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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest IV

Hell Plaza Oktoberfest IV

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy - 2-Disc Collector's Edition (DVD)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy - 2-Disc Collector's Edition
2010 (2010) - 1428 Films (CAV Distributing)
Released on DVD on May 4th, 2010

I have long held the belief that no matter what other fancy bells and whistles DVD (and now Blu-ray) may be capable of, a well-made documentary trumps any other special feature every time. Particularly if we're talking about a movie made some time ago. A making-of on a new release tends to suffer from everyone's belief that it's still the greatest thing they've ever done in their lives. But after some time has passed and the film has found its own place in history, its creators are able to look back on the experience with a bit more perspective.

Recently we've seen a number of documentaries that take the making-of concept to a new level.

Independently made by real fans and unrestricted by studio politics and mandated running times, the best of these new documentaries go farther and deeper into the production of these movies than the norm. Sometimes they'll appear as a bonus on a new DVD, as was the case with Paul Davis' Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London. Other times, studio interference will restrict them to the festival circuit, as has been the situation so far with Erik Hollander's Jaws documentary, The Shark Is Still Working. And every so often, they'll earn their own stand-alone release. If any of these docs deserved it, it's Never Sleep Again, the ambitious, exhaustive, four-hour (!) documentary examination of the Freddy Krueger saga directed by Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch.

Obviously if you aren't a fan of the franchise, this disc probably isn't for you. But if you are (and make no mistake, I love the series), Never Sleep Again is catnip on a disc. Farrands and Kasch cover every film in the series up to and including Freddy vs. Jason. They even give equal time to Freddy's Nightmares, today a mostly forgotten footnote in horror TV history but a series I remember causing a fair amount of controversy at the time. One of my biggest gripes about documentaries like this is the tendency to waste time talking to famous fans. To me, it says less about the movie than about the filmmaker bragging that they were able to score an interview with Eli Roth or Guillermo del Toro. Thankfully, Never Sleep Again sidesteps this pitfall. Everyone Farrands and Kasch interviews has been involved with the series in some capacity, including directors, writers, actors, New Line executives, effects artists and many more. This review could easily turn into a laundry list of names, so to save time, I'll just point out a few people who are NOT interviewed: Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette, Frank Darabont (co-writer of Nightmare 3). Not that the filmmakers didn't try to get them and not that the film suffers in any way from their absence. The film uncovers reams of information I didn't know, including a discussion of Peter Jackson's proposed screenplay for Nightmare 6, various concepts for Freddy vs. Jason, uncensored footage from Nightmare 4, and much, much more. And despite the epic running time, the movie never once feels too long. I happened to glance at the clock as the film began to cover Wes Craven's New Nightmare and was shocked to discover I'd been watching for three hours. That's just good filmmaking.

You may well never sleep again if you attempt to make it through all the content on this two-disc set in one sitting. Disc one includes a feature-length commentary by Farrands, Kasch, writer/producer Thommy Hutson and cinematographer Buz "Danger" Wallick. I'm working on a deadline here so honestly, I didn't listen to the entire thing. I skipped around a bit and what I heard suggests that it's worth checking out. A lot of work went into this and the commentary sheds light on the production, additional stories and the filmmakers' own opinions of the individual Elm Street movies. I should also add that the movie looks and sounds pretty good, even though it's comprised mostly of interviews. Michael Granberry contributes some terrific stop-motion animation in the main titles and transitions, all of which adds to the fun.

Disc two keeps piling on treats with extended interviews deleted from the feature, including thoughts from a number of people on the then-in-production remake (spoiler alert: most of them aren't favorable). We also get to hear from fans and collectors here, in featurettes like For the Love of the Glove and Fred Heads. We delve into the spin-off world of comics and novels in Expanding the Elm Street Universe, interviewing the likes of Christa Faust, Chuck Dixon, Andy Mangels and others. Music is touched on occasionally in the feature, notably in interviews with original composer Charles Bernstein and Dokken ("We're the Dream Warriors!"), but expanded upon in The Music of the Nightmare. Matthew Joseph Peak, creator of the iconic posters for the first five movies, receives his own interview and line readings from the cast allow Farrands and Kasch to recreate A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes. Heather Langenkamp, who also serves as narrator and executive producer of Never Sleep Again, offers a first look at her own documentary, I Am Nancy, which seems to take a closer look at the fan culture surrounding the franchise. From the internets, you get Nightmare episodes of Horror's Hallowed Grounds and The Angry Video Game Nerd. Finally, you get the original teaser trailer and even a free poster of Peak's Never Sleep Again artwork.

Never Sleep Again sets a new gold standard for making-of documentaries. This is an affectionate but honest look at the bastard son of a hundred maniacs, leaving no stone unturned. After spending hours with this set, I was eager to spend even more time going back and rewatching the entire series. After suffering through the gawd-awful remake earlier this year, I would like to personally thank Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch for reminding me what I loved about Freddy Krueger in the first place. Sweet dreams.

UPDATE: Never Sleep Again was originally released on DVD in May of 2010, then re-released in October. It has come to my attention that even though both are two-disc sets, there are differences between the two versions. Only the newer version includes the filmmakers' commentary and free poster. All the other extras are present in both versions but if you want the whole enchilada, make sure to get the release with the red-band 2-Disc Collector's Edition across the top and the Poster Inside sticker. Thanks to Bits reader Jose S. for the heads-up!

Film Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/A

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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