|Title:||The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection: Boxed Set|
New Line Cinema
From Wes Craven and featuring performances by Johnny Depp, Laurence Fishburne, Patricia Arquette, Roseanne, and of course, Robert Englund as “Freddy”. With so many extras, it’s scary!
Featuring all seven original classics and a never-before-seen look behind the nightmares.
The definitive DVD box set. It’s the only way to see all seven films on DVD!!!
|DVD:||8-Disc sets; 672 min., $129.99, street date 9/21/99.|
Audio Commentary by Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon and director of photography Jacques Haitkin on A Nightmare on Elm Street; Audio Commentary by Wes Craven on Wes Craven's New Nightmare.
The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia: "The Labyrinth" - unlock the mysteries of the franchise through a maze of intense menus; "Welcome to Primetime" - an original documentary on the series; All seven theatrical trailers; Interviews with all seven directors, actors, horror fans, and professors; Multiple music videos; An MTV appearance by Freddy, and behind-the-scenes footage; 36-page booklet.
DVD-ROM Features: Read The Screenplay While You Watch The Film!; New Dream World Trivia Game -- Test Your Nightmare Knowledge!; Up-to-the-Minute Cast, Crew, Trivia Info and More!
|Purchase:||The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection | Freddy's Favorites: Best of A Nightmare on Elm Street - Soundtrack|
The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection
Curiosity killed the cat, and it damn near killed me. Regular readers of the DVD Movie Guide may know that I'm a sucker for special editions of movies, and from what I heard, the new Nightmare On Elm Street Collection set was going to be a doozy. Considering that I was available as a preorder title for only about $80 - or $10 a DVD - I was sorely tempted to add it to my list.
Nonetheless, I resisted that temptation for a while. After all, I told myself, I really didn't think all that much of the Nightmare... series. The first was good, and I liked the third a lot, but other than that... As such, I decided I'd get the first one and leave it at that.
Get that DVD I did, and although it didn't knock me out, it definitely whet my appetite. Add that to a $20 off coupon for Reel and free shipping (which gave me a total cost of $58 for the set) and I decided to take the Nightmare Collection plunge.
Once I got the set, I finally was broadsided with my fate: roughly 11 hours of Elm Street, all pretty much back-to-back. Oy - what WAS I thinking?! This could be difficult.
As regular readers know, my reviews can tend to be ever-so-slightly wordy. Because I'd like to finish this review before the millennium ends (and Van would kill me if he had to prep a 10,000 word review), I'll forgo my usual comments about the films themselves and simply focus on the quality of each individual DVD. More extensive reviews of each film will arrive to coincide with the individual releases of the titles. (As of the writing of this article, films two through seven can only be obtained through the purchase of the Nightmare Collection set - each will apparently receive a separate release at a later date.)
A few comments about the nature of the following reviews: first, please remember that when I rate soundtracks, I do so on a "curve." That means that a movie from 1984 doesn't need to sound as good as a movie from 1994; I try to compare the audio in question to the idea I have in my head of what an average film from its era sounded like. As such, Nightmare 5 sounds a lot better than the original film, although both have the same rating; better technology and a higher budget made me feel that the former film should clearly sound better, so I rate it against a more stringent standard.
I don't usually rate picture image quality on a "curve," however, because film technology hasn't changed and grown to nearly the same degree as has audio equipment. However, I do factor in the budget of a film to some degree, so I didn't expect as much from the image of the first film as I did from the later efforts. (For the most trying example of this issue, please see my review of Clerks.)
Finally, although the following film-specific comments will whine and moan a bit about the lack of supplements on each DVD, it should be remembered that New Line clearly did not pack in the extras they normally would because the eighth DVD takes care of that. In the case of the DVD for the first film, New Line actually removed material from the DVD that's included here; the separately-available DVD release includes the trailer, which is found on the eighth DVD in this package. As such, it's reasonable to assume that when films two through seven appear individually, they will likely include supplements that are not included on the ones here.
That said, let's get on to the reviews!
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): (B/B-/C-)
Nightmare is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD and is shown in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Strangely, the version of ANOES available on its own offers both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the movie, whereas this one does not. I have not a clue as to why New Line decided to print two different editions of the film. The appearance of the DVD's "snapper" case also differs from the single DVD, but that's a good thing; it makes the DVD stand out, and it also allows all of the spines of the eight DVDs in the set to combine to form an image of Freddy. Kinda neat!
