- on Tuesday, 01 June 2010 10:31
- by Christopher Symonds
The 70s and 80s did for the horror genre what hadn’t been done since Universal’s monsters roamed the silver screen in the 30s and 40s: produced an unrelenting cash cow to mine ad nauseam, delighting, and then eventually boring, audiences with an all-star roster of bogeymen. Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason; they all wowed a new generation, just as Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the Mummy did. One of the last, and most memorable, of the 80s monsters to tear out of hell was one Fred Krueger.
By the mid-80s, Freddy, as he came to be known worldwide, was the most overexposed and over-mined of them all, with unrelenting sequels, a TV show, dolls, Halloween costumes and tickertape parades in full swing. As unconscionable as it might sound, the bastard son of a hundred maniacs, a child molester and killer, the tormentor of teens in their dreams, became the anti-hero to cheer on.
After 7 films, a crossover, and a remake, if there were any series that demanded a packed to the rafters length documentary exploring its journey, the Elm Street Series is it...
Following on from their efforts with another lengthy horror franchise documentary, co-directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch have scoured the boiler room, so to speak, to assemble a Trollopian-sized documentary on Wes Craven and New Line’s infamous creation.
Executively-produced by Nancy herself, Heather Langekamp, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy takes you from the birth of Freddy in the mind of Craven right through to the financially successful but critically derided Freddy vs. Jason in exhaustive detail.
Clocking in at just shy of four hours, it is an astounding accomplishment that this documentary holds your attention all the way. The film unfurls chronologically, with interviews from nearly the entire roster of participants, from Craven to the make-up dudes, and covers every possible facet of production one could have a question about.
With a popular series such as Elm Street, and with nearly 30 years now past since the first one, it would seem impossible that there are unheard of stories about the making of these films, but amazingly there is. (I pride myself on having good general knowledge about films, and while I am not an ardent die-hard Fred Head, I was astounded to hear that David Warner was in fact cast as Freddy before Robert Englund). There are countless stories such as these strewn throughout.
A highlight would be the obvious dissension amongst the cast of Rennie Harlin’s fourth entry in the series. While the most financially successful, this entry has some delicious cat fights and sore stories to share. And the candour doesn’t stop at that section: Craven and Shaye speak openly about their falling out and eventually reconciliation. Producers and stars alike freely admit, in brutal honesty, why certain entries were less than stellar.
Production value is adequate but not particularly flashy. I suppose this is in keeping with the series itself, which was known for its Corman-esque cost cutting measures. Sound is good with all interviews and inserts, and the stop-motion titles and inserts will either delight or annoy you, depending on your aesthetic.
Langenkamp’s narration is surprisingly uneventful and sparing, and ultimately a respectful but hardly necessary inclusion throughout.
There may be future documentaries about this series, slicker production values or more focused in exploration, but none of them will ever be able to offer the generosity and love that has been poured into this one. For the Fred Heads, cinephiles, gorophiles, film buffs or general viewers, you have hit the mother-load with this one. One can only hope some of the studios take note of this one and do similar documentaries for their beloved franchises.
For the sheer wealth of information compiled, and the blood, sweat and tears poured into this, the filmmakers deserve for it to be a resounding success. This is a well done and generous to a fault production well worth your money.
Available on: May 4, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
As generous as the documentary itself, this has many different facets of the series not pertaining necessarily to production to mine—hours’ worth. The sound quality dips considerably amongst some of the extended interviews and featurettes, but it’s still a fun exploration.
DISC 1: Feature Presentation
DISC 2: Bonus Features
- Extended Interviews
- First Look: Heather Langenkamp's "I Am Nancy"
- For the Love of the Glove
- Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans
- Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Return To Elm Street
- Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd
- Expanding the Elm Street Universe: Freddy in Comic Books & Novels
- 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