Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy' on Blogcritics.
“Every kid knows who Freddy is. He’s like Santa Claus or King Kong.” – Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
As if director Daniel Farrands’ Crystal Lake Memories
— a nearly seven-hour opus to Jason Vorhees wasn’t enough — Image
Entertainment reminds us that he already tackled another horror icon
three years earlier. Clocking in at nearly five-hours, Farrands and
company chronicle the trials and tribulations of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise with Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.
Featuring interviews with hundreds of members of the series’ cast and
crew — including: Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp (also narrating), and
Robert Englund (Freddy himself). Never Sleep Again takes us through everything you ever wanted to know about the Nightmare on Elm Street
series, with Image Entertainment upgrading the documentary to Blu-ray
on January 21. Unfortunately, Johnny Depp does not appear, but an
inclusion of a clip from his Inside the Actors Studio minimally fills the void.
Covering all the bases, film by film, the best bits are included in the segments revolving around Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, 5: The Dream Child, and Freddy’s Dead.
The homoerotic debate has never waned surrounding the first sequel and
even stars Mark Patton (Jesse Walsh), Kim Myers (Lisa Webber), Robert
Rusler (Ron Grady), and Marshall Bell (Coach Schneider), continue to
exploit possibly the most controversial of all the films. Patton at
least apologizes for his dance sequence, but even screenwriter David
Chaskin and director Jack Sholder admit they were completely naïve to
the undertones during production — thankfully not apologizing — but
letting the film stand up to its own debate. Another section quickly
covers the TV spin-off, Freddy’s Nightmares and their
battles with staying true to the series while attempting to find their
own brand of fun. Although it feels like the series was short-lived, it
actually ran a surprising three seasons.
The Dream Child dives into the production woes as director
Stephen Hopkins talks about how the script would change day to day and
how his own comic book inspirations began to take over. This film
received the most cuts by the MPAA, which is not surprising considering
it’s one of the more tame films as far as the kills are concerned.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of all the films, is that Peter Jackson wrote a draft of Freddy’s Dead
revolving around an old geezer version of Freddy, bullied by kids until
he accidentally kills one granting him his powers back. Oh, what could
have been! Jackson isn’t the only now-famous screenwriter to tackle the
world of Freddy. Frank Darabont (Dream Warriors) and Brian Helgeland (The Dream Master) also contributed as co-writers. Let’s also not forget that even Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight) directed Dream Master before he helmed Die Hard 2.
Never Sleep Again covers all of the original entries from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street through Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason.
Since the documentary was released in 2010, the same year as the
so-called “reboot” from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, there is no
coverage of the most recent film. Considering it never lived up to even
the worst entries of the original series, this is definitely for the
As far as the video quality goes, Never Sleep Again, is presented on a 50GB disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and suffers from one giant culprit: crush. The
interviews are almost too dark, rendering clothing almost non-existent.
Considering the documentary revolves around a horror series, I’m
assuming this was intentional, but all the darkness does is make a lot
of the interviews look like segments of floating heads. It’s not
horrible, but it also keeps clothing, hair, and make-up on the
interviewees appear softer than it should. And another anomaly that
rears its head more often than not is banding and aliasing. Considering
how things do look, I can only imagine how awful it would be to watch
the documentary on DVD. The audio is also subpar with a 2.0 English
DTS-HD Master Audio that’s mixed way too low. Usually I can listen to
most discs with my volume set around a level of 23-25, but here I had to
crank it all the way up to 35. Once set at a reasonable volume, at
least dialogue is clean and you never miss an interesting anecdote.
The only special feature on the first disc is a full-length audio
commentary featuring directors Andrew Kasch and Farrands, writer Thommy
Hutson, and cinematographer Buz Danger Wallick. They offer up as much
insight into their own production of the documentary on top of adding
even more information to the exhaustive runtime. And, as if a four-hour
documentary wasn’t enough, a second disc comprises all the extras
including, “Extended Interviews” which runs a whopping 100 minutes
featuring full length interviews that were edited down for the
The rest of the special features are as self-explanatory as their titles. “First Look: Heather Langenkamp’s I Am Nancy”
is a 6-minute Langenkamp-introduced trailer for her own documentary.
“For the Love of the Glove” is an 18-minute segment of basically
extended commercials for sites offering homemade Freddy gloves,
including Mike Becker, proud owner of the “missing glove” from the set
of the first film. “Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans” is 12 minutes
of Elm Street memorabilia collectors and creators. “Horrors
Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street” is a 23-minute episode of
creator/host Sean Clark’s series of location tours that also includes Halloween.
“Freddy vs. the Angry Video Game Nerd” features James Rolfe
recounting his web series episode where he tackles the Nintendo game.
“Expanding the Elm Street Universe: Freddy in Comic Books and
Novels” talks about exactly that but runs on for 15 minutes. “The Music
of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers and Songwriters” is a
13-minute look back at Charles Bernstein’s original ideas for the first
film’s score, and includes Part 2’s Christopher Young, Craig Safran (Part 4), and J. Peter Robinson (New Nightmare). “Elm Street’s
Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak” is a quick 7-minute
interview with Peak discussing his work on the posters for the first
five films. “A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes” features
the interviewees repeating their original lines of dialogue edited
together taking us through every installment including Freddy vs. Jason. And finally, a teaser trailer for Never Sleep Again rounds everything out.
Alongside Jason, Freddy was a regular amongst my TV rotation growing
up. One of the most interesting aspects about someone watching the Elm Street saga at such a young age is that it’s questioned by Freddy creator Wes Craven himself in the seventh entry: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Here, Craven preps himself for the self-referential tone he brought to the Scream series, by
pitting the original film’s cast and crew against Freddy as he tries to
escape the world of make believe to enter the real world (something
most of today’s coddled youth probably don’t understand).
What kind of ramifications can Freddy antagonize in a young fertile
mind? I for one, can say none whatsoever, as I am a fully functioning
adult who knows the difference between movies and real life. No matter
how much filmmakers want to try to mix reality and fiction, it’s up to
the viewer to distinguish between the two, and I have never even thought
of donning a homemade Freddy glove made up of real knives, even when
wearing a Freddy mask for Halloween multiple times throughout my
childhood (which I still have by the way). Never Sleep Again turns that into a moot point, however, as it takes a backseat to what the series truly stands for: entertainment.
As fun as it is to hear the cast and crew of all parts of the series,
all it really made me want to do is pop in one of the actual films. But
the documentary is still required viewing for any horror fan and worth
the Blu-ray price, even if the video and audio aren’t of the highest