Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a four-hour documentary film that chronicles the entire Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, as well as chronicling the rise of New Line Cinema.
Co-directed by Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch, it presents the kinds of in-depth yet light-hearted gems fans care about, not the paint-by-numbers stuff your average studio-produced Blu-ray extra disc typically regurgitates. It was made by genre fans who approach it from a place of love, but more importantly by filmmakers who understand that nothing is precious and nothing is off-limits. Heather Langenkamp, who played the ultimate final girl Nancy Thompson in three of the Nightmare films, serves as executive producer and narrator.
In exploring the Elm Street saga, the film presents photographs, storyboards, conceptual art, publicity materials, archival documents, and behind-the-scenes footage that have never been previously shared. it expands on Wes Craven’s motivations in creating the first Elm Street film and exhaustively explores behind-the-scenes of the original film and all of its sequels. Through interviews, the film shares how cast and crew brought their own worst nightmares to life on screen and examines the impact the series and its mythos have had on pop culture and the horror genre in general. The documentary also explores the rise and fall of Robert Shaye’s New Line Cinema and its reputation as “The House That Freddy Built.”
Q. The name of this doc became prophetic… can you guys talk a little bit about just how ambitious putting this project together actually was?
Dan Farrands: For us, “Never Sleep Again” quickly became “Never Gonna End” once we realized just how involved this show was turning out to be. Now it’s become kind of our little film family’s inside joke but back in 2010 when we were in the thick of production, it was a pretty painful ordeal — kind of like being trapped in a nightmare that you couldn’t wake up from … with Freddy Krueger, no less! Starting out, we thought we would probably end up with a standard 90 minute or 2 hour documentary; little did we know it would turn into a 4 hour behemoth with an additional 4 hours of bonus features! Ultimately, we felt that the interviews and stories had to flow organically and that we didn’t want to simply dictate a running time. We didn’t want to skimp on the good stuff and we felt that (thanks to Andrew and Benni’s seamless editing) that there were just a lot of great stories to tell and points of view to be heard. Documentary filmmaking is incredibly difficult — in many ways I find it more difficult than features — but through the process we figured out a format that worked (and works) best for our shows. It was just really gratifying when fans were so vocal about their appreciation of our no-holds-barred approach to the material. We interviewed well over 100 people spanning all of the ANOES films and it definitely was a challenge tracking down many of them — particularly Mark Patton from “Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge.” The story of how we found him could have been its own bonus feature! That being said, everyone who sat in our “hot seat” was more than game to tell their stories — the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s one of the reasons I think “NSA” works. It doesn’t shy away from the not-always-pleasant moments, meltdowns and mayhem that went into making these movies.
Andrew Kasch: We really wanted to do a Nightmare documentary, especially after the miserable experience of His Name Was Jason, and with the remake coming out, we knew it was now or never. No one in town wanted to make one, so we said “Fuck it” and ultimately did it ourselves. When we started, we only had Heather Langenkamp and that was it. So we were literally shooting whoever we could get in our tiny studio. And it was incredibly scary because at the time, we didn’t even know if we could get Robert Englund or Wes Craven. Thanks to Dan & Thommy’s resourcefulness and our crew attacking this thing tenaciously, it gradually got bigger and bigger. Over 100 interviews later, we sat back and said “What the hell have we just done??? Is anyone gonna watch this thing???” To top it all off, we only had two-to-three months to do post production on it. To put that in perspective, most 90 minute feature documentaries take YEARS to edit. So I spent the spring locked in my room where I edited nonstop and didn’t sleep or see daylight for what felt like an eternity. By the time it was over, I was insane and practically dead. I probably looked worse than the sickest junkie at a rehab facility! We worked up against and beyond our deadline and couldn’t even see straight, so when it went out for pressing, I was absolutely terrified. It was this big, furiously slapped together 4-hour behemoth of a thing. On top of it all, we were getting blasted online by everyone because they thought it was going to be like the Jason doc. So it was a major relief when it came out and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Q. In having immersed yourselves in Freddy’s world unlike anyone else (I think you probably know more about the ANOES franchise than Wes Craven does!), what’s one of the most interesting or eye-opening things you discovered? I mean, for instance, were you able to pinpoint how and why a demonic child-molester character has become such a pop-culture icon?
