Plot: In the realm of horror cinema, few villains or monsters have enjoyed as much success as Freddy Krueger, with his razor sharp blades and film franchise that reeled in generation after generation of horror fans. In Never Sleep Again, the entire run of the original A Nightmare on Elm films is explored, from the original through all of the sequels and even his epic clash with fellow genre icon Jason. The installments are each given some attention and numerous cast and crew members return, to shed on each movie and the franchise as a whole.
Entertainment Value: If you’re a fan of the Elm Street movies or horror cinema in general, this four hour documentary is like a dream come true, an examination of an entire franchise in one fell swoop. As I said above, this piece covers the original run of Elm Street flicks and the television series, so there’s much ground covered and the movies are each given a good amount of attention. Of course even with a four hour duration, some movies are given more time than others, but perhaps there just wasn’t as much material on some of the films. A host of first hand accounts populate this piece, which is excellent news, as these are the men and women who made the series and their perspectives are invaluable. Heather Langenkamp serves as the main voice, but a lot of talent returns to share their memories, such as Wes Craven, Clu Gulager, Renny Harlin, Bob Shaye, numerous special effects artists, and other cast and crew members, with Robert Englund at the center of a lot of the material. Some big omissions are evident of course, but I think the collection of interviewed talent is impressive and covers the breadth of the entire franchise.
While the interviews yield a number of fun stories and anecdotes, most come off as typical promotional style conversations. A little fun is poked at some of the less successful moments or sequels, but no one goes beyond a gentle rib and there’s no depth as to what went wrong. So the vibe is positive and brisk, but there’s no real exploration going on here, just memories and stories, which are fun to listen to, but I would have loved more candid, less gladhanding interviews as well. Even Craven seems to hold back when he talks about how his vision was altered over time, despite his obvious and deep distaste for the direction of the franchise. In the end, while extensive and super fun, the interviews are a mile wide and an inch deep. But the behind the scenes footage helps compensate for that, with some great on the set moments and even some deleted scenes and effects tests. So when you combine all of these elements together, it creates a fun, engaging look back at one of horror’s most iconic franchises. I wish it was less “it was great to work with…” and a little more in depth with the interviews, but otherwise Never Sleep Again is a terrific piece.