Being a massive fan of franchise horror's golden era, i was over the moon when i discovered the feature length documentaries Never Sleep Again and Crystal Lake Memories. After watching these films countless times, i couldn't believe my luck when i caught wind of a retrospective of the original two Hellraiser movies, called Leviathan. In this article, im going to discuss these three films and compare them, hopefully giving an answer to which is the ultimate horror movie retrospective!
Firstly, ill take a look at the three films individually, so any of you that haven't seen or heard f them, can get an idea of what were looking at.
Never Sleep Again:The Elm Street Legacy
Never Sleep again, was released in 2010, and is a comprehensive look at the making of the entire Elm Street franchise. The film starts off telling the story of how New Line Cinema got their starts(by picking up the copyright ro "Reefer Madness" and driving it around colleges and prisons). Once the film gets into the production of the films, you can just tell that this is going to be something special. While a few cast members are missing(Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette t name a few), it seems like every major name, both behind the camera and in front are present and tell of their experiences in depth and, for the most part, you can feel their passion for the series. Being a hardcore "Fred Head ", i thought i knew all there was to know about my beloved Elm Street movies. Oh how i was wrong! There are stories, anecdotes, videos and photos that id never seen before in abundance. Each Elm Street entry is given its own chapter,and are all joined together by some nifty stop motion animation. All in all, Never Sleep Again set the bar in which all other horror documentaries will be measured!
Crystal Lake Memories:The Complete History of Friday the 13th
After the success of Never Sleep Again, came Friday the 13th's own retrospective. Learning from what worked and what didn't with the Elm Street offering, directoe David Farrands packed the 6 hour 40 minutes running time with talking head interviews, clips, behind the scenes photos and never seen before scenes that didn't make the final films cut.
Just like Never Sleep Again, each Friday installment has its own chapter, which covers the preproduction, casting, director choices, special effects, score and soundtrack discussion and finally the chapter discusses the critical response and financial success(or failure) or the entry in question.
One thing Crystal Lake Memories does have that its predecessor lacks, is an entertaining beginning. We start off with Corey Feldman(who famously played a young Tommy Jarvis in 1984's Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and had a cameo in the next film, A New Beginning) telling the tale of Jason around a campfire. It really does set the tone for the rest of the documentary.
Leviathan: The History of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II
Last up, I have chosen Leviathan: The History of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II. This is a funny one to compare, as although its obvious the producers were trying to emulate Crystal Lake Memories(a running time of almost 8 hours eludes to this), it only covers the first two film of the franchise.
Leviathan is in two parts. The first part contains the lions share of the running time, and covers Hellraiser writer/director Clive Barker's background and early career and the making of Hellraiser. Part 2 then goes on to cover Hellbound:Hellraiser II.
In each part, the usual things are covered, from the script development, to casting, special effects etc...
Production: Of all the films, Crystal Lake Memories(CLM from now on) and Never Sleep Again(NSA) have the best production values. Where CLM and NSA ensure that all talking head interviews have a slick background to them, Leviathan has its talking heads either against a plain black background, or in some cases, just sitting in old dingy couches. Leviathan just doesn't feel as professional or well made as its competition.
Winner: Crystal Lake Memories just edges out NSA due to its introductory skit!
Interviews: Leviathan trails in last on this one too, mainly due to the fact that too long was given to the "Clive Barker Love in" that takes up way too much of the first part. It feels like the only reason it's there is to take the running time up to compare with CLM.
Of the other two, i think NSA just pips CLM, mainly as i feel the interviews flow together a bit better.
Winner: Never Sleep Again
Content: CLM must take the win on content, mainly due to its entire running time being crammed full of videos, photos, interviews and behind the scenes footage. NSA only loses out on this as it doesn't run as long as CLM. This is also Leviathan's worst category, as i was very disappointed with its talking head heavy content, and very few media clips or photo's. It didnt even find out the famous "lost" surgeon clip that is all over the internet.
Winner: Crystal Lake Memories
With these three documentaries, as well as the likes of the Scream retrospective, Still Screaming and other docs like "His Name is Jason", the real winner is us, the fans! No matter what franchise you love best, all these films are gold mines of facts and trivia, and i would urge you to give them all a try.
As for which is best though, i think a lot of it comes down to what your personal favorite franchise is, Personally, i adore Never Sleep Again, but still watch Crystal Lake Memories a lot. I just hope the producers of these documentaries keep on making them and give us films on the Halloween series, and a personal favorite, The Leprechon series.