Friday, 14 January 2011

NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: The Definitive Nightmare on Elm Street

I have never felt like such a geek in my life as I did when, just the other day, I found out about the existence of a FOUR HOUR long documentary on one of my favourite horror franchises, A Nightmare On Elm Street, entitled Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Needless to say, I got my hands on it as fast as I could, almost nerdgasming in anticipation.

It's beautiful...

The Elm Street series has always intrigued me on many levels. I find it one of the scarier series, with a fantastic rough/dingy style to it, and being directed by the great We Craven doesn't hurt either! I found the recent remake very throwaway and disappointing, being more like one of those backstory graphic novels than a re-envisioning of the 1984 classic. I will always remember seeing the stop-motion Freddy puppet of part 3 puppeteering a kid through tendons ripped out of his arms. The old boxset of films 1-5 were the very first DVDs I ever bought, before I even had a DVD player, as well as the first film having the very first filmmakers audio commentary I ever heard. The Elm Street films are great gateway drugs to the wider world of gore, satirical and surreal horror (the film directly led me to so many different films as Friday The 13th, Dawn of the Dead and even Suspiria) and are easily identifiable and recognised as some of the most important films in horror history.

The documentary itself is obviously made by fans (which was confirmed by 'thorough' research) and any hardcore fan will salivate throughout the whole ordeal. Too often are we subjected to short and vague featurettes on our favourite films, with others having absolutely no easily accessible history. Companies are also very famous for double-dipping with DVDs, knowing the die-hards will buy the film again for any sliver of info.

Who could ever resist that face?

This documentary does away with any of that nonsense for the Elm Street films once and for all.

The documentary is presented in a linear progression, looking at each film in chronological order with fun stop motion homages to the series used to break the piece up, giving each of them roughly the same amount of screen time and attention. No film is glazed over because it is not considered as important or good as another. Everything is covered here, from the original to 2003s Freddy Vs Jason. There are about 103 interviews here with pretty much anyone you could imagine related to the series, with the notable exception of Johnny Depp (who has always seemed to be very supportive of the films, so you'd imagine it might be schedule related), Patricia Arquette (who is described in a kind of 'too big for these films anymore' kind of way, though it might just be that she couldn't do it), and Breckin Meyer (?).

The ups and the downs of each film are realistically looked at, with seemingly no stone unturned. Time seems to bring out the truth in people, and there are plenty of truths to go around here. Wes Craven is candid about his disagreements with New Line studio head Robert Shaye, as are most of the interviewees, though most with a 'ah, Robert. What sillyness would he come up with next!' kind of attitude. Some of the underside of the movie beast come through, but it is well balanced with the more jovial fun. Without ruining it, as it should be experienced by you first hand, are great stories about Renny Harlin getting the job, how filmmakers used the Freddy's Nightmares TV show as their own little playground for insanity, and the funniest moments being the detailed discussion of how GAY Nightmare Part 2 is! It is all in good taste and you know that these people were like a family throughout the series.

In comparison to the rest of Part 2, this scenes sexual undertone is rather subtle.

Being four hours long, you'd think there would be a tedium or a desire for it all to end, but as the end credits were rolling, I was very seriously considering watching it again right away! Now, remember my geekiness about these films that I mentioned above, but still, I think the casual horror/documentary fan would still be enthralled by this thing. Freddy Krueger is as recognisable as Frankenstein or Dracula and is the only horror monster to make an impression in the past 50 years that will endure as the classic Universal beasts have done. You don't have to have a working knowledge of the films to be able to appreciate this documentary. You just simply have to be a fan of films.

As someone who is a sucker for DVD special features, this documentary, like the documentaries on the Alien Quadrilogy, blows everything that has come before it out of the water and is the definitive look at the horror films that warned us 'DON'T. FALL. ASLEEP'.

The official Never Sleep Again website: