Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Sometimes, getting to write this column fulfills dreams I never thought I’d be able to do; case in point, the below interview with Wes Craven. If you were to tell me at ten years old that I’d be talking with the guy who just scared my pants full with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, I’d have laughed in your face. But sit down and chat with Mr. Craven, I did. Here’s what transpired when I talked with him about the phenomenon he created with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and the new BluRay release of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY. After the interview, I’ve provided my review of NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY.
Here’s what Mr. Craven had to say…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): It’s an honor to speak with you today, Mr. Craven. Have you had a chance to see NEVER SLEEP AGAIN?
WES CRAVEN (WC): Yes, I watched it when they first completed it.
BUG: OK, having watched them and seeing not only the one’s you contributed to but also seeing the other films in the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, did you learn something new from watching it?
WC: There were certainly things about the other films that I didn’t work on that I didn’t know about and things that I didn’t know about the actors who played in those films. Yeah, I found the whole thing to be interesting.
BUG: Have you kept up with the NIGHTMARE series even though you’re not really a part of the series any more or is that something you’re not interested in anymore?
WC: I think I’ve put it away. The remake was basically done by other people. It was made without Bob Shaye and even Robert, but they own the rights and they can do whatever they want to with the movie, you know?
BUG: Looking back on the phenomenon that was Freddy Krueger, what’s it like that something you created became such a household name; where all you have to do is say Freddy and people know exactly who you’re talking about?
WC: With NIGHTMARE it was something I had conceived and loved. It was from a very personal place that I created it and I have to say that it’s really fun to know that I’ve—I was watching a news report the other day and they were talking about the Wall Street mess and the image behind the news anchor read A NIGHTMARE ON WALL STREET. (laughs)
And just the other night, I was watching NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and they were talking about the African Lion as the perfect killing machine and they showed the lion’s claws and they said, “These claws would even intimidate Freddy Krueger.” (laughs)
Freddy Krueger and the title A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has just become part of the culture.
BUG: What do you think of the way Freddy was marketed? I mean, there were lunch boxes and children’s costumes and such.
WC: There’s something about Freddy that for some reason it seems kids are always attracted to and the nearest I can come to it is that there are specific tribes in Africa that wear costumes of the most feared animal in the jungle. So it is a form of naming and controlling of the monster. They identify it so that they can control it. It makes the horror safe to handle.
BUG: I was always curious of your choice of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. How did that all come to be?
WC: It was definitely the interview. When he walked in the room, I had already been casting for Freddy for a long time, and I was really looking for someone who could have the acting chops and the physicality for the role. And a lot of people, you could see when they did the readings were playing it kind of…camp. It wasn’t coming out of them, it was what an actor doing what they thought should come out of a horror film, coming from a place where in their opinion seemed to be a lower opinion of these types of films. You have to realize that if you are to go into the head of Freddy, to go into those darker places in one’s imagination, it’s not easy and most people find it distressing. Nobody really wants to feel like, “Yeah, that darkness is in me.” And that’s what the actor playing Freddy was supposed to do, find that place inside themselves that is dark and able to do these horrible things.
With Robert, it really seemed like this was the actor who was going to take the role and really go to exciting places with it. This was very important. Because if you get someone who is just doing it for the job, it’s not going to work. Like with SCREAM, Drew Barrymore and David Arquette both went out of their way to get those roles. They really wanted it, so they gave good performances. Robert Englund just had an incredible enthusiasm to play that role.
BUG: To be completely honest, I wasn’t very fond of WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE when it first came out. But not long ago, I revisited it and found it to be really sophisticated and scary, though it was a departure from the other films. It seems like a film that was ahead of its time. It started going meta with the material, a trend you further developed in the SCREAM series. If you were ever to return to the NIGHTMARE series, would you continue to go meta with it?
WC: Once you’ve opened that door where actors talk about being in a film and they talk about real films in the world of the story, it’s hard to go back into the realm of the film and not recognize the films of the series. I am fascinated by metacommentary. It’s kind of like poking your head behind the curtain of the theater and seeing what goes on behind it. It’s like the Wizard of Oz and it’s a fun feeling. You can’t tell if you’re in a movie or not. And that life might just be a movie and a movie can be life. It’s fun to think of things like that. That to me, is something fun to play with.
BUG: You had a pretty big part in NEW NIGHTMARE. And you did a pretty good job with that role playing yourself. Have you ever thought of doing more acting?
WC: (laughs) Well, no one’s been beating down my door asking me to act after those performances.
WC: I recently played myself in CASTLE on TV. That’s king of the roles I get asked to play. I get asked to play myself. That’s about all I do well. (laughs) I have a terrible memory, so remembering all of those lines is just something I couldn’t do.
