MAY 5, 2010
(Disclaimer - For what I don’t know, but I am special thanked at the end of the film. If you think that makes me biased, then don’t read my review. Go read one of the others - they’re all positive so far!)
As I’ve said a few times over the course of revisiting all of the Nightmare On Elm St movies, Freddy was always my least favorite of the big franchises. And yet I still loved just about every minute of Never Sleep Again, an epic four hour (!) documentary about the series. For a casual fan to enjoy something that long (I only paused it to go to the bathroom and do some quick work related tasks), a big fan will probably have a heart attack with all of the information here.
The film is from many of the folks behind His Name Was Jason, but it’s not a Freddy-fied version of that film. With the exception of Jason Mewes, who appears in a brief clip mocking the “Jay” rip-off character in Freddy Vs. Jason, every single person who appears in this film is directly involved with the films. No journalists (sorry, friends), no fan filmmakers, no guy from Psych... for the four hours, you will only hear from the people you WANT to hear from if you’re sitting down to watch a documentary about Nightmare On Elm Street.
And chances are you’ll hear from your favorite character from the series, because they are also batting pretty close to a thousand in terms of getting the primary cast and crew back for new interviews. Some holdouts are probably pretty obvious (Johnny Depp) but they got every director, pretty much every writer, and at least 75% of the main cast for each film, and in some cases all - I don’t think there’s a single holdout of note from Freddy’s Revenge, Dream Master, or Dream Child. Dream Warriors is the only one with some unfortunate gaps (no Patricia Arquette, Bradley Gregg, Frank Darabont, Larry Fishburne, or Craig Wasson), and Freddy vs. Jason’s cast is largely MIA - basically just Monica Keena, Brendan Fletcher, and Zack Ward - but I could care less about that one anyway. In short, it’s the most comprehensive and complete reunion I’ve ever seen for any of these films, and that’s not counting folks from the Freddy’s Nightmares TV show, comic books, or novelizations, or various New Line personnel such as Jeff Katz, a fan who eventually worked at New Line and was instrumental in finally getting FvJ made. And I dig how each actor was introduced in the film, by reading their character’s introduction from the original screenplays for their respective films (Tina was supposed to be 15?).
I also like how it was broken down film by film, instead of by theme as the Jason doc was. Don’t like part 4? Skip over that part. Need to know what they have to say about Freddy’s Revenge right now? Cue up chapter 3. And superfluous Freddy-centric stuff, such as the video game or the large fan base, is left to disc 2. The only time in the doc that they go “off track” from the films is a brief piece about Freddy’s Nightmares, and a little eulogy for New Line, which was of course “The House That Freddy Built” and was more or less shut down in 2008 after some merging and staff overhauls.
And they’re not afraid to dish some dirt, though it’s entirely civil and “eh, water under the bridge” in tone. Yes, the gay subtext of Nightmare 2 is finally addressed (in fact, I think the section on that film is the best in the doc), with the writer admitting it was all intentional and line producer Joel Soisson confessing that he was completely naïve to not have noticed it. The rushed production of 4 and 5 is covered, though it’s largely told from 20 year old memories instead of actual on-set evidence, since they didn’t have full time DVD crews back then. There is a priceless, but brief, shot of Englund getting frustrated with some delays on the set of 4 - I would have loved more stuff like that, but it probably just doesn’t exist. And while I don’t want to get ahead of myself, if you’re wandering what they think of the idea of remaking the film (the film proper ignores it), then be sure to check out the “Extended Interviews” on Disc 2.
Now, I have to dip into “guy” mode for a paragraph here, because these movies were very seminal in my pre-pubescent “discovering girls” years. I am quite sure that Stacey Alden (the nurse) in Nightmare 3 is the first pair of breasts that I ever saw, and I had big crushes on Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) and Alice (Lisa Wilcox) back then. And so, while I love hearing all of the stories and anecdotes, I am also curious to see what these ladies look like nowadays. Some haven’t aged particularly well, others aren’t even recognizable (Tuesday Knight is one “that’s HER?” example), and at least one has apparently become a goth clown with a submissive (I’m not kidding), but I think fans of Amanda Wyss, Jennifer Rubin, Kim Myers, and Brooke Theiss (and yes, Ms. Alden) will be quite pleased with how gracefully these women have aged in the 20-25 years since they first “impressed” kids like myself. Of course, this just makes it all the more depressing to see how bad implants and such have wrecked the looks of some of the others, when they’re talking back to back.