DF: I’ll give full credit to Andrew and our writer/producer [Thommy Hutson] for being the real Freddy fanatics of the group. Their knowledge of the franchise was invaluable throughout the process and I was always amazed at the insights and creativity that came to us not only from our team but from our fellow fans. I am still amazed and awestruck by the work of Michael Granberry, who designed and animated the opening title sequence and our chapter interstitials in stop motion. It was like inviting fans from around the world to participate in our “little” horror documentary and it was very rewarding when we received so much support from the fan community. Personally, I was always a huge fan of the series, especially the original, “Part 3” and Wes’s New Nightmare. I think I was most fascinated by Robert’s take on the origins of Freddy — who he is, why this phantom was able to infiltrate the nightmares of the Elm Street kids, and why Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy really was the perfect foil for him. The ANOES films are incredibly inventive, entertaining and intelligent on many levels. Not only do they work as horror films but they can also be examined on a much more psychological and societal level which I think is part of the reason the films have stood the test of time.
AK: Charting the super stardom of a character who is basically a pedophile serial killer was still the weirdest and most fun thing to do and to this day, I don’t think anyone can fully comprehend how it happened. Beyond the box office bucks, I think it has a lot to do with Robert Englund’s charisma. Pop culture is so bizarre. It takes on a life of its own and mutates into strange things. There’s a part in our doc that dives full force into just how overboard it went – to the point where Robert saw his face on bottles of valium in Russia. And it’s only gotten stranger since then. Today, they’re talking about a Hunger Games theme park! This is a franchise about an evil dictatorship that oppresses the people and forces their children to kill each other – and they want to turn it into the next big family tourist destination! It’s like opening a Salo themed restaurant. People do the weirdest shit when they capitalize on things and I find that endlessly fascinating.
Q. What’s one of the coolest artifacts you uncover in the doc and as fans, what’s your own personal favorite find?
AK: Every day was a geeky adventure and it felt like we were the temporary custodians of some Freddy museum. We found a treasure trove of cool shit, but my favorite find was getting to read the original Skipp & Spector draft of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. I loved their 80’s splatterpunk novels and had been wondering for years what their version was like. And it’s pretty damn fantastic stuff. It had real characters, themes and set-pieces that perfectly extended the Dream Warriors story into interesting, dark places. Even if New Line had stuck to that first draft, it would have been a hundred times better than what they ended up making. I still would love to see that script adapted into a graphic novel kinda like they did with Frank Miller’s Robocop sequels.
DF: This is a very difficult one to answer as there were truly so many interesting discoveries that we made along the way. I think the most surprising one to me was the nearly shot-by-shot Bollywood remake of the original ANOES It literally and unapologetically ripped off Wes’s movie, and I think it may have even liberally “borrowed” Charles Bernstein’s score. I guess copyright doesn’t mean much in India but it was also interesting and sort of amusing to see how they tried (horribly) to re-create scenes such as Tina appearing in the body bag at the high school. I also loved meeting with a fan who brought his huge collection of screen-used props, costumes and Freddy gloves out to California where David Miller examined and authenticated them — he has one of the actual (and very rare) “hero” gloves used in the original film. It was also really fun looking through the scrapbooks containing hundreds of candid photos taken by cast and crew. These aren’t the things you’d find in any of the studio vaults. These were the personal memories of the people who actually made the movies allowing us access to their private keepsakes. To me you can’t get any better than that!
Q. Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and Wes Craven have all talked about ANOES so many times. What are some of the ways you got them to think outside the box for your definitive doc, and were they pretty cooperative? Was there anyone who was hard to get?
AK: We really made it a point to tell each person being interviewed “We’re not a studio. Be honest and tell the truth.” I was paranoid about this being a puff piece so we really pushed that angle hard. Sometimes a little too hard. I remember Dan and I bombarded our Elm Street 2 interviewees so hard about the gay subtext that some would say “You know, there’s other stuff in the movie to talk about too.” And we were like “NO! You have some serious explaining to do!” Some people were very forthcoming about the difficulties and others were very green about everything. But the passage of time always helps people open up more, which is why you can be more honest when you do a retrospective.
DF: Heather was part of the project from the get-go (as both narrator and executive producer). What I loved about her interview, though, was that she really shared some great insights into the character of Nancy Thompson. She articulated this much better than I can, but Nancy was a true warrior (even down to the pajamas she wore during her final confrontation with Freddy; Heather considered this costume her “battle armor” and she even kept the pajamas all these years and showed them on camera). Wes Craven is such an intelligent man and a consummate filmmaker that it was just sheer geek delight hearing him recount the origins of his script and the character of Freddy (who was named after a childhood bully). We really wanted to delve into the psychological aspects of the films, including the sequels which of course grew increasingly hit or miss as Freddy became less of an object of fear and more of a circus sideshow act.
