Jason, Jaws and Michael Myers. None of them held a candle to the man who made me fear water beds: Freddy Krueger, and “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” digs into the history and fandom through interviews with franchise creator Wes Craven, Freddy’s main adversary, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Freddy himself, Robert Englund, and every. single. extra and B actor involved in the making of all seven Elm Street movies.
Or so it seems.
“Never Sleep Again” begins with a pretty sweet claymation sequence with a lot of “Elm Street” staples: Tina in a body bag, Freddy bursting through a torso, and I admit I was pretty jazzed for what was next.
What struck and hooked me first: Wes Craven’s insights into the creation of the horror rock star of the ’80s and beyond. Craven shares about a sinister man who creeped him out as a kid — who would later inspire Freddy Krueger; how he chose the green and red sweater based on research of a color mix that causes the most visual distress; and the inspiration for the deadly bladed glove.
Background on casting Freddy, how Robert Englund was replaced for a hot second for “Nightmare” 2 and listening to his protectiveness of the character was irresistible. And I gobbled up interviews with special effects guys on each quintessential scene in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Craven shares that the water bed scene that so traumatized me as a kid, also jacked with the cast and crew.
They used a rotating room, and they had to do it in one shot. When the blood squirts out of the water bed, sparks literally flew on set, cast and crew members were covered in blood — and they couldn’t stop shooting. Everything was pretty indie, start-up with low funds, so all they had was one take.
Anyone who grew up with “Nightmare” can appreciate the start of “Never Sleep Again,” but there’s sooo much info that it gets a bit exhaustive.
Clocking in at a whopping four hours, this documentary goes through each sequel with interviews with all leading actors from “Nightmares” 1 through 7, and I was really surprised that studio New Line Cinema was built upon the Freddy empire.
If you’re not planning on venturing into this odyssey, here are some high points:
Wes Craven was only involved in bookending the franchise — which will celebrate its 30th birthday Nov. 9 — with “Nightmare” (1984) and “New Nightmare” (1994). New Line commissioned a rag-tag group of newcomer directors and writers — including one director who was basically homeless — to continue the legacy through six more films. While I thought this insane — especially after listening to how meticulous Craven was in every facet of the first film — “Never Sleep Again” shows this tactic worked the franchise for a younger, MTV audience.
Some cons about this: A decent amount of time is spent name-dropping Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette and “LOTR” director Peter Jackson as having their start in the “Nightmare” franchise, but, their commentary is missing. And I swear directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch just let the camera roll, and I found out what people ate and spilled on their make-up during filming.
While a lot of the details were fascinating, “Never Sleep Again” could’ve easily been edited down to less than two hours, and on a personal note, only included Craven, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.
In the end, “Never Sleep Again” is a very long love letter to Freddy fans, and if you’re one of them, it’s probably worth it.
For this gal, four hours was too much.
Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), Netflix Instant
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