Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (DVD)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy on DVD (click for larger image)Reviewed by MattFini

Starring Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and about one hundred more

Directed by Dan Farrands and Andrew Kasch

Distributed by CAV Distributing Corp

Hard to believe it’s been three decades since 1980 and that rampant Freddy mania was over twenty years ago. In the late 80s New Line Cinema was happy to meet the ravenous fan demand with a long string of sequels to Wes Craven’s 1984 watershed classic while imbuing Mr. Krueger with a simultaneously cheapo anthology show. Meanwhile, the world’s favorite child killer had manifested himself in a wide array of merchandise, ranging from children’s pajamas to plush dolls and even Nike sneakers! Freddy Krueger truly did conquer the world back then, and I wouldn’t have believed it had I not lived through it myself.

And while the 1980s suffered no shortage of popular screen psychopaths, it was Freddy who broke into the mainstream to become a recognizable cultural phenomenon. It is perhaps fitting, then, that he becomes the subject of the most expansive franchise documentary ever produced. Freddy may not have been my favorite cinematic madman, but there’s no denying that Never Sleep Again – The Elm Street Legacy tackles the material with the breadth and enthusiasm appropriate for the only boogeyman with seemingly universal appeal – and rightfully so.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy on DVD (click for larger image)Until now, the biggest problem with documentaries of this ilk is that participant screen time has been sorely limited. Last year’s His Name Was Jason, for example, went through the trouble of finding many lesser-known participants in that series only to reduce their contributions to that of a glorified sound bite. The creative team behind Never Sleep Again are acutely aware of these frustrations, however, and sidestep the folly by diving head-first into the Elm Street franchise. They refuse to simply explore these films in marginal detail, choosing instead to revel in every last gory facet.

It was the right move, and because of it Never Sleep Again pays off in spades. Clocking in with an impressive four-hour runtime, the most shocking aspect is how easily it can be consumed in one sitting. Assembling a documentary of this depth couldn’t have been an easy task, but the segments unfold in a manner that is informative, honest, hilarious and always entertaining. Pieces on the weaker installments of the series happen to be more enjoyable than those movies themselves (Freddy vs. Jason, for example) – mainly because the filmmakers have obtained a surprising amount of candidness from their interviewees, resulting in reflections that are consistently fascinating.

Unsurprisingly, Wes Craven’s original film is given the most amount of screen time, resulting in a forty-five-minute retrospective of the 1984 classic. Considering that the origins of A Nightmare on Elm Street have been documented through previous DVD extras and past retrospectives, it’s amazing that directors Dan Farrands and Andrew Kasch were able to assemble a segment rife with information that wasn’t common knowledge -- most interestingly that David Warner (The Omen) was tapped to play Freddy at one time. What a different flick it would’ve been...

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy on DVD (click for larger image)It’s honest, too. Fans (and detractors) will be delighted by the Freddy’s Revenge chapter, in which Craven weighs in on what a terrible idea he felt a sequel was, and Bob Shaye admits it started out as nothing more than a desperate cash grab. Of course the cast and crew of Part 2 are on hand to deliver the most in-depth and enjoyable dissection of the film’s rampant homosexual themes, and it doesn’t disappoint. But there’s dirt dished on nearly every installment: Tensions flared with Chuck Russell while shooting Nightmare 3, the well-documented mess of Nightmare 4’s production is explored in further detail, while nobody is under any illusion that Freddy’s Dead was anything but a misfire.

What’s great, though, is that while the lesser films are evaluated with honesty, they’re never disrespected. Each one of these films has its fans, and that credo is never abandoned for an effortless joke, no matter how easy it may be to take a few cheap shots at The Dream Child (a sequel I’ve come to love, for the record). It illustrates the amount of respect that the filmmakers have approached the material with, proving that there was no better team to tackle this. This Nightmare documentary was made by fans, for fans. And it shows every step of the way.

