny Depp not being present came as no surprise, since I never thought that was a possibility. I know there was a big scramble to get those who have gone on to be big names, but I honestly didn’t expect it. They’re discussed regardless.
Unless you haven’t bothered with past releases, you won’t learn much from this chapter. But, it is a nice look back at the original film.
The next chapter is just under 30 minutes and covers Freddy’s Revenge. Here, the stories will become less repetitive for many. The big score for this section was of course, that they found Mark Patton, who no one had been able to locate for many years.
Of course one of the main things discussed, is the homoerotic aspects of the film. Some people say they never saw it, some say they didn’t and now do, and some say you’re a moron if you don’t get it. I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking it’s been overstated. I see the implications with Coach Schneider; no doubt. But, Freddy is a representation of homosexuality in the film? Grady and Jesse are in love? I think sometimes, you have to take things at face value.
If you sit around and try to find hidden meanings long enough, you’ll create something that perhaps isn’t there. I could erroneously state that the Indiana Jones character is homophobic because, he hates snakes. We all know what the snake represents, right? Ho-ho-ha-ha-hee. Clu Gulager has a lot of fun during this segment, and is quite funny. Perhaps the most priceless story on the entire documentary is told when Bob Shaye recalls the preparation for his scene in the leather bar.
The film is credited for nearly destroying the franchise, and is used pretty much as a punching bag. The sentiment even spills over into the third chapter. I found this to be a little excessive, because there are other problem films in the franchise that get off much easier.
Running over 30 minutes, it was good to see one of my favorites in the franchise, Dream Warriors, get a strong chapter dedicated to it. The first real thing we get in to, is the first draft of the script that was written by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner, and how the studio ended up going with a rewrite by Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont. Wes actually has something good to say about their involvement now. Nice to see he’s mellowed on that, since his initial comments upon the release were “All they did was change a bunch of names!”.
This is where the conversations turn a little more special effects oriented; since they were such a part of the next three installments. We almost get a full Dream Warrior reunion, but not quite. Patricia Arquette and Bradley Gregg are MIA. I didn’t miss Gregg much, and didn’t expect Arquette, so I’m not too bummed about it. No Laurence Fishburne either but, you can catch him in Predators, which opens July 9. The stories from the others carry it well.
The one thing that disappointed me here, was that Craig Wasson did not participate. What’s worse, is that his character unlike Arquette’s, is never once mentioned. Nothing. We see him in a few stills, but no one talks about working with him or his character's importance to the film. Come on, you can’t tell me that one of the featured characters was not mentioned by anyone. Nothing in the extended interviews either. That just seems odd to me.
It finishes strong though, with even members of Dokken popping up to recount writing the title song of the film. Dream Warriors is given its due near the end as being the fan favorite Sequel in the franchise.
Running about 30 minutes, this covers The Dream Master. This one has several funny or interesting stories. Perhaps the funniest are the New Line executives’ memories of Renny Harlin when he first came in to interview for the job. Many have a Renny Harlin impression that they attempt, and Tuesday Knight and Lisa Wilcox’s recollections make him seem like a pervert.
The big question fans wanted answered, was why did Patricia Arquette not reprise her role. No one seems to have a clear answer. Some speculate that she was committed to another film, and others think it’s because New Line wouldn’t pay her what she wanted. But, they do acknowledge that she was missed, and that the addition of Tuesday Knight was not as strong. I liked Rodney Eastman’s comment that bringing back the Dream Warriors simply to knock them off, felt cheap. I’ve always felt that too.
Nightmare 4’s box office success is accredited as the height of Freddy mania, and the segment ends with a discussion about all the related merchandise.
Coming in at just under 6 minutes, this chapter covering Freddy’s Nightmares is almost a complete waste. They just didn’t have enough people to pull it off. I don’t know how many they went after from the show, but the impression is they only wanted to briefly cover that Freddy had a TV show at one time. One example of this is, Lezlie Deane was interviewed by their crew, and she was in this show, but she doesn’t comment on it. Another is, Heather doesn’t even narrate this chapter.
