Monday, May 10, 2010

One, Two, This DVD's Coming For You

Never let it be said that NEVER SLEEP AGAIN doesn’t take its subject seriously. The makers of HIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13TH tackle the 1980s second most popular horror franchise in this exhaustive four-hour (!) documentary that sits down with virtually every performer, every cinematographer, every composer, hell, seemingly every studio grip that ever swept a floor during the shooting of a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie. The only obvious absences from NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY are big-shot actors Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette (MEDIUM).

Learn that David Warner was originally cast as Freddy Krueger, the rotating bedroom where Amanda Wyss is killed was later used in BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, Heather Langenkamp’s boyfriend wrote the notorious Freddy nursery rhyme, FRIDAY THE 13TH director Sean Cunningham directed a few shots, and John Saxon gave director Wes Craven a choice of toupees for him to wear. And those are just tidbits from the original film. NEVER SLEEP AGAIN covers all eight NIGHTMAREs and the ill-fated FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES TV series.

One especially comes away with a great appreciation for the practical makeup and special effects artists who brought Freddy’s bizarre nightmares to life. Most of the NIGHTMAREs were filmed on low budgets and truncated schedules; in the case of NIGHTMARE 5, directed by Stephen Hopkins (GHOST IN THE DARKNESS), it was less than six months from the time Hopkins was hired to the release date. Unlike the equally popular FRIDAY THE 13TH series, which mostly ran concurrently with the NIGHTMARE movies, the New Line Cinema pictures were packed with unusual imagery and fantasy sequences that demanded a lot of special effects that were often created live on the set or using timely stop-motion animation.

Langenkamp, who starred in three movies, narrates. Delightful stop-motion intros to each segment and the film itself add to the pleasure of watching NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, which zips by a lot faster than you may expect a four-hour film to. Reunited cast members use the closing crawl to re-enact lines they spoke in the movies, which has to be a real kick for NIGHTMARE fans.

Once you finish the feature, you can move on to the set’s second disc for almost four hours of illuminating extras, including longer interviews with all the talking heads from the documentary. NEVER SLEEP AGAIN should be praised for its occasional candor, but some super-dishy material comes up in the interviews, including the actors’ remembrances of an affair that may or may not have occurred between actress Tuesday Knight and director Renny Harlin on NIGHTMARE 4. The 2010 remake isn’t mentioned in the feature, but it comes up in the extra interviews, mainly in a derogatory context.

Other extras include clips from Langenkamp’s documentary about NIGHTMARE fandom, I AM NANCY; featurettes on Freddy’s glove, the film’s rabid fanbase, the original NIGHTMARE locations, the lame NIGHTMARE video game, the Freddy comic books and tie-in novels, the films’ composers, and the poster art; a ten-minute montage of actors reciting their characters’ dialogue (some of this is seen in the feature’s closing crawl); and a trailer for the documentary.

Obviously, this is an essential disc for “Fred Heads,” as well as horror fans or anyone else curious about the making of one of the genre’s most lucrative franchises.

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