Overall, the image looks pretty good. At times it seems a little flat and slightly soft, but that's not surprising for an older film shot on a very low budget. Sharpness was usually adequate despite some soft sequence. I found the picture to appear generally sharp and to be clean. I detected only light grain, and no other source concerns were visible. Though the film features a fairly muted palette, colors look accurate and appropriate, and both black levels and contrast were decent. Neither excelled, but both were generally fine. Nightmare is a fairly dark film, and the image represents that environment acceptably well. This was a more than adequate transfer.
In regard to audio, Nightmare presents two options: the original mono mix, or a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 version. I went with the latter when I watched the movie. I found the 5.1 mix to be surprisingly effective; usually these remixes aren't terribly well done, but Nightmare comes to life nicely. The front sound stage dominates and does so very convincingly; the remixers were able to position sounds well across the front three channels and they even pan pretty well at times. Not much audio comes from the rears; we mainly hear rare ambient sounds, occasional "crash-bang" noises during the action scenes, or (most of the time) the movie's cheesy synthesizer score back there.
Speaking of which, the music is the only aspect of the soundtrack that actually sounds pretty good; it packs a decent sonic punch. Dialogue and effects, however, usually sound pretty bad. They definitely are negatively affected by the film's age and low budget, as they often appear harsh and distorted. Speech is almost always easily intelligible; it just doesn't sound very good. Despite this (probably inevitable) flaw, I still found the 5.1 mix of Nightmare to be surprisingly good.
The supplements that appear on this DVD all seem adapted from the 1996 special edition laserdisc release. The DVD includes a running commentary from writer/director Wes Craven, director of photography Jacques Haitkin, and actors Heather Langenkamp. This track clearly comes from the LD, since the participants frequently discuss laserdiscs, and Langenkamp once mentions that it's been about twelve years since they made the film.
The commentary is dominated by the contributions of Craven and Langenkamp. Haitkin also frequently chimes in, but Saxon seems to be largely MIA. Nonetheless, it's a pretty good track. The participants mainly focus on the technical aspects of making the film but they also contribute some interesting anecdotes and background information. Most fascinating is Craven's discussion of the factual origins of the story.
To be honest, however, I would have liked some additional discussions of story aspects. For example, I'd like to have some idea how Krueger became semi-reincarnated as this dream monster. It's implied that he's getting his revenge on the parents who killed him, but how did he do this? Maybe this will become clearer in the sequels, but I would have enjoyed some back story about that. I also would have liked some additional explanation of the ambiguous ending; maybe I'm just a rutabaga with glasses, but I did not get it.
In addition to the commentary, the DVD offers biographies for Craven and five actors (notably not including Depp and Englund). Interestingly, while these folks' filmographies are up to date, the bioographies all come from the original 1984 press kit! I thought this was a very fun twist on the typical biographies and I really liked it.
The DVD also provides a twist on the standard "chapter search" function (which is also present). In the "Jump to a Nightmare" section, you can immediately access any of the scenes that involve nightmares. I don't know how often I'll use this, but I thought it was a pretty cool variation on that theme.
Finally, Nightmare includes some DVD-ROM content. It features the screenplay, a "Dream World Trivia Game," and "up to the minute cast and crew biographies with web links." Since I continue to lack a DVD-ROM drive, I cannot comment on the quality of these features. I'd like to get a look at the script, however, since from what I hear, it offers additional material cut from the finished film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985): (B+/C+/D-)
Nightmare 2 is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD, and is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1; no fullscreen version is included in this package. In regard the picture, it's almost a carbon copy of the first film. Actually, I thought Nightmare 2 looked a slight bit sharper, but it nonetheless replicates all of the same positives and negatives. The image is consistently sharp and clean, and colors seem very strong; one good example pops up during Lisa's pool party, where we see a variety of hues that come across nicely. Nightmare 2 isn't as dark a film as the first one, but it also manages to appear somewhat murky at times; interior shots - particularly those at the high school - seemed most susceptible to this phenomenon. Overall I found Nightmare 2 to boast a very good picture, though it featured a few minor flaws.