One of the best things is how gung ho everyone is to reminisce about Freddy. It’s true that there are some glaring omissions along the way concerning some cast members, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. And the majority of actors, writers, directors and make-up maestros are on hand to reflect on their experiences, almost all of whom do so with so much infectious affinity that I wish I loved every Elm Street movie equally. Hearing what Renny Harlin was aiming for, for example, while making The Dream Master made me want to re-evaluate Part 4 in a different light.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy on DVD (click for larger image)While watching NSA, one gets the impression that everyone (including New Line CEO Bob Shaye) tried to make a good Freddy movie each time out. Shaye’s reputation is that of a shrewd businessman, but it’s also clear that the fans were always in mind when making each sequel, even if he was diligently chasing the almighty dollar at the same time. Over the course of the movie, we come to see how much Freddy has come to mean to guys like Shaye, Craven and Robert Englund, but also to the actors and creators of each movie who seem delighted to be part of an enduring legacy. The sentiment gives NSA an emotional weight that is not often found in films such as this, and that makes it stand out among its peers.

And once you’ve reached the other side of the documentary, there’s still an expansive trove of special features to feast your eyes upon. You get two additional hours of interviews that are spaced out by movie, and there’s plenty of great information to be mined from these deleted bits. Then there’s a fifteen-minute featurette on Elm Street’s expanded universe in novels and comic books. Since I actually owned a few of the older Nightmare comics as a kid, it was a blast to watch this piece, which also delves into how these authors came up with different approaches to Freddy.

But my favorite bit is the extensive look at the absolutely GORGEOUS poster art from the series. As a huge geek for original artwork, I couldn’t have been happier with this inclusion, and it’s wonderful to see these masterpieces get their due. By that token, there’s a look at the scores and music of each film (with more Dokken, hell yeah!) that is so good that my only complaint is that it wasn’t longer. We also get the Angry Video Game Nerd’s review of the Nightmare NES game. I’m a fan of the Nerd so I was more than happy to see this well produced little video included in the package.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy on DVD (click for larger image)For the Love of the Glove is a look at the most fanatical “Fredheads” out there, and a sneak peak at Heather Langenkamp’s own documentary, I Am Nancy, looks like it could very well be a worthy companion piece to NSA. Finally, we have Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes, which is a cute little bit of the actors reciting some of their popular lines from the movie. Not a terribly important little feature, but it’s fun to see. There’s also an Easter Egg of Charles Fleischer ranting, raving and rapping like a lunatic. Well worth digging for, if only to reaffirm you own sanity!

In the end, Never Sleep Again – The Elm Street Legacy isn’t just a tribute to an enduring and innovative series of horror films, it’s also a beautiful gift to the fans. Not just another documentary, it’s now the definitive one by which all other movie documentaries will be judged. The original Nightmare franchise has, unfortunately, given way to a horrendous remake that might herald the start of a new series, but that’s not mentioned anywhere here (except for where it is rightfully slammed by Craven and Shaye on Disc Two). Instead, this documentary feels a lot like the ultimate conclusion to the original series. It’s a real testament to the crew behind this sucker, some of which are Dread Central staff, and as a fan my hat goes off to them for giving the bastard son of a hundred maniacs the proper sendoff he was originally cheated out of. This was a long time coming but well worth the wait.

Special Features

  • Extended Interviews
  • First Look: Heather Langenkamp's I Am Nancy
  • For the Love of the Glove featurette
  • Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans featurette
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Return To Elm Street featurette
  • Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd featurette
  • Expanding the Elm Street Universe: Freddy in Comic Books & Novels featurette
  • The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers & Songwriters featurette
  • Elm Street's Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak featurette
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street in 10 Minutes featurette
  • Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Teaser Trailer


    5 out of 5

    Special Features

    5 out of 5

    Discuss Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy in our forums!

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    LifeMi's picture

    Question on Never Sleep Again; according to, there's a collector's edition of NSA coming out on October 5th. What's the difference between that DVD and the one that's already out, if any?