The biggest thing is that they show a couple cut scenes from the episode “Safe Sex”, that were deemed too much for television. That was a cool find. While there isn’t much meat here, it’s still clear that the people who worked on it, do not have a flattering opinion of the show. Personally, I think they should have cut this from the feature presentation, and included it on the second disc. Ultimately, I think it hurts the pacing.
Running about 23 minutes, they begin cutting the chapters down a bit, starting with The Dream Child. If it wasn’t clear while watching the segment dedicated to Nightmare 4, that New Line was haphazardly rushing these projects out; it will become crystal here.
This one is a little more of a writer’s segment. They have many more comments here than on the previous ones. The crew discuss the differences between the R-rated and Unrated versions of the film, and there are some amusing stories from the set involving Erika Anderson and Michael Bailey Smith respectively.
The bulk of it however, is simply how rushed it was and how the film’s release was a disappointment that would lead to Freddy’s “demise”. Despite this series meaning so much to so many, it was simply a cash cow to New Line. Once it stopped producing, they weren’t interested in revitalizing it with a better film; they were ready to put it down and move on. As a fan, it’s really frustrating to see how they couldn’t see that it was their own lightning-fast turnarounds that were hurting the series.
Over the course of 17 minutes, they show you how they saved the worst... uh, best for last. The development of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is partially covered. Peter Jackson’s take is talked about briefly, however they skip right over the initial draft that the final story came from, which featured Alice, Jacob, and The Dream Police. They insinuate that Michael DeLuca’s rewrite of it was the first take that Rachel Talalay was attached to. The incompleteness of that felt a little sloppy, though I doubt many will care.
If you haven’t saw Lezlie Deane lately, you’re in for quite a surprise. It was also at this point, where I got sick of seeing Jeff Katz pop up and talk about films that he wasn’t involved with. I suppose they wanted him to act as the voice of the audience or something. Breckin Meyer doesn’t participate; neither does Yaphet Kotto. Although at one point, Yaphet was attached. It would have been cool to have him, since he didn’t even take part in the Alien Quadrilogy set.
You can tell that many involved feel a lot of disappointment with this installment, but they’re dancing around it, or that’s how it’s cut. It goes back to my point that no film took a dogging like Nightmare 2; even though Freddy’s Dead is right up there with it as the most hated amongst the fanbase. Robert Englund laments that because this was supposed to be the last one, that it was okay for it to self-destruct the way it did. Really, Robert? It’s kind of left at that unfortunately. Though, the film is called facetious for not really killing off Freddy.
Running about 25 minutes, this covers Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The thing I took away most from this chapter was some information about a few deleted scenes that were included in the original script, but never filmed. Some I had heard about before, some not. In the end, I’m glad all those scenes were omitted, because they would have lessened the realistic tone of the film.
Freddy’s new look is discussed, which most liked. It was nice hearing from some alumni such as Fran Bennett, Tracy Middendorf, and David Newsom; who haven’t spoke about the film probably since its release. Newsom discusses how they used a “ball stand-in” during the ball scratching scene. He kindly shows us how he would have scratched his own balls, had it been him, laying to rest many years of rabid speculation.
Even though the film was not a big money maker, it is trumpeted as a success. It’s also called the real finale of the Nightmare series, and Englund says it’s now his favorite of the films. The chapter closes with comparisons to Scream, and how New Nightmare was essentially its pre-cursor.
Running over 20 minutes, I found this chapter covering Freddy vs. Jason to be a bit troubled. They wanted to cover the production history of the project, and thus brought in several writers whose takes were rejected. Unfortunately, in the feature presentation, they breeze right over them. The only real discussion the individual drafts get, are left to the bonus disc. So, what was the point exactly? Kane Hodder, who by all rights should have been in this movie, discusses briefly that casting debacle. He doesn’t come across angry or bitter at all, which will disappoint a lot of Kane haters.