Nightmare 2 also offers a choice between the original mono mix that appeared theatrically and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Once again I opted to watch the film accompanied by the digital mix. I found this track to sound fairly similar to that of the first film, but I didn't think it worked quite as well. This 5.1 mix seemed less ambitious than the one for "Nightmare", although it nonetheless marks a step up from the mono version. We hear some audio that's localized within the front three channels, but not as frequently as we did during the first DVD. Again, the rear speakers feature only music and very occasional ambient effects; also again, this track seems more subdued and somewhat less effective than that of Nightmare.
The audio also appears to have less of a dynamic range. Nightmare 2 offers a more "middle of the road" audio experience. The first Nightmare came across as harsh and distorted more frequently, but it also displayed a greater dynamic range. Nightmare 2 seems fairly flat and lifeless for the most part; effects, dialogue and music all have something of a dull edge to them. I can't say that they sound bad, especially when I factor in the age and continued low budget of the film, but I found the audio to be slightly disappointing after hearing what they did with the first picture.
Even more disappointing in comparison with the first DVD is the lack of supplements included with Nightmare 2. All we get here is the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature and six cast and four crew biographies. As with the first film, these biographies come from the press kit that accompanied the theatrical release of the movie; the filmographies have also been updated, however.
Nightmare 2 includes some DVD-ROM content. It features the screenplay, part two of the "Dream World Trivia Game," and "up to the minute cast and crew biographies with web links" (ie, it'll probably send you to IMDB, who are the source used for the filmographies on all seven DVDs). Still no DVD-ROM drive, so still no comments from me!
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987): (A-/B-/D-)
Nightmare 3 is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD, and is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1; no fullscreen version is included in this package. Visually, this film looks quite similar to the previous two except it looks like the budget went up a bit and they were able to afford better film stock. Overall, Nightmare 3 appears very sharp and clean and it generally lacks some of the murkiness seen during the first two movies. I saw little evidence of grain or any print flaws. Colors seem very strong, although the hues in Nightmare 2 often were a little bolder. Black levels also appear just fine. It's not a great looking DVD, but it's very good.
Nightmare 3 also offers a choice between the original mono mix that appeared theatrically and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Once again I opted to watch the film accompanied by the digital mix. This film offers the cleanest sounding track of the first three, with very little distortion, and the sound tends to be a bit more lifelike; it still seems somewhat flat and dull, but it wasn't as artificial sounding as the first two.
For most of the film, the soundtrack to Nightmare 3 appears to be the least active of the first three pictures. Even though the general sound quality exceeded that of the first two movies, had the audio not come alive during the film's third act, I probably would have given it a lower rating than I did. Happily, the remix makes much better use of the surrounds at that time and creates a more satisfying sound experience. For the most part, spatial use is limited, but the final third creates a very nice soundstage. I would prefer that the whole thing sounded that good, but at least the audio comes through in the end.
The supplements of Nightmare 3 create a sense of déjà vu, for they are exceedingly similar to those of Nightmare 2: the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature and seven cast and six crew biographies. As with the first two films, these biographies come from the press kit that accompanied the theatrical release of the movie; the filmographies have also been updated, however.
Nightmare 3 includes some DVD-ROM content. It features the screenplay, part three of the "Dream World Trivia Game," and "up to the minute cast and crew biographies with web links" (that likely IMDB link again). Since I haven't acquired a DVD-ROM drive since I wrote the last review, I still can't comment on the quality of these features.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988): (B-/B/D-)
Nightmare 4 is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD, and is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1; no fullscreen version is included in this package. Visually, Nightmare 4 represents a bit of a step down compared to the first three DVDs. Overall, it looks decent, but it lacks the sharpness of the previous films. The image often seems vaguely soft and hazy; it's definitely watchable, but it didn't seem as detailed as it should have. Colors generally appear accurate, though the picture has some trouble with reds; the lettering during the opening credits and some scenes that featured red lighting tended to bleed a little and they looked oversaturated.
