Thursday, November 25, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Die...

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy  (1428 Films, 2010)

Part of the 2010 Halloween Film Festival

Before the Cameras:

More than 100 cast and crew members from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) through Freddy vs Jason (2003)

Behind the Cameras:

Directed by Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch

Produced by Robert P. Atwell, Steven Barton, Daniel Farrands, Thommy Hutson, Heather Langenkamp, Bill Philputt, Annette Ashlie Slomka, Jamie R. Thompson, and Lito Velasco

Written by Thommy Hutson

This documentary ode to one of the biggest horror movie series of the 1980's does everything exactly right. It starts out with the first movie going into production in 1984, and works its way chronologically through each and every film in the series (stopping with little to no mention of this year's reboot). And this isn't a case of brief sound bites from six or seven people either. The main feature runs 4 hours (!) and everyone gets to have a good long say (broken up through editing into smaller pieces relevant to each film or topic, but you get the idea). Documentaries are a different animal to review, so here's my breakdown on each section of this movie with some info on my personal experiences seeing each film back in the day. After all, it is my blog...

A Nightmare on Elm Street  (1984)  This section runs the longest at about 45 minutes. All of the main cast is present except for Johnny Depp and Ronee Blakely (who isn't mentioned as missing in any of the reviews of this thing I've read while Depp is always singled out). You also get lots of Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, and other New Line execs. Some excellent stories, and they set the tone for the whole doc by being warts and all.

I was supposed to see this movie in Harrisburg Illinois (south of my town McLeansboro) with some friends soon after it opened, but the evening started at Pizza Hut, and ended in the emergency room when a friend visiting from Oregon stepped off the curb at the restaurant wrong and twisted her ankle badly. She tried to press on and we actually paid and went in the theater, but she was in agony, so we left (I don't remember if we got refunds, but I'm thinking no) and took her to the hospital. She'd cracked a bone and was off her feet for the rest of her trip. After she got on the plane to go home, we went to see the movie finally over in Harrisburg. We were all wowed by it but I'm kind of glad she didn't see it with us - she was a very 'interesting' young lady who had a lot of belief in dreams and the spirit world - she believed she was the sister of then-recently deceased guitarist Randy Rhoads, and that his ghost was with her all the time, even taking over her body at times to write letters and such - so I'm not sure what kind of an effect this movie would have had on her. I'm sure she saw it later, but we lost touch not long after that, so I don't know how it ended up affecting her. I liked the movie though, a lot.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) This is an interesting part of the show; the movie is not remembered as a high point in the series, and everyone discussing it here eventually admits that, which is refreshing. It also gets examined for the incredible amount of gay subtext (and not so subtext) it contains. Some people still deny any belief that it has a gay theme running through it, but writer David Chaskin admits he was putting it into the script, the lead actor is openly gay, and the gay production designer stuck in a lot of stuff like a poster on the character's door that originally read No out of town Checks but has been altered to read No blahblahblah Chicks. Hmmmmb. Everyone you'd expect turns up here with no major no-shows.

I went to see this sequel with my usual movie pals in Mt. Vernon Illinois (northwest of McLeansboro) on opening night. I didn't care for it from early on in the picture through the ending. It just didn't have the mood of dread of the first movie, and scenes like a parakeet exploding in flames followed by the line "Parakeets just don't explode!" didn't help matters. Knowing now what I do about the movie, it's entirely possible my chock-full-o-teen-homophobia self was having a subconscious reaction. I dunno. Nobody much liked it in the group of people who went with me to see it either.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)  Everyone onscreen agrees (as I do) that Part 3 rocks, and it's really great to see all of the Dream Warriors here in the documentary again, except for Patricia Arquette, who apparently didn't have the greatest time on the picture, and started not participating by not coming back for Part 4 and finishing by being a no-show here, too. Then again, maybe she was afraid to come back, since nearly every male interviewed admits to a longing crush on the young actress at the time. (Stalker anyone?) Also missing from the interviews are Craig Wasson and Laurence Fishburne. (Once again, I'm the only one who seems to have noticed that Wasson "Wasson" here).

I saw Dream Warriors in a PACKED theater in my college town, Carbondale Illinois, in early 1987. I went by myself and was late, coming in a couple of minutes after the picture had started and finding a seat closer than I would have liked and off to the right side as Kristen's nightmare really gets going. I thought this was a fantastic sequel, with lots of imaginative dream imagery and Freddy really scary for what turned out to be the last time that decade.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master  (1988)  The best stories about this entry are how director Renny Harlin got the job. All of the major players show up for this segment, and everyone agrees this one was rushed a bit as well. But it didn't hurt the box office as this became a HUGE hit for New Line Cinema.

I was in Winter Haven, Florida when I went by myself to see Part 4, and it was watchable, but the nightmare/death scenes were not being played as spooky, just weird, and Freddy was onscreen and brightly lit a lot, so it didn't work as well for me. And like the actors who played them, I wasn't fond of the original Dream Warriors meeting their ends so quickly in this film.

Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street - The Series   Premiering in October 1988, this anthology show about the terrors lurking in Springwood was hosted by Freddy, and he also appeared in several segments as well. I was amazed at how much gore they got away with when I watched this.  I saw several episodes, but did not see them all across two seasons, as this was really starting to be Freddy overkill in my book.

 Everyone interviewed from the series agree that they had a lot of freedom to do what they wished because New Line viewed it only as a new udder on the Freddy cash cow and had no interest in it otherwise. This made the show fun for the filmmakers to work on, but the tight budgets and lack of quality control ultimately didn't make the series as much fun to watch. Still, they got two seasons out of it, and I'd enjoy sitting down with a complete series DVD set now.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child  (1989)  Released less than a year after Part 4, and right in the midst of the Freddy glut from the TV series, this series entry is considered by all to be one too many trips to the well. But it's still a good segment of the documentary, and all the main faces appear.

Because I'd reached my saturation point with Freddy, I actually skipped this in theaters. I finally caught up with it on video sometime in 1990 or 1991. I liked it about as much as I liked Part 4, which was to say, not a whole lot.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare  (1991)  The main point of this piece of the documentary is to praise Rachel Talalay, who'd been a production manager on the previous films as she took over the director's chair for what was to be the last Elm Street movie, touted even in the title. They truly believed this would be the last one, and did it up big, both on camera and off. A lot of the usual suspects are here, but it turns out several people who might have had something to say about this picture are missing from the doc: Breckin Meyer, Yaphet Kotto, Elinor Donahue, and celebrity cameo artistes Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, and that double no-show Johnny Depp again! And once again, it's cool to hear the people involved admit this didn't turn out as they had hoped.

I was lured back to see this one because I'd been there at the beginning, I wanted to see what I also believed would be the end. And it didn't hurt that the final 10 minutes were in 3-D! So I trekked to the theater in Gary Indiana (!) (it was nearest my home in Crown Point, Indiana at that time) I plunked my money down again, but as it turned out, I found this one wanting as well, and now call it Freddy's Dead for Now: The Final Misfire. I reviewed this one for the late lamented M5 newsletter, though

Wes Craven's New Nightmare  (1994)  After a few years off, Robert Shaye lured Wes Craven back with the promise of picking up the franchise and taking it anywhere he wanted. He agreed, and they were off and running. This segment has no major no-shows, and is equally as entertaining to watch as the previous pieces.

I saw the New Nightmare in Wilmington NC by myself as a part of my then job of reviewing movies for a local entertainment guide, Encore Magazine. I gave it a negative review, because although I appreciated what Craven was trying to do, I didn't think it worked all that well. However, of all the Elm Street movies, this is the one I most want to revisit to see what I think of it now.

Freddy vs Jason  (2003)  I think this one wins for most missing talking heads, as only a couple of on camera types show up to chat about the Horror Brawl for it All, though the behind the camera contingent is well represented, especially the writing staff, since this gestated for about ten years before rolling film and had a couple of dozen script drafts written. The biggest missing presence is this film's Jason, Ken Kirzinger. Weirdly, the man he replaced, four-time Jason Kane Hodder, did show up to talk about not getting the part. Maybe Ken was avoiding this turning into a "he said, he said." Dunno. Good stories about some of the other potential storylines make this piece, although I really wish someone would have spoken David Schow's name so I'd know how it is pronounced. But, (and surprisingly it took me this long!) I digress.

I love crossover movies and books and comics, so I was there on opening day for this one in High Point, NC. Although I found the script plot heavy in tying the two terror titans into the same story, and needlessly explanatory, having the characters rehash that complicated plot verbally a few too many times across the running time, I still thoroughly enjoyed this flick, which had the gore of the Ft13 films mixed with some good nightmare imagery direct from Elm Street and now enhanced by some solid CGI. Both Mr. Krueger and Mr. Voorhees get some prime moments, with Englund still terrific under the all that latex and Kirzinger fitting right in as possibly the largest Jason ever. It's a battle royale, letting each monster have a round on his home court so each gets to use his strengths while the other is at a disadvantage. Great fun all around. Interesting to me too, that the seven movies (of eight) that I saw theatrically were each in a different city across four states...I guess I've gotten around a bit...

There is a wrapup after FvJ is put to bed, with a very funny segment over the credits of each actor saying one of their signature lines. All in all, a must see for fans of the series, and probably a good choice for anyone who likes horror films or how they are made.

After the four hour main documentary there's a whole second disc in the special edition, with extended interviews (including apparently at least one cast member from one of the sequels who didn't make it into the regular movie for some reason) and several other small pieces about the series, from the knife glove, to superfans, from the musical highlights of composer Charles Bernstein (and the Nightmare theme is one of the best of all time! And Bernstein even wrote a new score for this project!) to the great poster artwork (by the same man for the first five movies. And he too provided the documentarians with brand-new poster art - seen at the top of this post!) I haven't even dug into the second disc yet, but I've heard there's at least another couple hours of worthy material here.  So in the end this fan made documentary gets my highest recommendation for those so inclined.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

It's a documentary - the guests are invited, they want to be here. So Never Sleep Again gets a pass.

Eye Candy ?

There are several attractive ladies involved in the Elm Street movies, so I'll call this one a Whitman Sampler.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says: "Never Sleep Again is well worth missing a few winks to watch."

Thanks as always, BM - Happy Thanksgiving all! And til next time, you Can Poke Me With A Fok Cause I Am Outta Here!

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