    Submitted by LifeMi on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 10:25am.
    Terminal's picture

    I'm assuming the collector's edition is the two disc with the poster and extras, but I'm not entirely sure.
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 9:45pm.
    LifeMi's picture

    I was under the impression the one's that currently available is the two-disc one. I wouldn't know, since I've yet to see it in a single store.

    Submitted by LifeMi on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 10:26pm.
    Terminal's picture

    I don't know. There's a good chance I'm wrong. Either way, I'm delighted with the copy I have now.
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 2:17am.
    moderator The Collectors Edition has a
    Steve Barton's picture

    The Collectors Edition has a new foil cover and a commentary. Glad to hear you liked it Terminal. Means a lot.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 2:30am.
    Terminal's picture

    I haven't posted my review yet, but it will be a raver.
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 8:39pm.
    LifeMi's picture

    Thanks for the information, Uncle Creepy. Apologies for not having gotten around to watching it yet; will soon.

    Submitted by LifeMi on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 11:56am.
    Terminal's picture

    "Never Sleep Again" really reminded me how much I despised the NOES remake. Because all of the imagination that went in to every movie of the original series was not used at all for the remake. Kudos, this was excellent. I'm sad I took so long to watch it.
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 12:38am.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    Can you spell 'Conflict of Interest'?

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Wed, 05/26/2010 - 11:32pm.
    moderator We talked about it, but how
    Steve Barton's picture

    We talked about it, but how could we, one of the biggest horror sites on the net, not have a review of this?

    That's why we waited until weeks after release to get our review up and had someone who had nothing to do with the project write it.

    See it for yourself and be the judge. To our relief the doc has been pretty much universally well received. We are really thankful for all the kind things said about it.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 1:58am.

    I would never doubt that this is an honest and fair review, but I could also never see it getting less than 5 stars. Not because it is a review of a film produced by several members associated with this website, but because (from what I have seen of it) it looks so damn good!

    Please consider the environment before printing this message...

    Submitted by PelusaMG on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 11:56am.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    I don't doubt the quality of the film. But some of your staff are directly involved with this movie so by rights you shouldn't review it. Especially since there's no disclaimer or a single word in the review disclosing that several of the major production crew of the film are long-time staff members of Dread Central.

    I love DC above all other horror sites but this issue is day-one in any journalism class. If the site is personally involved in these projects you simply can't give an objective review. If you let that slip you're no better than Harry Knowles bleating "Waaahhh, me want pwesents!!!" (actual quote, folks) to the studios.

    Just my two cents on the issue. I'm thrilled that Andrew and Buz seem to have made an outstanding film after being ham-strung on HIS NAME WAS JASON.

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 4:12am.
    Sirand's picture

    I too was concerned at DC doing a review because of the connection, but Matt is also a no-bullshitter who has no ties to the production. I would've been equally wary of a perfect score were it not the general consensus from all the other major horror sites.

    Rest assured, even if his review had been negative, DC would've still published it (kinda like how Bloody Disgusting slammed one of their own staff member's flicks).

    Submitted by Sirand on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 12:18pm.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    None of that matters. Whether it's THE EXORCIST or BIRDEMIC, the quality of the film in question or the integrity of the person reviewing it is totally irrelevant in this instance.

    Someone who has never been here before may have followed a link to this review, read it and purchased the film. Don't you think they have a right to know beforehand that the site has strong ties to the production? If not then you have failed the first tenet of journalism, which is full disclosure when there's the possibility of a conflict of interest.

    I would also site SHARK SWARM and even Creepy's role in SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD as other examples where a disclaimer was required in the reviews, but wasn't there.

    It's easy to blow it all off and say "It's just a DVD review. Chill out, dude..." But where does it end? I just expect better from Dread Central, that's all.

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 12:47pm.
    moderator And in the interest of full
    Steve Barton's picture

    And in the interest of full disclosure I added a line to Matt's review stating that some DC staffers worked on the doc. We're not trying to hide the fact at all.