The print used for the DVD of Nightmare 4 looked pretty clean; I didn't see any indications of source flaws. Some digital artifacts appear briefly; these don't make a major impact upon the experience, though. Black levels seem okay, though like the rest of the image, they're a little muted. All in all, Nightmare 4 is a good but flawed visual presentation; it's a more-than-acceptable image, but I found it somewhat disappointing after the strong transfers of the first three movies.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of Nightmare 4 offers a definite step up from the audio of the first three movies. This probably is the result of the fact that the producers of the film finally made the move from mono to stereo sound, and it was about time! I can excuse mono for the first film, but considering that surround tracks were pretty standard during the mid-1980s, it's pretty weak that all of the movies through 1987 were only mono. It's not a tremendous upgrade that they went to stereo for Nightmare 4, but at least it was a move in the right direction.
The increased quality of the original track comes through in this new 5.1 mix. It definitely displays greater fidelity and separation. This is easily the most active surround track of the first four; while it won't compare to newer films, it makes very good use of all five channels and provides a nicely immersive environment. Sounds pan well between channels, and the whole thing adds some punch to the viewing experience.
Although the audio is an improvement over the first three films, it still has some weaknesses. The quality of the track continues to be fairly weak; it's a little more natural than the first three, but speech, music and effects still sound somewhat stiff and flat. Distortion is occasionally a problem, but not too frequently. Nonetheless, it's a pretty nice track and it offers some nice improvements. (For the record, the original stereo mix also appears on the DVD.)
Once again, we find very few supplements on this DVD. We get biographies from the 1988 press kit (nine cast members and six crew members) and the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature.
Not surprisingly, Nightmare 4 offers some DVD-ROM content. It features the screenplay, part four of the "Dream World Trivia Game," and "up to the minute cast and crew biographies with web links." No, I wasn't able to watch these segments.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989): (A/B-/D-)
Nightmare 5 is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD, and is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1; no fullscreen version is included in this package. After four straight video transfers that ranged from decent to very good, New Line finally nailed one with this DVD. Put simply, Nightmare 5 looks terrific. It's not quite perfect, but it manages to offer outstanding visuals from start to finish.
Nightmare 5 definitely lacks the softness and haze that marred Nightmare 4. The image seems clearly focussed and clean, and it always remains that way. Surprisingly, colors are a high point. One doesn't think of the Nightmare series as being candidates for such a high point since the films tend to be so dark, but Nightmare 5 comes through nicely in that regard. Check out the graduation scene or the dinner during which Greta dies; both display colors that are bold and subtle at the same time. They look terrific! Black levels seem strong, and I noted no print flaws or digital artifacts. All in all, "Nightmare 5" is easily the strongest visual transfer of the first five films.
In regard to its remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, Nightmare 5 is roughly on a par with the previous film, though I encountered different strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, speech and especially music sound more natural and display greater sonic depth. At times they still seem slightly flat, but they're a great improvement on the generally hollow sound we encountered during the first four films.
Effects, on the other hand, actually seem like a step down from the quality heard in Nightmare 4. Effects appear even more artificial than previously, and there's a greater level of distortion than detected in the prior movie. The quality isn't terrible, but considering the improvements in other aspects of the audio, it's a disappointment.
I found the surround mix to be roughly equivalent to that of Nightmare 4 but a little less involving. Nightmare 5 also comes from what was originally a stereo mix, but for some reason, the surround channels seem less dynamic than in the prior picture. The surround effect tends to come across as largely mono in nature; while the other movies didn't display a lot of split surround activity, they did at least seem better separated than does this track. Much of the distortion in the mix comes from the surrounds as well. It's still a good mix, considering its age, but I can't help but feel that it could have sounded a fair amount better.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: the supplements on this DVD include the "Jump to a Nightmare" feature and cast and crew biographies. As usual, the bios come from the original press kit. We see articles about twelve cast members and three crew members.
More déjà vu: within the DVD-ROM material, Nightmare 5 features the screenplay, part five of the "Dream World Trivia Game," and those same old web links. Man, I gotta get me a DVD-ROM drive!
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991): (A-/B+/D-)
Freddy's Dead is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD, and is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1; no fullscreen version is included in this package. New Line continue the good work they did with Nightmare 5 here; the image of FD is almost as terrific as that previous effort. Really, virtually all of the comments I made about Nightmare 5 apply here. So why the lower rating? Well, FD wasn't quite as consistently sharp; on a few occasions, the image seemed slightly soft. But that's it. The difference in quality between Nightmare 5 and FD is tremendously slight; it was enough to make me knock down the latter's grade to an "A-", but I kind of feel bad for doing so, since the image looks so fantastic. Chances are good you won't notice any differences between the two.
