Thursday, September 8, 2011

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a two part documentary series that does an in depth look into the making of all eight A Nightmare on Elm Street films. Spanning four hours (yes, it's painlessly long), the documentary collects interviews from original cast members, special fx and make up artists, and of course Robert Shaye, the guy who produced all eight films. Narrated with a fitting tone by original Freddy Krueger survivor Heather Langenkamp, between the extensive discussion time allotted and the equally lengthy bonus features which cover the unseen interviews Never Sleep Again leaves no questions unanswered.

The film has a cathartic honesty that's unanticipated, all films alike cast and crew admits to flaws and failures of their film(s), and a rectitude of explanation that's staggering at the least. They're not limited either, from The Kung Fu budget cut in The Dream Master to the complicated creative relationship between Robert Shaye and Wes Craven. Whether being Nightmare one or Nightmare six each film gets a fair share of screen time, which is all really done in respects to the fans of the film who lifted the franchise off the ground and stuck through it, even after the series lost its horror contour to the parody of memorabilia and classic lines. But what really makes this documentary luring, at least to my taste anyways, is the use of special effects and how it progressed through the ages. The documentary in itself is almost a brief side documentary on how Hollywood moved through the decade with the technology. And even an idea at what it takes to make a movie on an independent budget.

The interviews seem illimitable by the breadth of people involved. The previous cast members that directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch accumulated is incredulous, how they found Mark Patton, Jesse from Freddy's Revenge, is a testament in itself. As fans we don't get the 'big stars' such as Johnny Depp or Particia Arquette, but rather the big stars of the series like our heroines who took to Freddy more than once, Heather Langenkamp and Lisa Wilcox. And basically every victim in between. There's the usually disregarded behind the scenes crew who are as much apart of the series as Wes Craven is. They give you insight into the makeup process that it took to create the iconic look of Freddy and the imaginative deaths and the special effects that went into those. Wes Craven's commentary outside of his own work is not bitter, per say, but rather at a loss for the films that followed, save aside for a nice comment toward Renny Harlin. I basically enjoyed about everyone's opinions and insight into the films with the exception of Jack Sholder, as his came off rather arrogant.

The film makes room for a lot of humorous parts to pair with the light hearted fan base, the fangirl inside of me got really excited when I saw that Freddy Krueger and Jason Mewes actually existed in a world together. They even go into the pop culture gags that materialized after Nightmare three and four, where things like the Freddy doll and pajamas became available (as one interviewee ironically points out that Freddy originally was a child molester, and now you can wear him to bed). Band Dokken even stops in for a discussion on how their contribution to Dream Warriors was one of the first music videos available on VHS. At the end of the documentary as homage to the series and the Elm Street junkies each actor quotes their most memorable line during the credits. I mentioned this in the first Nightmare review but Never Sleep Again isn't just a documentary for the fans, even if you've only seen one out of the eight films in the franchise there's something to be savored here. I loved this documentary, as if you couldn't tell, and one that I'd watch again. I recommend to any fan of the genre, of the series, or just of film making in general. 

It's over. This proved to be rather draining task and I did not anticipate that watching all eight Nightmare films in a row would mentally wear me out, despite spacing them on a weekly basis (with the exception of Freddy vs. Jason). An oddly interesting fact the films that I had seen before I decided to watch them all (one, three, seven and eight) were the only four I liked. If I were to do it again, with another series of films, I'd do it every other week just to give myself a break from the excessive use of words (I'm dreadfully tired of typing the words 'Freddy' and 'Elm Street' and 'Imaginative') but I don't know if I could do it again, to be honest. I clearly have some masochistic qualities in film watching as I decided to watch all of the Hellraiser films; however I won't be writing reviews for that. I'm currently seven films in and most I don't have much of an opinion on. My recommendation for the series, film one through eight, is watch it. The films themselves hold reams of originality being eminent from that slasher outline, and hate or love them they are a prominent chapter in horror/film history.

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