Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
May 4, 2010 (USA)
Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch
Heather Langenkamp as Herself/Narrator
Robert Englund as Himself
Wes Craven as Himself
By James “Crypticpsych” Lasome
In 1984, New Line Cinema head Bob Shaye took a chance on a script that had floated around Hollywood for three years. His company had primarily been in the business of distribution with relatively few in-house productions (such as Alone in the Dark and Xtro) and was struggling financially. It was a story about a child molester and murderer who attacked the dreams of the children of the parents who had enacted vigilante justice upon him. When the film now known as Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street was released, the world was introduced to Freddy Krueger, and generations of Freddy Fanatics were born. Over time, that film would grow into a wildly profitable franchise with eight sequels, a TV series, a remake, and countless licensed products, books, and other memorabilia.
In terms of horror franchises and the longstanding battle between Freddy, Jason, and Michael, I like them all, but I’ve always sided with Krueger. While I may not like every film in the series (Dream Child and I do not get along), all of them have something deeper to them than just “slash, slash, slash”. There’s always a deeper story than just “random teens get killed”, and, as such, the movies resonate more with me and have more of an impact.
If there is one thing that Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy teaches, it’s that the reason that feeling exists is that everyone involved with the movies has given their all to make these films the best they could be. Farrands, Kasch, and Hutson (who have multiple other horror docs on their resume) appear to have set out to basically chronicle everything there is to know about the series and succeed admirably. They gather more than 100 interviewees, including every director and the vast majority of the principal cast, writers, producers, and effects wizards, and basically turn them loose. Everything any fan of the Nightmare movies, horror movies, or moviemaking in general could want is here. This isn’t a self-congratulatory, fluff piece (as many said about their prior passable, studio-interfered-with Friday the 13th piece, His Name Was Jason). This is four straight hours (!) of on-set stories, behind the scenes footage, casting stories, deleted scenes and effects footage, and analysis from the people who were living the experience. If something went wrong, or a movie wasn’t received well, or personality clashes happened on set, you hear about it; and that’s the way this needed to be.
The film, featuring great stop-motion animation from Michael Granberry and a contribution from original Nightmare composer Charles Bernstein, was structured by the filmmakers to wisely let their interviewees tell the story. Outside of short connecting comments from Langenkamp’s narration, there is no real “moderation”. Instead, they’ve taken the time to edit the film together so that it tells a flowing, cohesive story for each film on its own. The highlights are too numerous to mention. Want to know how the cast of Freddy’s Revenge feels about the movie’s homoerotic subtexts? It’s here. Care to see how Linnea Quigley fits into Dream Master’s effects? It’s here too. Want to see how much the MPAA sliced up Dream Child? Present and accounted for. Want to hear what was in Peter Jackson’s unused script for Freddy’s Dead? They’ve got that too! All that… AND DOKKEN!
As if that wasn’t enough, the Never Sleep Again DVD is possibly the most loaded of its kind. The second disc begins with 2 hours of ADDITIONAL interview footage (this is the only place where the remake is mentioned). There are then about 2 hours of further features that cover Freddy books and comics, Freddy gloves, the movie posters, the music, and more. It even comes with a preview of Heather Langenkamp’s own upcoming documentary, I Am Nancy. Truly, almost nothing could make the Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy package more complete.
About the only flaws the film has are barely even flaws. For one, not for lack of trying according to interviews, Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette are both not present (outside of an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” clip with Depp). However, both are discussed in the film and features, so it’s not like they’re completely absent. Also, yes, it is a four-hour movie. While that can be a tough slog, the fact that this is broken down into so many parts means that you can just as easily split it up into more manageable parts yourself and come back later or watch the whole thing at once, whichever works best for your fandom.
Overall, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a no-brainer selection for any list of the best, most thorough and complete film documentaries ever. The sheer magnitude of what this film covers and the amount of detail the filmmakers and their interviewees go into make this can’t-miss documentary truly one-of-a-kind.