DVD Review - 'Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy'

The running time is your first indicator of who the documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy was made for: the film runs just under four hours. Now ask yourself: who the HELL would want to watch a four-hour documentary on the A Nightmare on Elm Street series? I sure would! And forgive the assumption, but if you're reading FEARnet for your documentary news, then I bet you'll dig it too.

So yes, the informative, colorful, and (very) expansive Never Sleep Again is pretty much a "fans-only" proposition -- but I'd sure be pleased if more "fan friendly" documentaries were this thorough, amusing, and frank. The documentary moves forward with a pretty basic format: starting with Wes Craven's 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, we get some essential facts via voice-over, and then the interviews begin. Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, etc., all the essential parts. But then we get to the supporting actors, the screenwriters, and lots of enthusiastic effects artists, all of whom are willing to divulge anecdotes both well-known and enjoyably novel.

The first Nightmare gets the most attention, of course, but nobody skimps on the sequels. Freddy's Revenge, Dream Warriors, The Dream Master, The Dream Child, Freddy's Dead, New Nightmare, and Freddy vs. Jason all go under the microscope, and the filmmakers present a fine and balanced look at the franchise. Several of the interview subjects are impressively open about the mistakes that ran through the film series -- and of course there's a nice section dedicated to the ill-fated Freddy's Nightmares TV show. And it's rather impressive how many of the filmmakers Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch were able to pin down.

Those who share their fond yet honest thoughts on the Freddy franchise include directors Wes Craven, Jack Sholder, Chuck Russell, Renny Harlin, Stephen Hopkins, Rachel Talalay, Mick Garris, William Malone, Patrick Lussier, Tom McLoughlin, and Ronny Yu; screenwriters David Chaskin, John Skipp, David J. Schow, Leslie Bohem, Mark Verheiden, and Mark Swift, and more actors and gore-makers than you'll know what to do with. New Line president Bob Shaye also shares his thoughts on the progression of the franchise, which adds some real insight to the business end of Freddy Krueger's empire. Virtually all of the interviews are fan-friendly snack food, but highlights come from the likes of Clu Gulager, the ever-garrulous Englund and Dokken. Yep, they even tracked down Dokken.

Truth be told, the lengthy documentary actually manages to breeze on by, and if you're still hungry for more, hell, wait until you get to disc 2. Separated into handy headings is a huge batch of unused interview sections. Some of the material is repetitive or bland, hence their excision, but there's also some great juicy stuff about screenwriting arbitration, on-set romance rumors, and a little bit of plain old gossip. I lost track of time, but I'm betting there's at least 90 minutes of extra footage here, and much of it is really fun stuff. (Be sure to watch the section on the Elm St. remake!)

Also included (deep breath) is a very cute sneak peek of Heather Langenkamp's "I Am Nancy" documentary; an 18-minute piece called "For Love of the Glove," which focuses on the biggest fans of Freddy's weapon of choice, all of whom make and sell replicas online, it seems; "Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans," a 13-minute piece that looks at the hardcore fandom; a 23-minute location tour with Sean Clark's "Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street"; a 6-minute classic review (that fans should have seen by now) called "Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd"; the 16-minute "Expanding the Elm Street Universe," which covers the various literary spin-offs and comic book adaptations, complete with several interviews with the authors and artists; and "The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers & Songwriters" (13 min.) talks with Elm St. musicians like Charles Bernstein, Christopher Young, Craig Safan, J. Peter Robinson, Tuesday Knight, Lisa Zane, and the Dokken boys.

Whew. But wait, there's more! (Oh, and it's just dawned on me that Never Sleep Again is a documentary about eight films and one television show. Taking that into account, the four-hour running time doesn't seem so crazy.) Anyway, the massive vault of supplemental features winds down with "Elm Street's Poster Boy: The Art of Joseph Peak," a 7-minute piece on the artist behind five of the Freddy posters; "Nightmare on Elm St. in 10 Minutes," which has dozens of the actors reprising their favorite lines from the films (and must have been a bitch to cut together), and finally, a little teaser trailer for the gargantuan package you just sat through.

Bottom line: whether you were raised on the Elm St. series (like me) or you devoured them all in one all-night binge, this stunningly thorough documentary is sure to delight Freddy fans the world over. And while I keep harping on the fact that this package was put together by fans, for fans, don't let that fool you. Never Sleep Again is a polished and exceedingly professional production. It's almost like something Ken Burns would make if he were a huge horror geek.