You've got your choice of three different sound mixes for this DVD – the original Dolby Digital Mono mix, a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, and a DTS 6.1 ES Surround Sound mix. If your hardware and speaker set up can handle it, do yourself a favor and even if you prefer the original mix at least sample this track as it kicks all kinds of ass. The rear channels are used very nicely to fill in the soundscape and add a lot of atmosphere to an already atmospheric film. Effects come at you from the right direction at the right time and really enhance some of the scarier and more intense parts of the film. Dialogue is crystal clear from start to finish and you won't notice any issues with hiss or distortion at all while the film plays back. Charles Bernstein's score comes through loud and clear but never buries the effects or the performers and everything is balanced very, very nicely.
The 5.1 mix comes close to matching the DTS track in terms of quality but the addition of the extra channel and the stronger bass levels that DTS tends to have does give it a slight edge. The mono track sounds as good as you would hope in that it's nice and clean without any problems and it still remains a great way to watch the film if you want to enjoy it in its purest form. That being said, the two surround sound tracks on this disc are a whole lot of fun. Either way, regardless of what option you go for, you're very likely going to be quite happy with the work that New Line has done in the audio department for this release.
UPDATE - it's been pointed out that more than a few sound effects and musical ques have been messed up on this release. While it didn't directly affect this reviewer's enjoyment of the new surround sound mixes, it's sure to irk purists (wuth good reason).
Here's where this disc really comes in swinging. The first New Line DVD release contained only a commentary track and the theatrical trailer. A lot of fans were justifiably upset that the supplements from the laserdisc release, the deleted scenes in particular, were not carried over. This time around, New Line does it right. Here's what to look for…
First up is the original commentary track that was included on the previous DVD release from New Line with director Wes Craven, Director Of Photography Jacques Haitkin and actors Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon. For those who haven't had the chance to listen to this track, it's a decent discussion of the film and its origins. Craven has the most to say and Langenkamp, at times, doesn't have a whole lot to add but even if things are maybe a little too relaxed here there's a lot of good information to gleam from listening to it. Craven explains where some of the ideas came from and Haitkens discusses technical details in regards to how certain shots were set up and why. Langenkamp and Saxon give us a rough idea of what it was like working in front of the camera and along the way that relate some amusing anecdotes and interesting bits of trivia relating to the film and those who made it.
From there we're treated to a newly recorded second commentary track with Wes Craven, Robert Shaye (founder of New Line Cinema), Jim Doyle (effects technician), Sarah Risher (co-producer), Rick Shayne (editor), Robert Englund, David DelValle (film historian), Ronnie Blakely and Marge Thompson, Jacques Haitkin, Heather Lagenkamp, and a few others. This was pieced together from a few different recording sessions and the participants obviously weren't all in the same room together but this is worth listening to even if it's just to hear Englund talk about some of the fan mail he gets from female fans. Craven talks about how he had trouble getting someone to take the script while Shaye talks about how the success of the film basically saved New Line studios. Doyle tells us how some of the effects were done while Haitkin talks about how he tried to keep the camera work fairly straightforward. A narrator introduces each speaker before they talk and it is scene specific to an extent.
Oddly enough, neither of the commentary tracks are mentioned on any of the menu screens. You can't select them from the setup screen and instead have to flip through the audio options on your remote to get to them or dig into the infinifilm menus to activate them.
Up next is the infinifilm feature. For those not in the know, here's a snippet from New Line's website that explains what this is and how it works:
"What is infinifilm?: Infinifilm is a groundbreaking DVD brand designed for the moviegoer who wants the ultimate entertainment experience. Explore. Escape. Interact. Take your movie-watching experience to a whole new level and discover the fascinating facts and intriguing stories surrounding your favorite films! It is "portal" to extra features and footage that expounds upon the movie's premise a unique, one-of-a-kind viewer-directed experience.
How do you use infinifilm?: When the DVD is inserted into your DVD player, you may choose to do the following: Enjoy the movie independent of infinifilm features, as shown in theaters, with the highest quality picture and sound. We recommend watching the movie this way first! Watch the special features separately by accessing them directly from the main menu. Or... experience the film with the infinifilm option enabled.
