Whenever someone purports to make the ultimate of anything, there’s a good chance that nine times out of ten, there will not be anything remotely resembling ultimate about the product. The makers behind “Never Sleep Again” thankfully live up to their promise that “Never Sleep Again” is “The Ultimate Nightmare Documentary” not only because it is undoubtedly one of the best horror movie documentaries ever made, but it surely is the definitive look in to the Nightmare series that is not just the chronicling of the evolution of a bonafide horror icon, but of a studio that began as an independent film studio and worked its way in to becoming a corporate juggernaut that in a sense worked against what filmmaking was originally all for in the first place.
“Never Sleep Again” also acts as a form of letting us in on anecdotes and facts that we’ve never heard while also explaining why these films aren’t very good. Even Wes Craven goes on to admit to some degree that his original “Nightmare” is not the film he’d envisioned in spite of the fact that he’d injected so much imagination and depth in to it, and the makers of the documentary allow a forum not only for nostalgia but for honesty and blunt criticism. More often than not there are just as much people on camera pointing out the flaws of the “Nightmare” films than there are praising them, and as the four hour documentary progresses we begin as an enthusiastic exploration in to innovative filmmaking that devolves in to people making excuses and often times apologizing for films like “Freddy’s Revenge” and “Freddy’s Dead” that often times incite embarrassed laughter and shrugs of apology from the crew that worked on them.
And if you didn’t think it were possible to know more about the “Nightmare” films, “Never Sleep Again” proves all of the pompous horror buffs wrong by revealing some interesting facts and straight forward recollections that provide a much better insight on the films in question such as the producers foresight in leaving a question mark ending in the original film for a sequel that Craven didn’t think would ever happen, or the homoerotic intentions toward “Freddy’s Revenge,” or the popular fast food that became the unlikely inspiration for Freddy’s face. And as an extra touch, there is little to no attention drawn to the dreaded remake (beyond the extras). “Never Sleep Again” tries its best to be the most heart felt and creative homage to a horror and cult icon imaginable and it works all of the time with wrap arounds featuring some wonderful stop motion animation, looks back to cut sequences from the original series that were sliced off the finished films, and even concept art that never made it in to the original films including a glimpse in to the Pinhead cameo in the final scene of “Freddy Vs. Jason.”
While the documentary does in fact act as a love letter, it also takes to task much of the moves made to the series and we’re given some blunt opinions from Craven about the future installments that never once come off as pompous but instead feel like a true fan of the genre lashing back at obvious detractions from an original concept that include Freddy donning sunglasses at the beach, Freddy appearing in reality to wreak havoc at a pool party, and the infamous television series that most of the cast members refer to as a great learning experience and really nothing more. There’s also the exploration of the over saturation of Freddy that I can even recall experiencing as Freddy’s original idea turned him in to nothing more than a laughable kid’s party prop. This became the basis for the original idea of “Freddy’s Dead” that was never used.
“Never Sleep Again” is quite long but for any respectable horror geek looking for some new tidbits, wonderful interviews, spirited production qualities, and rare footage you’ve likely never seen before, this is well worth the time invested. I’m not even much of a “Nightmare” fan and I could not stand to pause it at any time for fear I may miss out on a crucial moment in the interviews. Documentaries like this are crucial to the horror fandom because they remind us of a time where horror was fun and creative and not brought down by low expectations and relying on the top dollar. “Never Sleep Again” is a revisiting to childhood and the look at a real horror icon who stormed the screens and our hearts and inevitably died as all icons do.
The 2-Disc Collector’s Edition comes with wonderful packaging complimented by a poster of the promotional art that is a nice keep sake for any collector. Among the extras we have a lengthy commentary from the directors and producers during the entire documentary as well extended interviews with notables from the movie series and there’s some interesting commentaries from the subjects about every film. And there’s even the courtesy of a two and a half minute interview with the “Nightmare” originals who proceed to bash the remake incessantly, and it’s welcomed. There’s a six minute peek in to Heather Langenkamp’s “I Am Nancy” about her experiences as a horror scream queen, “For Love of the Glove” is an eighteen minute look at collector Robert Becker’s search for the mythic missing glove from “Nightmare” and makers of replicas for the glove, “Fred Heads” is a look at the biggest hardcore Freddy fans in the world and why Freddy’s image has become so popular among horror goons.
There’s “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” a revisiting of the Elm Street landscape, and “Freddy vs. Angry Video Game Nerd” a truncated episode of one of the best Angry Video Game Nerd episodes ever made, and an interview with wed celebrity James Rolfe. “Expanding the Elm Street Universe” is a fifteen minute look at the expanded universe and lore of “Nightmare” an interesting featurette that looks in to the novels and comic books that branched off from the films that are all much more creative than the remake by miles not to mention all possess a greater relevance to the canon than you’d think, “The Music of the Nightmare” a breakdown of the scores from every film, “The Art of Matthew Joesph Peak” the creative and brilliant artist behind most of the “Nightmare” posters, there’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in ten minutes, and finally the truly bad ass teaser trailer for “Never Sleep Again” that just oozes excitement. I almost went back and re-watched the whole kit and kaboodle. “Never Sleep Again” really reminded me how much I despised the Nightmare remake. Because all of the imagination that went in to every movie of the original series was not used at all for the remake. For anyone who considers themselves a true horror aficionado, “Never Sleep Again” is an absolute must have and should be a key ingredient in any horror library simply because it’s a celebration of the genre more than it is the celebration of creativity.