Since many of the cast were Canadian, the crew wasn’t able to lock down most of them for this project. Ken Kirzinger is even missing. Besides Englund, they only got three actors from the film: Monica Keena, Brendan Fletcher, and Zach Ward. To me, this is the only section covering the films, where the people missing really stick out. It’s not that impressive compared to the rest of the chapters. But, there is a celebrity cameo to keep your eye out for.
There are several things about Keena that are unfortunate here. In the credits, she reprises her line of “Welcome to my world, bitch!”. It’s still mind-numbingly bad. I tried not to be so hard on Mark Swift this time; I really did. He gives us the usual lines about how he’s a huge fan, and how they got the job because they didn’t alter Freddy or Jason’s mythology. But then, he hits us with a new one, which was that he and Damian Shannon were very concerned with how Wes Craven would perceive their work. I wonder if that’s why they had Freeburg take a shot at the basic concept of A Nightmare On Elm Street? I’m sure after putting forth the effort and taking the time to come up with that concept, Wes just loved that.
Ronny Yu’s thoughts on the film haven’t changed at all in seven years, as he repeats quite a lot from his interviews around the time of release. The chapter wraps up with those involved speculating on who won the ultimate showdown.
This chapter concludes the documentary, and touches on New Line Cinema being consolidated into Warner Bros. When you think about it, New Line did some really good things during their run, so it was sad to see that happen. It’s a bitter-sweet finale, as Bob Shaye and Robert Englund both almost become emotional when reflecting on what is now the definitive end of an era and the original series. At the same time, flaws and all, you feel proud of the franchise and what it accomplished.
Is the remake mentioned? It is actually... on the bonus disc in an extended interview segment lasting about 2 minutes. HA! I’m guessing that must have been some kind of obligation. No actors from the remake however, just people involved with the orignal speaking about how it’s a bad idea. Except for Englund, who decides to play Devil’s advocate.
The bonus disc features extended interviews with the cast and crew; which is customary. It also has things such as discussions with composers (Charles Bernstein, Christopher Young, Craig Safan, and J. Peter Robinson), writers who have worked on Freddy comic books and novels (like Andy Mangels, Chuck Dixon, and Christa Faust, etc.), and a featurette with Matthew Peak discussing his posters for the nightmare films. The Fred Heads section, features fan photos and artwork. Our own ChoKo had his Freddy painting, which can be found here on the site, shown. That’s awesome! Although, they did misidentify him as “Patrick Robinson” instead of Patrick Robertson. But, he was still very excited to have made the cut.
Despite my nitpicks, but I wouldn’t feel right not pointing them out, I think the only flawed chapters are Freddy’s Nightmares and Freddy vs. Jason. Overall, you would be hard-pressed to say this wasn’t made for fans or was half-assed. It’s what His Name Was Jason should have been, and is definitely the best documentary treatment the major franchises have gotten thus far. Despite being touted as an online exclusive, it appears that some retail chains will start getting this in the coming weeks. So, more people now will have a chance to get it. If you like retrospectives, you’ll want to add this to your collection.
Directed by: Andrew Kasch and Daniel Ferrands
Starring: Robert Englund, Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Shaye, Mark Patton, Lisa Wilcox, etc.
Released by: 1428 Films
- Extended Interviews
- First Look: Heather Langenkamp’s I Am Nancy
- For The Love Of The Glove Featurette
- FreadHeads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans Featurette
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Return To Elm Street Featurette
- Freddy Vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd
- Expanding The Elm Street Universe: Freddy In Comics & Novels Featurette
- The Music Of The Nightmare: Conversations With Composers & Songwriters
- Elm Street’s Poster Boy: The Art Of Matthew Joseph Peak
- A Nightmare On Elm Street in 10 Minutes
- Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Teaser Trailer