One portion of the film that doesn't look very good is the 3-D section. You can choose to watch the film with the 3-D conclusion "on" or "off." If it's "off," you won't notice any difference between the quality of those scenes and the ones that precede and follow them; the 3-D scenes integrate into the 2-D environment appropriately.
However, if you DO watch them in 3-D - two pairs of glasses are provided with the set - then you'll see a noticeable difference. Unfortunately, it's a negative difference. The 3-D effects in FD are pretty terrible. At times I detected a slightly greater level of depth in the image, but it never had the "jump out at you" quality the producers attempted. Mostly the picture just looked hazy and strangely colored because of the glasses. It also gave me a mild headache. Maybe the 3-D segments will work better for you, but they did little for me.
In regard to the audio, it marks yet another baby step ahead in the quality department. The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track of FD offers the strongest aural experience of the first six films. It takes most of the positive qualities of the previous mixes and adds them into one track. For the most part, the sound quality is very good; as usual, effects tend to come across as somewhat harsh, but music and dialogue seem fairly natural and clean. The surround channels also receive a pretty good workout. There's not a lot in the way of directional effects, but it's clear that the rear speakers are stereo (unlike the fairly mono usage in Nightmare 5). All in all, it's a nice effort.
For the record, the DVD also includes what the producers state is the original stereo presentation of the soundtrack. I'm sorry, but this time, I'm not buying it. I had a hard enough time accepting that movies one through three were all mono, and that four and five were just stereo; I really can't believe that FD, a film from 1991 - the year before Dolby Digital officially hit theaters - played with only a stereo soundtrack. IMDB says it had a Dolby surround track, and this time I'm taking their word for it. Well, whatever the nature of the theatrical mix, the stereo track on the DVD does not offer a surround channel; although my receiver indicated it was playing Dolby Pro Logic on the occasions when I switched to it, I detected absolutely no evidence of any rear channel usage from that track.
Shocking news: the supplements for Freddy's Dead are virtually identical to those for the previous four DVDs. They offer some more press kit biographies (ten cast, six crew) and the usual "Jump to a Nightmare" feature. The only additional aspect of this DVD is that it will let you jump right to the 3-D segment as well.
You may not believe this, but FD includes some DVD-ROM content. It features the screenplay, part six of the "Dream World Trivia Game," and those web links. Somebody wanna send me a DVD-ROM drive? This is getting embarrassing!
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994): (A-/A-/C-)
WCNN is presented on a single-sided, single-layered DVD, and is shown in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1; no fullscreen version is included in this package. Visually, WCNN is a very close cousin to FD, although the quality is just slightly lower. Once again, it looked tremendously sharp, with only a few occasions when the image seemed ever-so-slightly soft. Moiré effects were more of a problem with this film than during any of the other six; I occasionally saw some shimmering from background objects, but this didn't happen more than three or four times. Colors again seemed very strong and accurate, and I couldn't detect any print flaws or artifacts. While New Line did a very good job with the first four films, they really kicked some butt with the last three; all of them offer first-rate transfers.
Finally! I get to discuss the soundtrack of a Nightmare movie without having to use the word "remix!" (Whoops - I just did! Damn!) Unlike all six of its predecessors, WCNN hit the screens with its own 5.1 mix, which is offered here through the wonders of Dolby Digital. Not surprisingly, it's unquestionably the best of the bunch. It's the only track of the seven that essentially gets everything right. All of the audio sounds clean and full; I heard none of the toneless quality or the harshness of many of the previous tracks.
It also offers full-blooded audio from all five channels; while some of the other films made nice use of stereo and surround effects, this is the first one that clearly was designed that way from the start, and that difference shows. The audio for WCNN won't make anyone's list of "demo" tracks, but it definitely achieves its goals. The sound creates a very nice surround environment and it helps enhance the film's scares and chills, which is all it really needs to do.
Finally again! For the first time since the original Nightmare DVD, I have a different supplement to discuss! That's because for the first time since the original Nightmare DVD, one of the movies features an audio commentary. Unlike the first one, which featured multiple participants, the track for WCNN only includes Craven himself. This commentary also comes from a laserdisc release: the 1995 pressing of WCNN.
