Just like metal music, the horror film genre has always inspired a fierce cohort of rabidly devoted fans. That is probably the only way to explain the existence of Never Sleep Again (2010) and films like it. This doco is a four hour, exhaustive run through of the Elm Street films.
The behind the scenes film is in many respects a dying breed. There are more of them made than ever, but most are 10 minute snapshots designed for DVD/blu-ray extras rather than stand alone films in their own right. Never Sleep Again makes a few different attempts to separate itself from this middling medium, from the length, to the ‘claymation’ opening credits and interludes to the pretty comprehensive list of talking heads. As you would expect from the running time, the film is seriously in-depth. It starts with a short history of New Line Cinema before launching into a chronological treatment of all the films. Unfortunately the end does sort of peter out into a gushing praisefest of New Line and Robert Shaye. This is even more noticeable because one of the best aspects of the over three and a half hours that had preceded it is the frankness. Conflict and difference of opinion, especially between Shaye and Wes Craven are laid bare. And it is not in the scandalous gossipy kind of way. Rather it shows the different realities of being a producer who is trying to see his small, start-up studio stay afloat and a director totally focused in on the creative side of film.
Any film of this length or even of this type is going to have aspects that appeal to individual viewers more than others. The discussion in the film does at times degenerate into lengthy, giddy recounting of plot points, which I did not get much out of, perhaps because I have seen the films so recently. This is not the fault of the participants though, it is something that should have been tightened when editing all of the material down. It is when those involved get into analysis and discussing the creative process of generating ideas and bringing them to life that the film is a lot more interesting. A lot of the insight from Craven was really good here (including him ragging on the films he did not like), and I especially enjoyed him discussing the creative mindset that brought him back to the series with New Nightmare (1994). And yes there is a discussion of just how ‘gay’ the second entry into the series is. That was actually an interesting section as the writer was conscious of the subtext (well what was meant to be subtext) and the main character (strangely a male protagonist in a slasher) was an openly gay actor, but a vast majority of the homoerotic elements passed by those who were working on the film. The talking heads really are great and Englund is perhaps the best of the lot. He is clearly a very clever and insightful dude. As a film buff, to hear him tell how he based much of Krueger’s physical presence on a hybrid of Klaus Kinski and James Cagney, I absolutely love that shit. Other influences mentioned on the series of films (not just mentioned by Englund) include Hitchcock which sort of makes sense and Fred Astaire, which makes you ponder a little deeper.
As a film lover, it is great to see a series of films get such adoring treatment. There are great tidbits throughout (Peter Jackson drafted a script for an Elm St film!) and the insight into practical effects is such a contrast to the relative ease in which much CGI is made. In the end, if you are after a four hour doco about the Elm Street films, Never Sleep Again is going to leave you pretty satisfied. But it probably won’t convert you if that sounds like a terrible way to spend half a day.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
This brings an end to my Nightmare on Elm Street reviews. Below are links to all the other reviews I did of the canon films, in order of preference. You guys are obviously slasher film fans, because the Friday the 13th series won the poll I ran to see what franchise I would tackle next. Keep an eye out for the first of those reviews tomorrow.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
3. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
5. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.