Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I'll say it right off the bat: This is absolutely a must see for Nightmare fans. Now, before you roll your eyes and assume that this is the typical fanboy-gushing-over-any-product-related-to-his-favourite-nostalgia-wrapped-series, I want to tell you right off that I was entirely skeptical of this package, and hesitated for quite some time before finally deciding to give it a shot (after reading much about it online).
I will readily admit that I thought this was going to be a cheap cash in on the buzz surrounding the remake, and while the timing may be a bit....suspect (or at least can't hurt) I can say that regardless of what you may think it started out as, this thing is a well crafted and clearly loved piece of film, into which a LOT of work clearly went, and absolutely, in no way, strikes one as a cheap cash in. This thing was lovingly and meticulously crafted.
The DVD package contains the main feature, Never Sleep Again: The Nightmare on Elm Street Legacy, which amazingly clocks in at an astonishing four hours. Yes, 4 hours. The documentary consists of interviews with cast and crew from all 8 of the Nightmare films (yes, Freddy vs. Jason is included, although I myself do not count it as a Nightmare film per se....and neither do some of the NOES crew, as you will learn) interspersed with very well done stop motion animation, film clips, behind the scene footage, deleted scenes, production and set photos, and more. Included in the interviews are, as you would expect, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Bob Shaye (who I do not particularly like, to be honest, although I do have him to thank for many memories), Rachel Talalay, and Heather Langenkamp. However, what really sets this documentary apart is the very exhaustive list of people interviewed.
See, the films are discussed in chronological order, and so cast and crew interviews are edited together to form a cohesive discussion about each film. This editing is seamless, and the filmmakers should be commended on taking what must have been 40 or more hours of footage and editing them down to a precise, coherent, well paced 4 hours. The filmmakers tracked down as many people as they possibly could, leading to an extensive list of writers, directors, producers, actors and actresses, set design people, and special effects people being included. Hell, even an extra was interviewed (Girl on Bus #2 from ANOES2: Freddy's Revenge is included, most likely because she starred on a TV show with Heather Langenkamp, but still). They got basically anyone you could think of, save for Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette.
Some of the names present include Lisa Zane, Rodney Eastmen, John Saxon, Tuesday Knight, Monica Keenan, Brooke Theiss, Lisa Wilcoxx, JoAnn Willette, Jsu Garcia (aka Nick Corri) and more. Hell, they even managed, after a LOT of effort, to track down Mark Patton (the infamous Jesse from part 2) who left Hollywood long ago for the anonymity of a private life in Mexico. And you'll be glad they did, as he provides some of the most fun moments of the documentary. He's a very entertaining interview, and, as I alluded to earlier with the packages comment, he and the others from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge finally all, as a group, discuss, at length (no pun intended) the long standing rumours/debates regarding the supposed homoerotic undertones present in that particular entry into the series. This discussion was very entertaining to watch, and there's even a moment in the extras where Mark recreates a couple of moments from his infamous bedroom dance. Hat, hips, pelvic thrusts and all!
The cast and crew discuss all aspects of making a NOES film, including successes and failures, on and off set mishaps, time and budgetary constraints (which plagued the series, thanks to Bob Shaye and New Line), and all sorts of other things, including some fairly candid mentions of on and off set tensions, especially, but not limited to, those between Bob Shaye and Wes Craven. Craven discusses his distaste for much of the sequels (especially part 2), his reluctance to include the Marge/car scene at the end of the original ANOES (Bob Shaye pushed for it) and more. There are tons of details to take in. We learn that there were several scripts written Freddy's Dead, including one by two guys, one of whom was Peter Jackson (which I myself did not know)!
We hear Robert Englund express his distaste for much of ANOES 2, talk of cast and crew falling in love with eachother on set (much of this is centered on Patricia Arquette), descriptions (and video footage) of onset accidents, battles with the MPAA (including footage of unedited vs edited scenes), Wes Craven losing the rights to the characters he created (and losing out on a ton of money), and we even learn that two of the Nightmare sequels were actually filmed without completed scripts. It got so bad that, due to pressure put on them by New Line, they were literally writing scenes and filming them on the same day, and this actually went up to 2 weeks prior to release for one of the films. And so on.
There's a LOT of information and footage to digest here. There is even a touching few moments where a choked up Bob Shaye reflects both on New Line and what the Nightmare films did for both him and his company, and the events leading up to New Line being merged into Time Warner, its parent company, and Shaye's eventual, well, ousting from the company that he built over the course of 40 years. I actually felt bad for the guy, I was very touched by this.
In fact, I was so touched that, as a huge Nightmare fan, at the end of four hours of seeing people I grew up watching reflect back on films I loved, and literally grew up with, followed by Bob Shaye looking back on all this, filled with emotion, I was surprised to find myself actually momentarily tearing up in one eye (the right one lol). I'm not one to give much concern for actors and such, I don't care for attaining autographs and I have no idols, but I really discovered how much the Nightmare on Elm Street series actually means to me, and even though I was cognizant of this fact all my life, the depths of this attachment really surprised me. I really, really love that damn series of films, and this documentary was both a fantastic look back, and, as much as this pains me to say this, and (remake or no remake) a sad goodbye.
In addition to the main feature, there is a hefty assortment of extras to enjoy. These special features do not feel like discarded material thrown in to buttress the size of the package (for those of you who keep snickering at my continued use of the word package, read on, as I have a tidbit for you relating to ANOES 2: Freddy's Revenge that will likely interest you) but actually constitute a few hours of excellent material.
The extras include over an hour of extended interviews (with a bunch of interesting asides and anecdotes that did not make it into the already insanely lengthy main feature, such as cast and crew expressing doubts regarding the ANOES remake), a NOES locations piece, which takes you on a journey to various iconic locations used in the first film, a 7 minute or so sneak peek at Heather Langenkamp's upcoming documentary entitled 'I am Nancy,' features on ANOES comics and books, the music, the fans, and much more.
In all, there are 8 hours of content in total spanning two discs. That's right, 480 minutes of A Nightmare on Elm Street material on two glorious DVD's. This package, topped off with some excellent artwork, is available for $29.99 (US), and, if you order from the official site you get an included 12" x 18" poster, which, if you order by June 1st, will be personally signed by Heather Langenkamp. You also receive free shipping. If you want the DVD sans poster and free shipping, it is available on amazon.com for 17.49.
This truly is an excellent documentary for both casual Nightmare fans and Nightmare aficionados, as even the diest of die hard fans, who have scoured the earth for information related to the series for the last 26 years, will still hear and/or see many things in this that they previously had not known.
This is the absolute best horror documentary I have ever seen, and frankly, I would be inclined to hazard a guess that it is the best horror documentary ever made, period. In fact, I don't think it too presumptuous to state right now that this amazing horror documentary might never be bested. Ever. Incredibly easy recommendation for Nightmare fans, and quite likely even worth a look for horror fans in general who might not be into the Nightmare series. This documentary might even change their mind. It's just brilliant. Truly.
Overall Score: 10/10.