I’m ashamed to admit this – mostly because I’m such a huge fan of horror films in general – but I don’t recall seeing the first NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in theatres. Or the second one. Oh, I’ve seen both films, but my recollection of watching them was on home video. I may’ve seen them with an audience – I quite probably did – I’m just befuddled that I don’t recall it specifically. So many flicks of that timeframe do remain somewhat fresh in some aspect in my memory, but – as is often the case with monster movies and their seemingly endless film installments – I don’t remember their individual features as I do the villain. I’ve said it before – I love monster movies – so maybe that’s why my initial impressions of seeing parts 1 and 2 theatrically are lost to me: I was so fixated on Freddy!
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
As one might predict, there’s really no narrative story to this documentary. Rather, there’s an exploration chronologically of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET phenomenon. And, yes, it’s definitely accurate to call it a “phenomenon” because rarely in the history of cinema has a horror franchise started out small and built successively into vastly greater revenues and popularity than did the Freddy films. Granted, there was a lot of fallout (and profit dip) with the tail end of the features, but methinks that was because audiences by that time had figured out the storytellers’ formula of constantly trying to one-up the last tale: it simply got too hard to believe if not too cerebral in its execution.
Comparatively, the saga of the Freddy films is also the tale of New Line Cinema. After all, Freddy and his first film – imaged by the legendary master of horror himself, Wes Craven – were there very near New Line’s inception. Though some might remember this a bit differently (as evidenced by the documentary), Krueger gave that organization its first shot of adrenaline, opening founder Bob Shaye’s eyes to the infinite possibilities of – you guessed it! – profits: you make money, then you’re free to invest in more films, and the NIGHTMARE series quickly righted New Lines’ fiscal shoulders in ways Shaye had previously only dreamed.
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN follows the behind-the-scenes development of the franchise. It shows how uniquely horror films make an imprint on the American psyche and work their way – like a worm into an apple – deep into pop culture. Krueger was an inspired stroke of genius, one that deserves to stand beside the greatest monsters of film (Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, etc.), even though he started to become a bit zany if you will in his final chapters. In fact, that’s much of what these interviews prove (FYI: the packaging boasts that there are over 100 different people interviewed, and I can assure you it’s no joke): Krueger is indeed “one for the ages” and is worth further study.
Granted, there’s not a lot of explosive material in here. These are people who were blessed to have been an integral part of it all, and, as such, their memories tend to fall frequently back onto fonder days and funnier antics. But if you look closely and listen, you’ll see that none of them can quantify why a monster who can weave dreams truly scared so many people: instead, they each have their suspicions, and while some of them align or overlap with one another it’s pretty clear to me that the formula for Freddy’s enduring success remains almost as much a mystery as he does. There’s one part inspiration, two parts execution, a dash of creative marketing, a few teaspoons of dramatic license, etc. … but no one knows for sure how it’ll all taste once it’s been stirred up, tossed into Hell, and baked.
You’re still out there, Freddy, despite your final nightmare and even your new nightmare. You’ll rise again, even though Jason thought he put you down, and you’ll scare everyone once more. I know you’re just biding your time. We’ll never be ready for you … as that would take all the fun from our relationship.
God speed, Freddy. God speed.
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY is produced by 1428 Films and Panic Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by RLJ Entertainment and Image Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, the highest quality sight and sound help deliver this grand tour of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise. And if you want special features, then look no further: not only do you have the four-hour documentary but also there’s a four-hour audio commentary track with multiple guests! Additionally, the second disc includes a bevy of shorts involving the Elm Street productions beyond the screen (Freddy’s appeared in comics and novels) and some other stuff that should keep one interested for quite some time.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Practically exhaustive in behind-the-scenes details, NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY is exactly what one thinks it should be – a celebration of all things Freddy Krueger. This nearly four-hour production includes interviews from nearly every major participant in the franchise – major cast as well as crew – and the people offer up not only personal reflections of their specific contribution to the films but also theorize about the villain’s ongoing legacy, speculate on the mythology, and recall what it was like to be there up-close-and-personal when a monster first awoke the masses. Well done, indeed!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment and Image Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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