What happens when the infinifilm option is enabled?: The movie starts as it would if you were watching it normally. Throughout the film, prompts will pop up with one or more selections of extra content that relates to that scene in the movie (examples include interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and more). Using your arrow keys on your DVD remote control, you may choose to watch this extra content. Once it is complete, you will return back to the movie - right where you left off!
Or, if you do not care to watch the extra content, simply ignore the prompt and continue watching the movie."
So with that explanation out of the way, how does this apply to the A Nightmare On Elm Street DVD? As the disc plays back the pop-ups show up on screen and if you decide to enable the infinifilm option it'll take you out of the movie, show you the assigned goodie, then pop you back into the movie. This is not necessarily going to be the way that everyone wants to explore the extra features so thankfully all of the infinifilm content is also supplied on the second disc in a standard DVD presentation. For the sake of making the review easier to follow, they'll be explained separately rather than in one giant section. There's also a 'fact track' option included in the infinifilm set up screen where you can opt to have a subtitle stream playback some trivia for you as the movie progresses.
Before you get to the main menu screen, there are trailers for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Snakes On A Plane, and DVD promo spots for Final Destination 3 and Running Scared (you can skip past these if you want) and you can access them on their own in the extras section. For those with DVD-Roms, there's also an option that allows you to read along with the script as the movie plays out as well as a Don't Fall Asleep trivia challenge.
First up on this disc are the two infifilm Beyond The Movie featurettes:
The House That Freddy Built – The Legacy Of New Line Horror (22:47): This is basically a featurette that explains how New Line went from being a small independent distribution studio to a major Hollywood player thanks to the amazing financial success of A Nightmare On Elm Street and its sequels. It starts off by explaining how Bob Shaye and Sarah Risher started the company and how they started by distributing small genre films because they were cheap to obtain and easy to sell. From there they financed Alone In The Dark with Jack Palance who proved to be difficult to work with. After this brief history of the studio we learn about how Craven's movie made them four million dollars over one weekend, which, for New Line was huge money and how it made a lot of money on its home video release. The sequels came and also made scores of money for the studio and Craven talks about how he passed on it and from there we hear what went wrong with that less popular entry in the series. The third film put the series back on track and the rest of the sequels are discussed as well right up to the birth of Freddy Vs. Jason which is also covered in a fair bit of detail. There are a ton of great clips from the films in here as well as some interesting interview segments with Craven, a few of the actors and the New Line studio executives.
Night Terrors: The Origins Of Wes Craven's Nightmare (15:55): This featurette starts off with a few people explaining what dreams are and how no on can really definitively define what they are and how they happen. A Jungian Psychologist is interviewed as are a few authors and they all speak to the mystery of the dream. We learn about a few people who have studied and theorized about dreams and how they affect people and while all of this is going on we're treated to a few clips from the Nightmare films that sort of touch on the points that the speakers make. Craven shows up and talks about where some of the ideas for Freddy came from and he discusses the psychology of the character and his behavior. Superstitions and myths about dreams are covered and of course, before it's all over with, the participants talk about how people do die in their sleep, often times in the midst of nightmares. It's a great way of setting up the movie and it adds some punch to the murders and to Freddy's character.
To check out even more material (without the infifilm option), simply click the All Access Pass option on disc two. From here you'll find things broken down into chapters as follows:
Alternate Endings: There are three alternate endings included in this section. The first one, Scary Ending (0:53), is a slightly humorous different take on the ending used in the movie – with a different victim and a different way of killing that victim. Happy Ending (0:47) is just that, an ending that still uses the nursery rhyme but which refrains from killing anyone. The third and final ending is the Freddy Ending (1:01) and without spoiling it let's just say that it's a more Freddy-centric take on the ending used in the feature version of the film. This section features a 'play all' feature.
Never Sleep Again – The Making Of A Nightmare On Elm Street (49:52): This documentary is divided into seven sections, the titles of which more or less explain the content: Dreams Behind The Nightmare, The Nightmare Becomes A Reality, Nightmares On The Set, Unveiling A Nightmare, The Nightmare Magicians, Concluding A Nightmare, and A Nightmare Is Unleashed. There's a 'play all option included or you can view each chapter individually.