Craven's track isn't great but it's pretty good. He covers a wide range of topics, from the technical aspects of making the film to inspirations to what points he wanted to make to inside jokes. Craven can seem a little dry at times, but overall he gets the job done; the track contributes to your knowledge of and enjoyment of the film, which is the ultimate goal of any audio commentary.
Never fear - WCNN doesn't go nuts on extras or anything. Yes, the commentary was a nice touch, but after that, it's back to the old tried-and-trues. We get our customary press kit biographies (three cast, nine crew) and our usual "Jump to a Nightmare" feature. For the record, the DVD doesn't specifically state that the biographies are from a press kit, but reading them makes it clear that they are taken from the same time period as the film's theatrical run - either that or the little boy in the movie hasn't aged in the last five years.
Boy, am I getting sick of documenting the same DVD-ROM segments over and over again! Yes, WCNN gives us the screenplay, part seven of the "Dream World" trivia game, and those web links. Somebody shoot me!
The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia (1999)
Okay, I probably whined too much about the dearth of supplements on the preceding seven DVDs. New Line knew they didn't need to put much on those discs since the folks who would own them would also get The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia, a pretty comprehensive detailing of the Elm Street series.
This sucker is the real reason why I and most others picked up this box set. Yeah, I was interested in watching the films - it's been a looong time since I've seen most of them, and I was curious to observe how the series changed and the story grew - but I remain a sucker for supplements, and the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia sounded fantastic. How could I resist?
New Line pulled out many of the stops for this eighth DVD. Right off the bat, let me get a discussion of the DVD-ROM content out of the way. This DVD includes the final "Dream World" trivia game plus an "interactive Freddy character that will haunt your computer." There! I never have to discuss the Nightmare DVD-ROM material again!
The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia offers a veritable treasure trove of supplemental materials. It's organized in three ways. First up is "Welcome to Primetime", which the package describes as "a documentary exploring the Nightmares." What that means is we get an approximately 46 minute video program that discusses the first film. Yes, despite the DVD case's promise to discuss ALL of the movies, WTP only covers the original picture.
Not that I'm complaining, because WTP is a fairly terrific little program. Mainly through interviews with the principal participants (Craven, actors Langenkamp, Saxon, and Robert Englund, and other production members) we receive a pretty nice overview of all facets of the production. The documentary discusses the movie's origins, how it got made, some of the effects, various meanings, and the success of the film. It's not exhaustive, but it's detailed enough to give you a pretty good understanding of what happened. The producers mainly rely on "talking heads" interviews, but that doesn't seem to be a problem; all of the information provided is so interesting that the format doesn't become tedious. Combined with the ANOES DVD's commentary, I now feel I have a pretty good understanding of the film - even the ending makes a little more sense to me now!
In case you're worried that the other six, they all receive mention during parts of the rest of the DVD. These are most easily accessible through the disc's "Index." In this section, discussions of all seven films are available, as well as a section called "Conclusions" that offers various viewpoints on the series. The "Index" also offers trailers for all seven films and music videos from Dokken (from Nightmare 3), Fat Boys and Whodini (both from Nightmare 4).
The "Index" section on the first film simply repeats the material shown in WTP. All of the clips that relate to films two through seven follow the same format as the ones in WTP: mostly "talking head" interviews with some "behind the scenes" footage interspersed. All of these interviews seem to be fairly recent; the only concrete mention of time occurs when one interviewee indicates that it was (then) 1997, but another refers to The Matrix, which leads me to believe his interview was very recent. Anyway, whatever the vintage of the interviews, it's obvious that they're not "archival" clips that come from the periods during which the films were released.
Who do we hear from in these clips? All six directors (remember, Craven directed both films one and seven), actors Saxon, Langenkamp and Englund, production staff such as New Line execs Bob Shaye and Sara Risher and many others involved in the making of the films (including Nightmare 3 co-writer Frank Darabont, who went on to success as the director of The Shawshank Redemption), and "outside commentators" such as Clive Barker, Dick Cavett, Sean Cunningham (who directed and produced Friday the 13th), and a University of Virginia (my alma mater! Yay!) professor named Mark Edmundson. Once again, the quality of these interviews is terrific. The editors for this supplement did their job well, because we encounter virtually no extraneous or uninteresting information; it's all good stuff. While I can't say the comments are "no holds barred," there ARE surprisingly frank and honest; the folks involved aren't afraid to knock the movies when it's deserved, and that openness makes these clips that much more delightful. My only complaint is the awkwardness of the interface; each clip has to be chosen individually. It would make a lot more sense to allow us to run through all of them continuously.