BUG: I have to ask, what would it take for you to do another ELM STREET movie?
WC: It’s funny. I fantasize about doing that. First of all it would take Warner Brothers to approach me, which they haven’t. I would only do it if the script they had or that I could come up with would be perfect. It would have to make artistic sense to me. I wouldn’t want to go out and do a remake or anything like that. I would use Robert Englund though.
BUG: Of course. Do you still teach at all?
WC: NO, I do occasional appearances at film schools. I just appeared at New York University. And I think I’m going to be doing Columbia this year. But I haven’t taught regular classes in 45 years.
BUG: I was wondering what were you like as a teacher and what’s a class with Mr. Craven like to be in?
WC: I was kind of goofy. I was teaching History of Western Civilization and Freshman English and things like that. And so, we all had fun. I get a lot of letters from ex-students. I didn’t really have any intention of going the scholarly route and getting a PhD. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life researching the metrics of Keates early odes or something like that.
BUG: Well, I think we have time for one last question. What are you working on at the moment?
WC: Well, I just finished a five comic book miniseries with writer Steve Niles called COMING OF RAGE which is a sort of coming of age story with a young vampire. That will be published sometime this year, I believe March or April. That’ll be a graphic novel first and then most likely a movie. And I will be directing an episode in the Weinstein Company’s TEN COMMNANDMENTS.
BUG: Oh wow!
WC: Yeah, they came to me and gave me my choice and I took “Thou shall not kill.” And I wrote a treatment that they loved, so that’ll be sometime later this year.
BUG: Man, I can’t wait for that. That would be great! Well, that’s all the time we have, so thank you so much for talking with me today. I can’t wait to see all of your upcoming projects.
WC: Thank so much, Mark. Thanks a lot! Bye!
BUG: NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY is available now on BluRay! Below is my review of the documentary.
Find this film on Netflix here
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY (2010)Directed by Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch
Written by Thommy Hutson
Starring Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Robert Shaye, and pretty much everyone ever involved in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series except Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Over the last eight weeks, I’ve covered all of the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films (save for FREDDY VS JASON which I’ll save for an upcoming Friday the 13th column) in commemoration of the release of the BluRay of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Collection. Links to those reviews will be provided at the end of this review, but as I neared the end of the series, I was hit with a ton of requests to check out NEVER SLEEP AGAIN, a comprehensive documentary looking back at every one of the films like I did, in great detail, but unlike I did, through the eyes of the actors, directors, writers, effects men, and producers. Having not seen this four hour film, I figured the time spent revisiting Elm Street would be best ended with a documentary of this kind.
And I’m damn glad I did because not only did it cement some of my theories and rumorings I had and had heard about the film series, it also unearthed subtext and minute details that I hadn’t caught even after multiple viewings through the years. Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch and writer Thommy Hutson do a fantastic job of making a dead serious documentary about a film series many don’t take very seriously. And in doing so, offers up a fantastic cross section of the trends in horror over the last thirty years.
Each movie is looked at in different chapters, some longer than others, with the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET obviously getting the more screen time. But although I’ve heard, read, and seen a lot about that first film, I found later entries to be much more fascinating as the doc went on.
What really fascinated me was the NIGHTMARES that could have been. Peter Jackson’s version of Freddy addressing Freddy’s diminishing scary potential as the series went on by characterizing him as a withered shell of his former self. David Schow’s detail of a section of the dreamscape that even gave Freddy nightmares. All of these little sparks of cool that most likely would not have been as great as the films I’m seeing in my mind were delicious what ifs to digest for this viewer.
I also loved the ROSHOMON style the multiple interviews provided as the directors were sometimes convinced that their movie was fantastic (I especially felt this during the Renny Harlin sequence for NIGHTMARE 4), despite some of the more awful elements (and NIGHTMARE 4 had many). The attention to profit, as always, was front and center which to an artist appreciator like myself is painful to hear, but the realist in me knows it has to be a factor. Robert Shaye provided a lot of insight as far as the business of New Line and how the NIGHTMARE series was the company’s bread and butter through the eighties and into the nineties.
Though the film came out just before the new NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake, I’m hoping someday the filmmakers will make a supplementary portion for that film, but they’ve been busy with another comprehensive documentary, this one focusing on the FRIDAY THE 13TH series called CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES (reviewed here).
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 6: FREDDY’S DEAD – THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991)
WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Remake (2010)
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written comics such as THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be a feature film from Uptown 6 Films), Zenescope’sGRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13 & UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES – THE HUNGER and a chapter in Black Mask Studios’OCCUPY COMICS. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark also wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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