    Let's just hope people don't read that and then decide to discount everything that was said.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 2:41pm.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    'Let's just hope people don't read that and then decide to discount everything that was said.'

    Well, thankfully that's now our decision to make.

    Much appreciated, Steve. You big, cuddly hunk of man, you...

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 11:47pm.
    moderator It's no secret that I'm in
    Steve Barton's picture

    It's no secret that I'm in Survival, but again, its for forty seconds if that. That's hardly anything to judge a movie on. And again, I would never write a review for the movie because of my involvement even though it was slight.

    As for Shark Swarm, David Rosiak was on staff for less than two weeks. We can't help it if Buz liked the movie.

    Here's the long and short of it. All of us, one way or the other work within the industry, and are pretty much good friends with everyone in the genre. Same thing goes for all the genre sites. We're always honest with filmmakers about their movies and if we didn't cover anything we didn't have some sort of ties to or relationships with there wouldn't be a whole hell of a lot to read here.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 1:43pm.
    Cash Bailey's picture

    Okay, we all know that it's only the internet. We're all horror geeks together and we're sticking it to the man, etc...

    But I don't see why Dread Central shouldn't be subjected to the same standards of journalistic integrity as ANY media source. Be it NBC, Fox News (don't laugh) or any of those chumps.

    I intended this more as a friendly reminder to a site I really like, rather than an outright criticism.

    I'd hate to think that Dread Central would lose credibility due to a few unfortunate oversights. And that's all I'll say for now on the subject.

    Rock on, DC. You're still easily the best horror news and reviews site on ta' interwebs.

    Submitted by Cash Bailey on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 11:45pm.
    moderator Thanks Cash. Much
    Steve Barton's picture

    Thanks Cash. Much appreciated.

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Fri, 05/28/2010 - 2:06am.
    Terminal's picture

    Nice to see even fans taking their favorite horror haunts to task.

    Meanwhile I'll be seeing this tomorrow and you'll get my full report. Report meaning a one line comment on here. Adios!
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 11:50pm.
    Terminal's picture

    *chortling* Um... yeah, a buddy of mine bought this and lent it to me, so I intend on watching it very soon. People unattached to production say good things about it. NOES series is not my fav series but I'm fascinated by the production. Maybe I'll buy it if it's good enough.
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 2:13am.
    moderator Cool. Good or bad, please
    Steve Barton's picture

    Cool. Good or bad, please let us know what you think. If we can please you, I think we may actually have done something right! LOL

    Submitted by Steve Barton on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 2:46am.
    FireRam's picture

    Huh? What? (Shakes Head). Um, what have you done with the real Terminal? Seriously? A disclosure of this magnitude,of gigantic proportions,and that's it? No rant? No opinion? Dude.................are you on prescription drugs? Vacation? Wow.............I'm........I'm...........speechless.

    Abashed the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is.

    Submitted by FireRam on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 10:43am.
    Terminal's picture

    Hahaha, FireRam, I'm still me, still the outspoken SOB, but Cash Bailey is doing and saying everything I have on my mind. At this point I'd just be his echo and at the moment I have some things I'm busy with that don't allow me time to rant about a topic even the staff are aware is questionable. Besides I stopped expecting credibility from mega news sites a long time ago.

    CHUD, AICN, Joblo, DC, Shock Til You Drop, Cinematical, et al. All fun sites, but I take their reviews with an immense grain of salt. Believing the credibility of their reviews is like hearing Chris Tucker may be in the next Indiana Jones. It's me thinking "Right... I'll believe it when I see it," and even then it's highly suspect.
    "We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life."

    Submitted by Terminal on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 6:07pm.
    Vanvance1's picture

    The review really sells this one.

    I'm looking forward to watching it.

    I've always loved number 3.

    Submitted by Vanvance1 on Wed, 05/26/2010 - 3:38am.
    LifeMi's picture

    Stellar review, man. Looking forward to buying this one next time I get a chance.

    Submitted by LifeMi on Tue, 05/25/2010 - 11:16pm.

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