Speaking of awkward interfaces, next up is the "Labyrinth." This essentially offers an interactive game through which the viewer can explore and find a wealth of bits and pieces. Many of these are available in the "Index;" you can find all the interview clips, plus all the trailers. We also see lots of video clips of Freddy, such as his stint hosting some videos on MTV. Some still pictures can also be found that show behind the scenes images of the shoots, plus some promotional items and at least one deleted scene (an alternate ending to the first film that's slightly different from the one seen in WTP). These pieces are interesting and fun, but not terribly fascinating.
The "Labyrinth" has been the subject of much controversy because it seems to take the notion of DVD "Easter eggs" to a ridiculous extreme. These "eggs" are hidden features on a disc - things like the "Nostromo crew biographies" on Alien. Usually, a DVD might include one or two of these, and they're fun but nothing spectacular.
The "Labyrinth" takes this concept and goes nuts with it. The whole thing is an Easter egg hunt, and an occasionally obscure one at that. Much like a computer adventure game, you have to pick up various objects that will allow you to access other areas. Even then, you might have some trouble; one section requires you to enter a numerical code ("20") to see that alternate ANOES ending. In another (the "locker room"), you can see different clips if you open the lockers AFTER you've done something else.
Part of the frustration with the "Labyrinth" surrounds the fact that much - but not all - of the information is available in the "Index." The DVD's case claims that the "Index" offers "an unabridged, clickable listing of the disc's contents," but that's not the case; many of the clips can only be found in the "Labyrinth." Compounding this decision is the fact that most of the "Labyrinth" exclusive pieces are fairly brief - usually about ten to fifteen seconds at most. These means that one has to exert a lot of effort for little reward.
One semi-solution to this problem is to explore the "Labyrinth" first. That's what I did, so all of the clips were fresh to me. When I finished - I wasn't able to find everything - I checked out the "Index" for the parts I missed. This method seems much less frustrating to me than watching the "Index" materials PRIOR to entering the "Labyrinth." Had I done it that way, I'm sure I would have been much more irritated at all of the times I accessed materials I'd already viewed. It's not a terribly efficient way to watch the clips, but I thought it saved me some aggravation; some of the clips I activated in the "Index" were ones I'd already seen in the "Labyrinth," but since the "Index" lists titles for all the pieces, I could much more easily skip them.
Ultimately, New Line get an "A" for effort on this section but only a "D" for execution. I must admit I'm not wild about the concept of "Easter eggs;" if you put something interesting on a DVD, why make it difficult for many of the purchasers to find it? Granted, internet sites it easier to discover these hidden features; DVD Review maintains a nice archive of Easter eggs. Still, I'd prefer that DVDs didn't obscure good features behind obscure gimmicks. (By the way, Pete Bracke of DVD File has mentioned that he may post a walkthrough of the "Labyrinth;" we'll update this review with a link if that happens.)
I'd like to be able to list how much time it would take you to watch all of the materials on the Encyclopedia DVD, but the nature of the interface makes that impossible. I know that "Welcome to Primetime" lasts nearly 47 minutes, and I'd guess that if you watched the materials in the "Index" that cover films two through seven, those would take probably about an hour or so; let's assume that the combination of the two would run approximately two hours. I'd guess that the clips inside the "Labyrinth" would take no more than about ten minutes to watch if you could easily access them; because of the awkwardness of the setup, however, plan on taking at least three or four hours to explore the "Labyrinth." That estimate assumes that you're actually watching all of the clips, including those in the "Index;" if that's not the case, drop a couple of hours from that estimate. It'll still take you a lot of time, however, just because you'll have to start up those redundant clips to discover which ones they are; you have no way of knowing what you're about to see while in the "Labyrinth" until it actually starts.