The documentary starts off with some sound bits from a few people talking about how Freddy came to be an icon of horror and what made the movie work. From there Craven talks about how he got into movie making and horror movies specifically after his strict upbringing in the Baptist Church. His strict upbringing and issues with his parents shaped him and interestingly enough he wasn't allowed to see movies. A near death experience leads to his interest in horror, and eventually he worked his way into the industry after moving to New York to make movies with Sean Cunningham. The second part talks about how Wes drafted up the script, shopped it around, and couldn't get anyone interested in it until he hit New Line – the rest is history (and covered more in depth in the House That Freddy Built documentary). Part three covers what it was like working on the set with a low budget on a short schedule and how Craven made it all work. They cover location shooting, effects work and cinematography and it's really interesting to hear about the actual boiler room that the film's opening scene was shot in. The next section talks about how Freddy's make up was created and how five different versions were originally done. They talk about how they came up with a final look from there and what was involved in getting Englund setup to play the character (it was a three hour process!). They also cover how the glove was made out of steak knives and Englund talks about how he tried to make Freddy a cross between Klaus Kinski and Edward G. Robinson. Chapter five covers the effects work that was used in the movie and how Doyle created a lot of the gore effects that are now so famous and so important to the film like the extending arms and the face-pulling scene, Tina's death, the phone-tongue and the bathtub scene (there's some great behind the scenes clips for this one included). The sixth chapter, Concluding A Nightmare, covers the editing and scoring of the film in a fair bit of detail and it includes interviews with Charles Bernstein who talks about how he worked with Craven and did most of the work alone at home. Here Craven also talks briefly about the two MPAA cuts that were imposed on the film. Chapters seven, A Nightmare Is Unleashed concludes the documentary by covering the success that the movie enjoyed and how Freddy more or less had his celebrity status cemented in history over night thanks to the success of the film.
This is a pretty interesting and in-depth examination of the movie in all its various stages of production from concept to finished product. A lot of people are interviewed from producers to stars to effects technicians and of course Craven himself, even Sean Cunningham shows up in here. The piece is peppered with plenty of great behind the scenes stills and a few behind the scenes film clips as well. There's a fair bit of promotional artwork and plenty of clips from the movie in here too. It would have been nice to see some of this as a separate still gallery, but regardless, it's here.
So what about the deleted footage? The fourth chapter contains ten alternate takes from the film each of which runs one to seven seconds in length. None of these change the movie much at all and most are just really quick shots of Freddy hamming it up for the camera though there is one scene where Freddy cuts off his own finger and bleeds green blood that was fun to see. Chapter five has two alternate takes from the alleyway scene, one alternate take from the moving wall scene, one from the phone tongue and one from Tina's death. These are great to see, even if they are only seconds long apiece. Chapter six contains three alternate takes of Freddy and Nancy squaring off, two clips from the alternate endings, one alternate take of the blood coming out of the bed and one alternate take of Amanda's body hitting the bed and a few others including some clips of Freddy on fire. So there you have it – there are a bunch of alternate takes in here, but they're not viewable on their own, they've been incorporated into the documentary. This isn't a bad way to see them as they've given some context that way, but having the choice to see them on their own would have made it easier to go right to them and check them out.
The Freddy's Coming For You Trivia Challenge in interactive game in which you answer questions with your remote. If you get the questions you move on, if not, Freddy kills you. If you make it through, you're treated to a clip of Freddy and Nancy.
The second disc also contains the theatrical trailer for the film (1:38) which mentions Craven as the director of The Hills Have Eyes and Last House On The Left and not Swamp Thing. Go figure.
Both discs feature animated menus and setup options and the first disc also has a chapter selection option. The two discs are housed inside a keepcase, which in turn fits inside a slipcase featuring alternate cover artwork. For some reason there aren't any television spots included and a still gallery of ad mats and promotional artwork would have been great (even if we do see some of that material in the documentary we don't see all of it).
Is this release worth the double dip? If you're a fan of A Nightmare On Elm Street, the answer is a resounding yes. New Line has done a fantastic job re-mastering the audio and video for the film and even included the original sound mix as well. The extras are as complete as one could hope for (despite some lay out oddities) and not only plentiful but actually really interesting as well. Consider this one highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.