Horror maven Wes Craven died today, age 76, from his battle with brain cancer. Normally I don’t post things like this but I think we all know how influential NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has been in my life (I’ve only mentioned it a time or two…). It’s my favorite horror series; I own 2 documentaries about it (if there are more, PLEASE let me know because I need them!); have a sweet NOES shirt that I was gifted a couple of years ago; used to fall asleep to the theme song that I would play on repeat on my phone (what? It was soothing!) and had my proudest “parent” moment ever just the other day when my ex-bf’s kid sent me a story to read that he’d written for Creepypasta that had a Krueger homage in it. *wipes away happy tears* I am proud of the horror education I instilled in my kiddo.
The first SCREAM also made an impact on me as I was 16 when it came out (yes, I’m old, I know) and it was one of my first horror movies. It was so irreverent, so scary (at the time) and so fun. It made me realize movies didn’t have to come in a pre-packaged form and be like all the rest. Important knowledge for a girl who was nothing like anyone else in her small Southern town or her family.
And Mr. Craven knew that change was good such as when he wrote and directed this bit from one of my favorite films, PARIS JE T’AIME:
So goodbye, Wes Craven, and THANK YOU for all the nightmares.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy concludes the Nightmare on Elm Street series (that should’ve been done by Halloween, damn you Frankenstorm!! *shakes fist at the skies*). I’ve pondered long and hard over just how to review this one as 1) it’s a documentary and 2) it clocks in at four hours. Obviously, bullet points wasn’t going to cut it for four hours (my gosh, can you imagine??) and with so much information it’s hard to know what to say about it. So…
That said, I love this documentary, it’s one of my favorite ones ever (and I watch A LOT of documentaries). And that said, unless you really dig Nightmare on Elm Street or are just highly interested in the movie making process of one of the greatest horror franchises of all times, you probably won’t enjoy this. What Never Sleep Again does is start with the original Nightmare and continues on with behind the scenes and cast and crew interviews all the way up through the rest of the series. It’s also the story of how New Line rose to fame.
It’s fascinating and it covers everything from how they did that totally sweet kill scene of Tina in the original Nightmare (they built a rotating room, just fyi, which I find so f’ing cool – I love old school effects!) to the homosexual undertones in Nightmare 2. The film also presents photographs, storyboards, conceptual art, publicity materials, archival documents, and behind-the-scenes footage that have never been previously shared. Never Sleep Again expands on Wes Craven’s motivations in creating the first Elm Street film. It also 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”.(wikipedia.org).
And really that’s all I can say. This film is a plethora of information and if it’s an insider’s look you want to have this film is the film for you.
I have to admit to being vaguely disappointed in I am Nancy mostly because it wasn’t anything at all like I was expecting and I didn’t really receive any insight into Heather Langenkamp (other than she’s either great at making fun of herself or she’s a seriously whiny and maudlin person, it’s so hard to tell at times but this whole thing is supposed to be “tongue in cheek” so I’m leaning toward the making fun of herself). This is the documentary that Heather made that focuses on her experience playing Wes Craven’s legendary teen heroine, Nancy.
IS IT FUN?
Oh hell, yes. There are references from pop culture to crazed fans at conventions who at times do some strange things to Heather wondering if anyone would ever get a Nancy tattoo instead of a Freddy one….it’s super fun. There’s also a SONG – a theme song called “I am Nancy” – that alone is worth it!
IS IT INSIGHTFUL?
Not really. I mean you learn a lot of cool random facts (Wes Craven’s daughter chose Johnny Depp and Nancy was created based off something she once said). And I discovered that Robert Englund is apparently the nicest guy on the face of the planet, seriously, dude seems hella kickawesome! There’s also an interview with Wes Craven (extended interviews with Craven and Englund can be found in the special features). But overall, I didn’t learn anything really about Heather which is what I went into this wanting to know (since she made the thing and all). If you’re not a hardcore fan, there’s really nothing here for you.
I think by now, my love for all things A Nightmare on Elm Street has been fairly well documented here. I love it so much, in fact, that I received this for my birthday:
So I want to start Halloween month off here (a little late but better than never) with the entire run of “Nightmare” including the documentaries “Never Sleep Again” and “I am Nancy”.
First the backstory of me: Nightmare was one of the first ever horror movies I watched. IN COLLEGE. Funnily enough, I didn’t start watching scary movies until college because I was banned early on from anything remotely scary after a bad experience around the age of 7 that was a result of watching The Monster Squad(I stayed up all night waiting for Dracula to come and get me, ergo my parents were also up all night and none too happy about it). My next scary movie would be Carrie at my 16th birthday party and then after that it was fairly horror free until college were I was strongly corrupted my freshman year by The Exorcist, Halloween, The Evil Dead (my friend, Brad, had to come spend the night with me the night I watched that one…) and finally someone introduced me to Freddy Krueger and I watched the majority of the films one after the other and found my movie monster love.
Maybe I loved it so much because I can relate. I’ve had horrific nightmares the majority of life. Really f*cked up shit. Or maybe it’s because it was (loosely) based off a true story. I actually don’t know the reasons, all I know is that the Nightmare series is by far my favorite horror series of all time.
I’m guessing everybody’s seen this one by now (and if you haven’t, why the hell not??) so I’ll skip the synopsis but suffice it to say – you sleep, Freddy gets you. And everybody’s gotta sleep sometime right?
The basis for the film was actually a series of articles in the LA Times in the 70s about a group of Khmer refugees who were suffering nightmares and all refused to sleep. Some of them eventually ended up dying in their sleep soon after. It was attributed to Asian Death Syndrome which affects men between the ages of 19 and 57. The final nails in the coffin were “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright and (supposedly) Craven’s studies on Eastern religions.
Freddy himself was based off an incident that occurred when Craven was a child where he was startled by a random man on the street and originally Freddy was supposed to be a child molester (they brought this back into play for the remake) but was changed to child murderer so as not to be accused of sensationalizing a particular trial that was happening at the time.
The first and original Nightmare was and still is terrifying. The idea of a monster who kills you while you sleep gets to the heart of terror – the unavoidable. You can get by with no sleep for maybe two days tops but after that it’s unavoidable or you’ll die anyway, not to mention the fact that it can literally make you go insane. Remember Fight Club? Which actually raises the question – if you don’t take Nightmare literally can it instead be taken as a tale of group psychosis related to the onset of hallucinations due to lack of sleep? It’s certainly plausible (although entirely less fun) to think that really our gang hallucinated Freddy and his shenanigans and instead began killing themselves and/or each other in a insomnia induced daze that could perhaps have been caused by nightmares they’d had as a result of learning about their parents having killed a man years ago.
And that’s another thing I love about Nightmare. There are layers. Easily missed on a first, second or third viewing but more easily seen in the 800th viewing. What you’ve got here is a film that can be taken in more ways than one with a villain who loves to be a villain. And what could be better than that?