Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

Just when you thought it was safe to visit Cinema Sights again, just when you thought the darkness had ended, just when you thought I couldn’t possibly write more about A Nightmare on Elm Street, I found out about this one film. The nightmare continues on, but this time not as a fictional story of the iconic Freddy Kruger, but as an independently made documentary on the series.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy brings together the creators of the series to have a frank retrospective on the series. Narrated by Heather Langenkamp, the documentary spans from the inception in Wes Craven’s mind all the way to Freddy vs. Jason. At a whopping 4 hours, it’s an exhaustive look at the series that delves into much of the subtext and behind the scenes conflicts that permeated the series.

What the documentary brings that couldn’t be had in a series of extra features is a frank honesty and openness about the series. There is more than a little bit of bashing of some of the weaker installments by the creators and actors themselves. The film also delves head-on into the entire gay subtext that many have read into Freddy’s Revenge. The willingness of everyone to bring down any barriers and talk openly about the film is the true strength of the documentary.

It’s also allows for a lot of smart and thoughtful analysis of the films to shine through as people offer up their interpretations and understandings of the series. One of the best examples is Robert Englund, who has such a profound insight and complex understanding of the films. It’s clear that his enthusiasm for the series goes beyond more than just the gleeful bogyman persona he gets to embody.

However, a couple of big voices are not heard from at all. Not surprisingly, Johnny Depp is not in the documentary at all. His a-list status more likely than not made him unreachable for the makers of the film. Patricia Arquette from The Dream Warriors is also missing. While she’s not as big as Depp, she’s had her share of success and given her ongoing role on the TV show Medium it’s not a surprise. Her presence is missed a lot more, especially given the communal aspect of The Dream Warriors.

Give the huge list of people involved in the film, it would be easy if the film just took a talking heads approach, setting up a series of straightforward shots of people talking to sustain most of the film. However, as the film opens in introduces this great claymaton sequence that brings you into the world of the films. Not only is it great fan service, but it also provides a creative way to provide transitions between the film.

As the key players talk about the first film, the filmmakers implement all kinds of interesting visual elements to make the film as engaging to watch as it is to listen to.  Stills, dissolve cuts and some compelling effects make it an engaging watch. However, as the film progresses it slides back into talking heads, relying on the straightforward approach more. They still provide behind the scene clips and stills every now and again but it’s clear they lost their creative steam during the editing stage.

It almost goes without saying that this is a must for Nightmare on Elm Street fans. The frank discussions, inside look and third part analysis makes it superior to any extra features New Line might put out on the official DVDs. But it also serves a fascinating look at film history because this series essentially put New Line Cinema on the map and actually was inadvertently responsible for a little series of films being made called The Lord of the Rings by some punk horror director called Peter Jackson. That’s right people, without Freddy Kruger, cinema would be lacking one of the great epics. And you people thought these films were worthless.

© 2010 James Blake Ewing

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy [DVD]