To fully explore the "Labyrinth," you need to set aside a substantial block of time. This is due to the requirements of the "interactive game" aspects of the DVD. Since you have to pick up objects that you will use later on in the DVD to gain access to some areas, you can't stop the DVD or turn off your player and return to the same place later; this isn't a computer game that will let you save your progress. When you quit, you lose all of the objects in your "inventory." As such, try to allow yourself a few hours to get through this thing; it'll save you a lot of future frustration.
Finally, the Nightmare Collection box includes a very nice 32-page booklet that offers production notes from the press kits for all seven films. It also features an introductory statement from New Line CEO Robert Shaye, a discussion of the "revolving room" effect in the first film from Robert Englund, and a bevy of sharp color photos. Happily, the booklet repeats no information from any of the DVDs - no redundancy here! It's a fine addition to a pretty comprehensive collection.
Despite the extensive list of supplements included here, I do want to note some of the things that are missing from the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia. One of my video pet peeves is when DVD producers do not utilize already-existing supplements from previous laserdisc releases. That's the case here. ANOES offered what appears to have been a nice LD special edition a few years back, but not much from that set made the DVD cut. We get the audio commentary from the LD, plus all seven trailers and the two alternate endings. However, here's what we lose: additional deleted scenes and alternate takes, shots dropped because of the MPAA, TV ads, shots meant for TV broadcast, rejection letters received by Craven as he peddled the concept for the film, a letter Craven wrote to the MPAA to debate the cuts they desired, storyboards, and summaries of test screening questionnaires. Wow! That's a lot of material to lose. Perhaps New Line didn't have the rights to these pieces, but I find it disappointing that they're omitted nonetheless.
Actually, the lack of deleted scenes overall was something of a letdown. I mean, we're talking about seven movies here - there has to be a wealth of footage that didn't get used. It's not like they didn't have room to include the stuff. While the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia seems to be packed to the gills, there's plenty of space on each of the individual DVDs to insert extra materials; the longest film of the series -" - only runs 112 minutes, while the shortest is less than 90, so there's still lots of space on those platters. Again, I don't know what legal issues may have prevented the inclusion of these materials, but their absence is disappointing.
Despite the shortcomings of the "Labyrinth" interface and the omission of some materials, the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia is one terrific resource for information about the films. Getting to all those materials can be very awkward at times, but there's so much good stuff here that the additional effort usually is rewarded.
It'll be interesting to see how New Line handle the inclusion of supplementary materials on the individual releases of the Elm Street movies. Obviously all of the Encyclopedia clips will not appear on the separate issues; we know this simply because ANOES is already out and it lacks WTP and the other bits about that film. My guess is that the individual films may include trailers, but that'll probably be it. Time will tell, I suppose...
For fans of the series, the purchase of this box set is a no-brainer. Its list price of $129.98 translates to about $18.57 per movie, and that doesn't factor in the added value of the Encyclopedia. It also doesn't calculate the substantial discounts that can be had on the set through internet retailers; a search showed that most of them charge 30% off, or about $91, or $13 a movie (again, a figure that doesn't include the "Encyclopedia" in the equation). For someone who likes these films, that's very little money to spend for a lot of entertainment.
Others may need more convincing. For me, the Encyclopedia was the decision-maker. As I mentioned earlier, my curiosity was piqued after viewing the first film; I wanted to see what direction the rest of the series would go. Still, it was the supplements that really drew me in. I love that stuff, and the Encyclopedia sounded awfully fun. Admittedly, my decision was made easier by the very low price I obtained ($58 shipped after I used a coupon at Reel), but I still needed to know that this package looked good to get me there.
My recommendation of The Nightmare Collection is far from unequivocal. It's far too much of an investment and also much too limited in interest for too many people for me to urge everyone to pick one up. However, if you have an interest in the series, it's definitely worth your while. New Line did a great job remastering the sound and picture of all seven films, and the supplements in the Encyclopedia offer hours of entertainment. Chances are you'll have a great time with the package.
Editor's Notes: On August 22, 2000, New Line made available the individual disc for purchase. For the most parts, these DVDs are identical to the ones contain on the boxed set. The only difference is that the individual DVD also contains a fullscreen version of the film. You can read Colin's reviews on these DVDs by following these links: Nightmare 2; Nightmare 3; Nightmare 4; Nightmare 5; Freddy's Dead; New Nightmare.