As PAURA: LUCIO FULCI REMEMBERED- VOL. 1 did for Fulci, and Memories of the Living Dead did for George Romero’s Dead Saga, NEVER SLEEP AGAIN gives fans of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise a comprehensive set of interviews that include almost everybody involved in the series. An impressive breadth of actors, directors, special makeup effects artists and New Line Cinema executives are on hand to discuss the legacy of one of the 1980s biggest slasher phenoms, Freddy Krueger. What most of them have to say interested me, even though I’m no Fred Head.
It’s hard to imagine the kind of cultural relevance Krueger had in the 80s. Freddy became a pop culture icon, with dolls, records and a 900 number that you could call for a few bucks a minute (which is also hard to imagine in the internet age). But Freddy started small, the brainchild (or perhaps dream child?) of writer/ director Wes Craven, who couldn’t even get anybody to produce the flick until he came across New Line guru Bob Shaye. Their union, though sometimes combustible, formed what would become the basis for a series of films, and celebrity for a character who was a child molester/murderer.
The doc starts right at the beginning and goes through each film in franchise, as well as the TV show and the crossover with FRIDAY THE 13TH. Here are the highlights for each entry:
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET:
Craven is an intellectual and a former English teacher, and so am I, so listening to him is always a joy. His approach to crafting the script and directing the film is amazing. And there are some nice comments about Freddy’s makeup and the bloody bed. And is it possible for anyone not to love Heather Langenkamp? No, it is not.
NOES 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE
Interesting conversation about why Craven stepped away from the series, and how they changed some of the rules Craven established in the first film. But the real grabber here is the film’s gay subtext. Lead actor Mark Patton, director Jack Sholder and writer David Chaskin discuss whether everyone was in on the gay undertones, and just how gutsy it was to put out a horror flick in the 1980s where the “final girl” was a guy.
NOES 3: DREAM WARRIORS
Craven’s re-entry to the fold, his script got reworked by Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell. Apparently, half the cast had a crush on Patricia Arquette. But the highlight for me was the interview with Don Dokken, who sang the theme song with Dokken at my very first concert, the Monsters of Rock.
NOES 4: THE DREAM MASTER
Renny Harlin is the most memorable participant here. Shaye hired him because he kept showing up at Shaye’s office (now there’s a great way to choose a director). Rodney Eastman and Ken Sagoes discuss how the chemistry was different with Tuesday Knight taking Arquette’s part, and how they felt about being brought back just to die. And a great discussion about how this is the MTV film in the franchise. But really, Harlin is a hack, and a fascinating one here.
NOES 5: THE DREAM CHILD
THE DREAM CHILD sports a British director (Stephen Hopkins), a nun who gets raped by 100 maniacs (Amanda Krueger, portrayed by Beatrice Boepple), a weird kid (Whit Hertford), and Super Freddy (muscle bound actor Michael Bailey Smith). Hear from them all.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE
Longtime New Line employee Rachel Talalay got her chance to direct what was supposed to be the final NOES film. Which explains to me why this film was such a mess (it’s also the first NOES I saw in a theater; the discussion of the 3D segment brought back fond memories of that odd section of this odd film). Alice Cooper sounds like it was a hoot to star in a NOES film, a role he obviously adores.
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE
Craven comes back to the fold, and he and Langenkamp give some great insight into their joyful reunion. Some of the players discuss how the flick is a precursor for Craven’s SCREAM franchise. Sadly, THE NEW NIGHTMARE did little box office, because it was a bit too intellectual. But keep your eyes open for character art of an eye lidless version of Craven in a van driven by Michael Berryman.
Freddy’s Nightmares TV Series
Taking advantage of Freddy’s pop culture status, New Line chose to further the NOES brand with a syndicated TV series. It’s interesting to hear Mick Garris, Tom McLoughlin and William Malone discuss how with nobody watching over them too closely, they worked with some racy subject matter during the Puritanical Reagan Era. (Check out Chadworth’s awesome commentary on the series)
FREDDY vs. JASON
Want the textbook definition of “development Hell?” Welcome to the extensive background on FREDDY vs. JASON. The fact that this film ever came to be is a miracle, even if I hate it. Scores of writers and directors came and went before New Line gave birth to this blockbuster.
I hate to give such a superficial review, but NEVER SLEEP AGAIN is four hours long. It would take me 47 pages to go in-depth about every part of it. What I can say is this: though I don’t really like the NOES series, I wanted to finish this doc. The appeal was there, as the stories were all interesting, if not exactly my cup of tea. Englund, Craven and Langenkamp alone would have been enough allure for me; but when I’m listening to the mechanical effects guy talking about the bathtub effect in the first film and I’m enjoying myself, it’s obvious that the doc works for me.
Even with that said, the doc still suffers from its biggest problem: its massive length. NEVER SLEEP covers every film and pop culture aspect of Freddy Krueger, but to do so it takes a marathon. It took me four nights to finish, and even then, it was trying at times. I know I’m not the target audience, but I wonder if even the most dedicated Fred Head could watch this doc from start to finish.
What will fans of the series be crying about? Any comprehensive look is going to lack a few of the participants; here you’re missing Johnny Depp and Arquette. They’re talked about in abundance, but I’ll assume they’re far too famous to show up themselves. Other than that, NEVER SLEEP AGAIN probably satisfies every Fred Head’s greatest… dreams.
Let’s be honest. If you’re already a Fred Head, you got your copy of this flick the day it came out. You’ve probably watched all the interviews more than once. Maybe this review isn’t for you. But for those who have even a passing interest in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, give this a look after you’ve watched all the films, for the first time or as a refresher. Then invest another 1 hour and 15 minutes in I AM NANCY. That doc hasn’t nearly the breadth, but it’s a beautiful insight into one actress’ personal Elm Street legacy, and I applaud Heather Langenkamp for it.