Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Blu-ray Review

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a love letter to the Nightmare on Elm Street horror franchise and its signature character, Freddy Krueger. The exhaustive documentary covers all seven films in the franchise and even the spin-off television series in mind-numbing detail, interviewing almost everyone that had a hand in making Freddy a household name. Most importantly it heavily features Wes Craven and Robert Englund, the two men most associated with the franchise.

Never Sleep Again is an ambitious documentary that succeeds in detailing happenings and personalities off camera, beginning with the early history of New Line Cinema. The story of this iconic horror franchise is intimately intertwined with the development of New Line Cinema, a struggling production company led by Robert Shaye when the first Nightmare on Elm Street was made. New Line made little money from the first movie, having to sell off distribution rights for its funding in the first place. The producer provides plenty of critical information in this documentary, filling in details left blank by Wes Craven and others.

Hosted by a veteran of the series, actor Heather Langenkamp, Never Sleep Again goes in order of release, covering each film in the franchise. A Nightmare on Elm Street gets the most extensive coverage, a full forty-five minutes of talking-head interviews and rare background footage to complete a comprehensive look behind its creation and themes. Wes Craven shares a wealth of insight and his personal experiences, from the initial idea behind the story to how certain iconic moments came about in the film.

While every movie is covered in some detail with their original cast and crews, a handful of key actors do not appear except in archival footage. The most notable omission is Johnny Depp, current Hollywood mega-star that likely wants to forget he ever appeared in low-budget fare such as A Nightmare on Elm Street. The star of NOES: Dream Warriors, Patrica Arquette, also fails to make an appearance. The documentary doesn’t miss them, as both movies are covered well by other cast members.

Outside of Robert Englund and Wes Craven, the most engaging interview subject has to be with Renny Harlin in his broken English. Harlin’s story is fascinating, as he basically begged his way towards a job directing the fourth installment in the franchise, Dream Master. He kept showing up at the New Line offices each day in the same dirty clothes looking to direct, until they finally relented and gave him some work.

Never Sleep Again is a fascinating documentary, steeped in the rich tradition of an iconic horror franchise and one of Hollywood’s most memorable characters. The behind-the-scenes material is mixed with the right amount of insider gossip and smart editing, critical to documentaries of this nature. Featuring an appearance by most of the actors important to the series, it weaves a compelling spell for nearly four hours and is a cut above most documentaries.

Movie ★★★★★

Never Sleep Again Blu-ray screen shot 1

Image Entertainment gave the four-hour documentary, presented in 1080P video, its own BD-50 and moved the special features to another disc. The AVC video encode averages 22.99 Mbps for the main feature, about as high it could go on a single Blu-ray without using another disc. Unfortunately, compression problems are the least of this set’s video problems. Constructed using an extensive array of talking-head interviews and archival footage, much of the source material is clearly from video with resolutions far below 1080P. Many of the interviews have aliasing, possibly a result of lower resolution backgrounds digitally inserted behind the interviewees. The scaling artifacts are quite common, hurting the overall picture quality on larger displays.

The BD’s overall picture quality does selectively improve the experience found on DVD. Archival photographs look excellent, clearly taken from high-quality shots. There are many impressive still photographs from the original movie productions, helping to set a reference point for the entire documentary. Some of the interviews look better than others. The footage with Robert Shaye looks newer and has more vivid clarity, especially since his interviews don’t have the digitally-imposed “spooky” backgrounds done for the cast and crew. The cast and crew are featured in interviews with poor contrast and some black crush, greatly hurting their shadow delineation. A touch of banding can be found in a lot of the darker-looking interviews, though it appears to be due to the source footage and not the video encode.

The Blu-ray does show minor improvements over DVD, but this documentary was clearly created with an eye towards DVD.

Video ★★☆☆☆

Never Sleep Again has a fairly basic stereo mix, presented in a lossless, 2.0 DTS-HD MA configuration. The audio certainly meets the minimum requirements of this documentary, presenting interviews and voice-overs with clear, intelligible dialogue. Some minor atmosphere is provided by a horror-tinged score and the occasional sound effect. Outside of the dialogue, the fidelity was somewhat limited. This production did not seem like a big-budget affair and its audio is unexceptional. The score is mixed a bit too high in the background at times, which proves distracting on occasion.

English SDH subtitles are included as an option, displayed in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Image Entertainment has wisely moved this gigantic set of supplemental material to a second disc, filling a BD-50. Every special feature except for the audio commentary is on the second disc of this set. Most of these special features are for the hardcore fans, including a commentary that runs nearly four hours. There are interesting tidbits of information to be gleaned from these featurettes, covering aspects of the fandom that most studios would tend to ignore. Considering the main feature is really a type of special feature itself, this is a complete body of extras that helps round out the main documentary.

While most of the featurettes and extended interviews are presented in HD, much of the footage clearly comes from a standard-definition source and has been upscaled to HD.

Audio Commentary With Andrew Kasch, Daniel Farrands, Thommy Hutson and Buz Danger Wallick – The two co-directors sit down with the cinematographer and writer for the entire movie, in a freewheeling chat that feels more like a raucous conversation between themselves than a formal commentary. These guys obviously had a lot of fun making this documentary and we get to hear their tales of tracking down actors no one had seen in years. It is not an essential listening experience, but extremely devoted fans will likely want to hear it once in the background as they go about doing something else.

Extended Interviews (100:56 in HD) – The fully unedited interviews featured in the main documentary are presented here in a type of chronological order. This is the meat of the extra features and helps fill in the details left out due to time and flow. Definitely worth a viewing if the main documentary left you wanting more from it.

First Look: Heather Langenkamp’s I Am Nancy (06:42 in HD) – A sneak peek at a documentary following Heather Langenkamp.

For The Love of the Glove (18:16 in HD) – Details the history and current whereabouts of Freddy’s famous glove.

Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans (12:50 in HD) – Freddy merchandise and products from collectors are covered in this ode to the gloved one.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Return To Elm Street (23:10 in HD) – Host Sean Clark takes some of the original cast members back to the franchise’s original locations.

Freddy Vs. The Angry Videogame Nerd (05:30 in SD)

Expanding the Elm Street Universe: Freddy In Comic Books and Graphic Novels (15:45 in HD) – Creators that worked on the franchise in other mediums discuss their take on the horror icon.

The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations With Composers and Songwriters (13:40 in HD) – Several composers for the horror series discuss their contributions and influences in striking the right note for the horror series.

Elm Street’s Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak (07:31 in HD) – Artist Matthew Peak created several of the franchise’s movie posters.

A Nightmare On Elm Street In Ten Minutes (10:07 in 1080P)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Teaser Trailer (00:56 in HD)

Extras★★★★★

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