Of course we would have loved to have had Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette and a number of others, but in the end they are well-represented in the documentary and it’s fascinating to hear what their co-stars remembered about them in the earliest days of their careers. As I said, everyone we interviewed really went for it in terms of being incredibly open and candid with the stories they told and we tried to inform our documentary with insightful behind the scenes moments and explanations of the memorable effects and set-pieces we really wanted to examine the films themselves and the reasons behind the ANOES series’ enduring legacy.
Q. The DVD has been out, and it’s gotten some fantastic response from existing devotees as well as wowed casual fans and won over some new ones – so what can you say about the Blu-ray?
DF: Like Freddy himself, it seems like “NSA” is going to live on (and on). The show itself hasn’t changed — but really, who doesn’t want to see outtakes of Johnny Depp swallowed up and spit out of a bed in glorious HD?
AK: Ask any filmmaker – not having your stuff available in HD is like hearing your band on a bootleg cassette tape. I personally can’t stand to look at the DVD because of all the compression on the image. Now you can see every one of our no-budget imperfections in perfect clarity! But in all seriousness, it feels great to finally have it on Blu where it always belonged.
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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?
Starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, Larry Fessenden
Directed by Robert Mockler
While Like Me is not dystopian in the classic science-fiction sense, it does aptly put the downer vibe across. If the present is abysmal, then the future is downright hopeless. We learn this as we follow an unhinged teenage loner called Kiya (Addison Timlin) on a hollow crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. At first the world “likes” her—with the exception of YouTube rival Burt (Ian Nelson), who disdainfully denounces her viral videos—but pride goes before the fall, and Kiya’s descent is spectacular.
If you’ve peeped the trailer for Like Me, then you’re probably expecting a horror movie. I mean, they’ve got the requisite menacing masked baddie and they’ve got genre icon Larry Fessenden in a major role—those are a couple of the key ingredients, right? Yes they are, but this simmering, shimmering stew of Natural Born Killers, Excision and King Kelly, it boils down to a whole lotta nothing. Like Me is sort of a drama, kind of a road trip flick, and almost a thriller. It succeeds at none yet does stand on its own as a compelling collection of cool visuals and pertinent performances. But is that enough?
While Kiya is a compelling character on the surface, there’s barebones beneath. Sure, she’s a Millennial mind-fed on random online clips and snappy soundbites—but what turned her into a psychopath? Was she born that way? Is social media to blame? We’ll never know, because not a hint is given. I don’t mind ambiguity, but even a morsel would have been welcome in this case. As Kiya ramps up her reckless exhibitionistic extremes, the stakes are never raised. In the end, who cares? Maybe that’s the point.
A word of warning: If you plan on watching this movie while chomping snacks…don’t. There is stomach-turning scene after vomit-inducing scene of orgiastic easting, binging, and the inevitable purging. I’m sure it’s all metaphorical mastication, a cutting comment on disposable consumption. I get it. But I don’t wanna look at it, again and again and again. Having said that, Like Me is an experimental film and in its presentation of such grotesquery, it’s quite accomplished. Montages, split-screens and jittered motions are scattered throughout, showing us all sorts of unpleasant things…Kudos to the editor.
I didn’t hate Like Me. But I do think one has to be in the mood for a movie such as this. It’s not an easy or entertaining watch, but it is a peculiar and thought-provoking one. There’s some style and mastery behind the camera, and I am curious to see what first-time writer-director Rob Mockler comes up with next.
Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can
It is no secret we’re BIG fans of Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line here at DC HQ, and now they’ve announced a new series that has made our hearts just about burst… read on for a look at Pop! Movies: Jurassic Park, heading our way in February. The regular figures are awesome on their own, but wait until you see the exclusives!
From the Funko Blog:
Jurassic Park fans, get excited! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic film’s appearance on the silver screen, Jurassic Park is coming to Pop!
This series of Pop! features paleontologist Dr. Grant, Jurassic Park CEO John Hammond, mathematician Dr. Malcolm, and embryo-smuggler Dennis Nedry. (Keep an eye out for Dr. Ellie Sattler in Pop! Rides coming soon.)
We couldn’t forget the Jurassic Park dinosaurs! Featured in this line are the great T. rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophsaurus. Look for the Dilophosaurus chase, a rarity of 1-in-6.
Be on the lookout for exclusives. At Target you can find a wounded Dr. Malcolm, and the Dennis Nedry and Dilophosaurus 2-pack is available only at Entertainment Earth.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?
Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
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