As for our beloved Nancy, Heather Langenkamp needs to fire whoever did her makeup for her interviews. She has her own documentary coming out, which is previewed on disc 2, and there we can see that she’s still a very naturally pretty woman, but during her interviews she has horrid makeup and a bad tan, which is a shame. Oh, and on the male side of things, Jsu Garcia practically looks the same, and many of the other guys look about what you’d expect them to after this much time, but some are damn near unrecognizable - I’m still not convinced that it’s really Shon Greenblatt (John from Freddy’s Dead) talking in those segments.
Back on less chauvinistic topic, even if you don’t like a particular movie, you’re bound to enjoy the segment on it (if not more so as you’re likely to get a new perspective on its production). I mean, I have zero love for Dream Master, but hearing how Renny Harlin fought to get the job was a nice story (especially today, where our new Nightmare film is directed by a snobby douchebag who turned it DOWN 2-3x before being convinced by the almighty power of Michael Bay), and it’s good to know that Rodney Eastman (Joey) agrees with my sentiment that recasting Kristen hurt the film’s storytelling. I know the four hour length may be a bit daunting for some, and I’m sure it could be pared down some (especially with the 2nd disc providing more interview space), but trust me, you won’t want to skip over any of it. If you start getting sick of hearing the words “New Line” or “Much darker than the previous film”, just take a break.
Because, see, even with "Fangoria", the previous DVDs, convention Q&As, and all the other stuff I’ve read/listened to over the years, Never Sleep Again still offers some trivia you probably didn’t know, and skimming over a few minutes might result in missing out on some pretty jaw-dropping trivia. Do you know who was originally cast as Freddy, to the point where he even had makeup tests on him (which we see)? I won’t spoil it, but it’s a fascinating “What if?” scenario. I also didn’t know that Englund was briefly replaced on Nightmare 2 (over salary disputes, a problem that runs throughout the series when it comes to returning cast OR crew) with a stuntman, and we get to see the horrible results for a few precious seconds.
We also get some tantalizingly brief rejected script excerpts from time to time:
I also want to make a special mention of the kick-ass stop motion animation that punctuates each section of the film (not to mention a lengthy credit sequence). It’s sort of like the brief stop motion stuff we saw in Dream Warriors (Phillip’s death), and both the animation itself and the impressive detail in the miniature sets are worth a look even if you hate Freddy. I just wish disc 2 had provided some information on their creation or an interview with Michael Granberry, who was responsible for the pieces. In fact, I wouldn't have minded hearing from any of the folks involved with putting the film together. Yes, I want a documentary about the documentary.
And Wes admits he uses booby traps too much in his movies and had to force himself to stop. That alone made the movie worth my while.
Disc 2 is loaded with another 2 hrs of unused interview pieces (once again broken down by film). They aren’t “finished”, in that they still have the green-screen backgrounds and aren’t edited together with clips, which is a bit of a bummer at times, as the talent will be discussing a particular shot and I won’t know exactly what they are talking about, but the information presented here is no more or less interesting than what’s in the finished film. The rest of the stuff is a mixed bag - I really dug the focused look on the poster art and the music/scores from each film, but I could have done without the “Angry Video Game Nerd” segment (again, Zero Punctuation is the alpha and omega of hilariously bitter video game reviews), and stuff like “For The Love Of The Glove” will just reassure ignorant people’s fears that horror fans are psychotic (the dude scares ME for Christ’s sake). And “A Nightmare On Elm Street In 10 Minutes” is just the actors saying their famous lines in sequence, which isn’t nearly as amusing as having Joe Lynch and Adam Green summarize the series as they did for the Jason doc (which is what I thought this piece was going to be, since it had the same title scheme). The “actors saying their old lines” thing is cute, but the end credits of the feature had it as well, once was enough for me. Again though, I’m not a die hard fan; I’d probably listen to 5 hrs’ worth of Halloween actors doing the same thing without complaining.
As I mentioned, there’s also a preview for Langenkamp’s documentary I Am Nancy, which just seems like it will be kind of a depressing movie as it shows things like her sitting at a table without anyone coming up to her (as Englund’s line grows and grows at the next table). I assume the entire movie isn’t this much of a bummer, but either way I can’t say it got me really excited to see it. However, it does seem to be a completely self-financed production, and will likely have a personal touch that the NSA doc can not provide, so it might be worth a look once it’s complete.
With eight full hours of content, the purchase of this disc is a no-brainer if you’re a Freddy fan, even a casual one. It’s a bit ironic that a documentary about the films is more compelling and interesting than some of the sequels, but since arguing over which films are better than others is an important part of being a horror fan, it’s invaluable to more or less have the people who made them offer their unfiltered thoughts on the matter. Kudos to all involved for finding everyone (Mark Patton was particularly elusive, from what I understand) and keeping the film focused on the Nightmare team.
What say you?