This 2-disc documentary covering the beginnings and the considerable legacy of the A Nightmare on Elm Street horror film franchise is a dream come true for "Fred heads" everywhere.
Pretty much any horror fan worth their scorched salt remembers the first time they saw Freddy Krueger — whether it was in a real time back in the day, or later through the permeation of pop culture — and not only do they remember, they never forget. There is something undeniably unique about this monster when taken as a whole, or in the pantheon of movie monsters… he's nothing like Dracula or The Wolfman, and he is even less like his contemporaries Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees.
A lot of what makes Freddy tick is the actor who made him famous, Robert Englund. Englund is all over this DVD from his brand new, in-depth interviews outlining each and every A Nightmare on Elm Street (he even touches on the remake!), to amazing found-footage of him in the makeup chair and between takes (it's hilarious to see him as this gnarled, horrifying creature, talking about taking in the latest Broadway-style stage show). The archival footage throughout this documentary is nothing short of breathtaking — and no stone is left unturned, as even the short-lived Freddy's Nightmares syndicated television series is explored (I loved the quick clip of Brad Pitt's all-but-forgotten bit part).
But Robert Englund is not the only thing that made Freddy work: as with any dark villain, a fair foil was needed. That's where actress / heroine Heather Langenkamp comes in. Her interviews, the most in-depth with that I've ever seen, are absolutely fascinating and much more insightful than one might expect from an "80s scream queen." She is also a co-producer and the narrator whose voice is heard throughout the doc.
While I watched the DVD, I was taking notes on my favorite little stories and asides. The segments with ANOES 4 director Renny Harlin, actor Clu Gulager, and Newline Exec Bob Shaye were especially entertaining. Outtakes showing Patricia Arquette being swallowed by a giant Kruger-serpent are almost as much fun as hearing the cast and crew of "the gayest" ANOES film putting their heads together on that subtext. In the end I put my notes aside, because I realized the DVD really should be seen and heard for itself.
To give an inkling of just what you can expect, here is a rundown of everyone — from actors to ADs — who appear with their stories on Never Sleep Again:
The Big Three:
R. Christopher Biggs
John Carl Buechler
Cassandra Rachel Friel
Ricky Dean Logan
David B. Miller
Kelly Jo Minter
Matthew Joseph Peak
David J. Schow
Michael Bailey Smith
Roy H. Wagner
Disc one has the documentary itself on it. While I will refrain from spoiling any of the surprises revealed, I have to give a shout-out in regards to title sequences and the imaginative wraparounds. Also, the entire documentary is subtitled, which is such a nice, thoughtful touch not often done on this type of flick. It's not only (of course) a must for the hearing-impaired, but it's also perfect for people who watch their DVDs while on the treadmill, or on mute while multitasking. Furthermore, the vibrant, colorful picture is 1:85:1 widescreen and the stereo sound is pin-drop pristine. Excellent attention to detail, all around.
Disc two contains the bonus features:
◦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
◦Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Teaser Trailer
I only had time to watch the sneak peak of I Am Nancy (a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating trip to a horror convention illustrating Nancy's "second-banana" status to Freddy), and Horror's Hallowed Grounds (host Sean Clark's series which takes fans on location to where famous horror films have been shot). I Am Nancy will give fans some insight as to just how grueling the convention circuit can be, and what it's like to be Nancy… for a day. Horror's Hallowed Grounds follows Clark from the alley behind Tina's house (with a special visit from Amanda Wyss herself!), a trip across the bridge where Glen nervously gnawed a hamburger with Nancy, a very funny foray to Springwood High, and more.
These are the kinds of in-depth yet light-hearted gems fans care about, not the paint-by-numbers stuff your average studio-produced DVD extra disc is going to be likely to contain. Never Sleep Again was made by genre fans who approach it from a place of love, but more importantly by filmmakers who understand that nothing is precious and nothing is off-limits.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Never Sleep Again Launch Party Video Interviews [coming soon]