43. Never Sleep Again (2010)

Directors: Daniel Farrands & Andrew Kasch

Narrated by: Heather Langenkamp

Featuring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Robert Shaye, John Saxon, Lisa Wilcox, Clu Gulager, Mark Patton, Alice Cooper, Tuesday Knight, Monica Keena, Jack Sholder, Chuck Russell, Renny Harlin, Ronny Yu, Kane Hodder, and many others.

As I was born in the early 1980s, I managed to miss out on the craze surrounding the slasher genre during that decade. Indeed, never have these types of movies been as popular on a worldwide scale as they were at that time. Two franchises were at the front of this parade: Paramount Pictures’ “Friday the 13th” and New Line Cinema’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” But the manner in which these two studios handled the attention generated by the monsters they’d created was very different. While Paramount never seemed particularly proud of “Friday the 13th,” New Line Cinema truly wore the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise like a badge of honor, and with good reason.

“Never Sleep Again” tells of how New Line Cinema, which began as a simple film distribution company, bet the farm on a slasher movie about a child murderer who, after being killed by the angry parents of the community, is able to go after their children through their dreams. When “A Nightmare on Elm Street” exceeded expectations it would go on to spawn seven sequels, most of which also did better financially than anyone involved could have hoped for, as well as a short-lived TV series. The documentary is never one-sided; production shortcomings and bad experiences with certain fellow cast & crew are quite willingly pointed out on a number of occasions. This only serves to add to the overall interest. Almost everyone involved is accounted for. Notable exceptions are actors Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette and Breckin Meyer, although each is talked about with affection and fond memories.

The most intriguing parts of the documentary are about the projects that DIDN’T turn out as well as everyone would have liked. For “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” the one known to “Elm Street” fans as the gay “Nightmare,” much is made of the homosexual overtones and how (apparently) almost no one involved aside from screenwriter David Chaskin and openly gay lead actor Mark Patton realized what kind of movie they were making. For “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” some of the plot inconsistencies are blamed on the Writer’s strike that was going on at the time. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child” being a total bore is tied to the fact that it was both rushed into production and edited unmercifully by the MPAA. “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare,” despite being a bad movie, has a number of interesting personal stories tied to it, among which includes the fact that one early script draft was submitted by a then much lesser known New Zealander named Peter Jackson, which opened the door for his return to New Line Cinema less than a decade later to helm another certain film franchise.

The impact that the film series had on the lives and careers of many involved is undeniable. Actors Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette are known around the world today, but were just getting started when they were called up for the first and third “Nightmare” films, respectively. Frank Darabont, now known for directing “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” as well as developing “The Walking Dead” TV series, was a struggling screenwriter when he was tapped to help out on the script for “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” Finnish-born director Renny Harlin might have had to find another line of work in order to make a living had he not convinced executive producer Robert Shaye that he was the man to direct “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.” Even the TV series “Freddy’s Nightmares” helped pave the way for HBO’s extremely popular “Tales from the Crypt.” New Line Cinema itself would have faded away a long time ago, and certainly would never have had the chance to produce the popular “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, had it not first become known as “The House that Freddy Built.”

Although I concede that “Never Sleep Again” is best enjoyed by those who come in already familiar with the material, I nevertheless give this my highest recommendation. This four-hour long movie is not just the most in-depth horror documentary I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the greatest documentaries on filmmaking in general.

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