Friday, 6 January 2012

NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: The Ultimate DVD Review

I have raved before about Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a documentary covering the making of all the Nightmare on Elm Street films, which runs four hours long. Today, while perusing the 2-disc collector's edition DVD, I realised that before, though I gushed heartily, I never talked about how amazing the DVD itself is (mainly because I didn't have the DVD at the time). Well, fear not, because I am about to give a full recap, which I know you will be delighted to hear.

The documentary itself, while long, is undoubtedly a must-view, even for non-Nightmare fans. It is possibly the quickest four hours of my life. But I have gone in to all that before (a year ago, in fact). Let's over-analyse the stuff I haven't said yet.

Right, so, I will start with disc one, which comes with the added feature of an audio commentary by the filmmakers. I recently saw a commentary on the documentary Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Genre (a good documentary in itself) that was boring as hell and full of self congratulations. Knowing that Never Sleep Again was an independent production and was very acclaimed, you'd expect the filmmakers to be gloating and heaping on the self praise, but no. 

For the full four hours, we are provided with an entertaining and candid commentary. Never once does the track fall in to boredom or silence (bar one moment where something has been edited out, which is understandable as these guys are very loose with their tongues). They are open about the tribulations and short comings with the documentary, pointing out what they wish they had done better and what was the fault of other crews they had to hire for foreign interviews. Sometimes they heckle each other, in an undoubtedly friendly but endlessly amusing manner. They talk about why they went independent after His Name Was Jason, the disappointing documentary on the Friday The 13th series; they say which actors were gracious and just couldn't do the interviews, and the ones that just wouldn't do it; they give their own views as fans of the series, adding in new trivia not included and giving alternative perspectives. 

Like I say, this commentary never drags and is just as entertaining as the documentary itself. Even if it is things like the very quick telling of a Renny Harlin story (where, sitting at the back of a cinema where his films were being shown, every time his credit appeared, he yelled out 'genius!') just make you smile. And if you ever wondered what the hell was up with Lezlie Deane and the odd human pet she appears to have in her interview, everything is explained.

Now on to disc two which, in terms of extras, is worth double the price that you will pay.

First up is the 'slashed scenes', or extended interviews for us laymen. Averaging about ten minutes extra a film,  there is over an hour of extra material here, all of it just as interesting as the main feature. I'm sure it doesn't work in the context as a whole, or else it was cut for running time (which has never been more understandable), but for those craving more, this will give you it. You get to see Mark Patton and Kim Myers' first time seeing each other in like twenty years, which is touching. There is even a little clip dedicated to people's thoughts on the NOES remake, which essentially is they all hate it and have nothing to do with it, but think Jackie Earle Haley is possibly the only person who could come close to filling Robert Englund's shoes.

Next on the disc is a sneak peak at Heather Langenkamp's upcoming (?) documentary I Am Nancy, which seems a lot like a convention documentary Bruce Campbell made a few years ago. Looks like one for fans.

For The Love Of The Glove looks at an avid NOES memorabilia collector who has collected a lot of different gloves from various Freddy films (which nicely segues in to a funny story of the glove being stolen on the set of NOES 2). It also looks at the many people who run websites and manufacture Freddy gloves. More interesting in its existence and abundance than actually looking at each of them individually, the crux of this featurette for me is one of the effects artists on the films talking to the fan who owns the glove and telling him exactly where each prop is from in the film. Like Ralph in The Simpsons, you can almost pinpoint the moment his heart breaks when the prop isn't quite as rare as he thought. Endearing as fuck.

Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans again joins the uber fan and the special effects artist as they look at more of his memorabilia and almost bring the man to tears when it is revealed the masks were worn by stunt men as opposed to Robert Englund himself (I say this, but I'm sure he knew already). We then see some hardcore fans, which is again interesting, but not exactly something worth dwelling on too long.

Horror's Hallowed Grounds is a half hour program where we are brought back to the locations used for filming by an ADHD riddled presenter who, in a cheesy and hilarious manner, brings some of the stars of the films with him. Sometimes a bit overbearing and cringy, it is pretty insightful and interesting. It's runtime doesn't outstay its welcome anyway!

Freddy Vs The Angry Video Game Nerd is about the review of a guy who plays a character called the Angry Video Game Nerd who is always reviewing old-school video games (angrily, one would assume). Like some of the other features, it feels like a completest item as opposed to a must-see, but it is entertaining without a doubt.

Expanding The Elm Street Universe looks and the comic books and novels that have been inspired by the film series and, for me, is the weakest feature, but that is personal feelings towards spin-off books (mainly due to their lack of real continuity or causation with a film series). I have to say, I found this one boring. Maybe people who love those comics and novels will love it, who am I to say?

But right after that turd we do have one of the most interesting pieces; The Music of the Nightmare. While the documentary does have a section with composer Charles Bernstein, no one else is talked about. This documentary shows that the interviews were done, and there is a fascinating bit of backstory with each one. The personal favourite has to be Christopher Young, but that's because I'm a fan.

Elm Street's Poster Boy is an intriguing look into the work of the artist behind the one sheets of the films, which are some of the best film posters ever done (and probably some of the most surreal). We find out he didn't really have a briefing on the first films poster, but somehow captured everything that was needing to be captured and set a benchmark for horror posters, and we see how he wasn't asked to do part 6's poster, but did do the soundtrack album artwork. This one caught me by surprise and I loved it.

A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes is an extended version of the actors reciting some of their famous lines from the films that is seen at the end of the documentary and has a lot of nice real moments of amusement. 

The teaser trailer for the documentary is included, which has a nice image of Heather Langenkamp in a Freddy jumper. That must be one of those Rule 34 things.

And rounding us out is a nice little easter egg, which I won't spoil for you (mainly because I have no clue who the guy is in it, and it confused me to no end, though it made me chuckle in the process).

So, there you go. The WHOLE DVD's special features, ripped and torn apart. Some places, I got very critical, but only because other places are so flawless. This DVD is a must have, just as the documentary is a must watch. This is not some piece made to make money. This is the real deal. This is fans who set out to make a documentary telling it like it is, and a DVD that stands against everything wrong with most modern release DVDs. They may have only set out to make a great disc, but in the process, they made a hell of a statement against double-dipping companies who wring fans out for every last penny.

Thank you guys for that!