You can’t imagine the excitement for the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET COLLECTION boxed DVD set… unless, of course, you were there when it finally arrived in September of 1999.
Having watched the movies over and over again on VHS and Laserdisc, it was high time for the series to enter the new digital age. Lo and behold, the New Line Platinum Series delivered a set that, while not thoroughly complete, was a major step in the right direction toward finally giving Freddy his due on DVD.
The set contained all seven original theatrical versions of the ELM STREET movies up to NEW NIGHTMARE… even including the 3D ending of FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (pairs of 3D glasses were included in the box). The transfers for each movie were the best available at the time, and along with the extras and overall packaging, the set was a big hit with many horror fans. However, the most intriguing and exciting inclusion was the bonus disc entitled THE NIGHTMARE SERIES ENCYCLOPEDIA.
This was a compendium of information about the films, but presented in three different ways: The first is PRIMETIME, a near hour-long series of interviews, played out like a documentary about the original film.
The second, LABYRINTH, I’ll get into in a second. The third, INDEX, compiled a list of interviews for each individual film in the series. All three options were available on the main menu.
Getting into the LABYRINTH portion of the disc needs some context: In the early days of DVDs, an Easter Egg was a fun extra on many releases. It was usually a hidden access to additional content, found buried within menus or unlocked by entering a code of some kind. You might be wandering from item to item when suddenly something off to the side would be highlighted… and choosing this option would take you to an unlisted surprise.
The LABYRINTH portion of the NIGHTMARE bonus disc offers a plethora of these — in fact, it’s basically an interactive game, wherein you proceed through a maze and find items to click on.
Once this option is selected, the screen morphs into the NIGHTMARE house and goes inside to reveal a school hallway… and if you wait a few seconds, Freddy will run through the frame.
The layout of the maze doesn’t make a whole lot of sense logically… but this is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, after all, where dream-logic is in full play.
For instance, there’s a morgue, a Freddy memorabilia room, a room full of ticking clocks, Freddy’s work bench, and even a boiler room.
Along the way, you might find items to pick up — such as a key or a remote control — that will help you explore other places that might otherwise be locked.
While you’re exploring the LABYRINTH, each screen morphs into the next as you click through to proceed, while creepy, atmospheric music and sound effects can be heard — much of it sourced directly from the films. This creates a sense of dread as to what might happen if you accidentally go in the wrong direction, or click on the wrong item.
There’s also some very unsettling imagery on display — including, at one point, the face of a doll with a warped sound of a baby crying.
Now this may be a controversial thing to say, but I’m going to go on record right now anyway: Despite my love for the series, exploring the LABYRINTH is much more terrifying than most of the NIGHTMARE sequels. Yeah, I said it.
As you click around on light switches, knobs, pictures, or just random items in general, you’ll be treated to a variety of different things — including several sets of outtakes from Freddy hosting MTV (with special guests Dokken at one point), a plethora of behind-the-scenes stills and publicity photos, all seven NIGHTMARE theatrical trailers, a couple of alternate endings to the first movie (including one locked away in a cryptic puzzle that I had to look up the solution online to solve), excerpts from various NIGHTMARE documentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, and almost all the interview segments found within the INDEX.
If you’re crazy enough to explore it more than once, you’ll find that you won’t always get the same thing twice in the same location. It’s not quite random, but it certainly feels that way.
Sometimes you’ll be asked a question in order to get through to a locked area: For instance, you may come across a piece of paper in the morgue informing you of the birth and death dates for the subject on the table. In a different room, you’re unable to pass through a doorway unless you answer correctly what the corpse’s age was… and if you make a mistake, you could be sent back to the very beginning of the game.
Needless to say, there’s a variety of things to do and rooms to explore; it’s likely to keep you occupied for a couple of hours at the very least.
Also included in the DVD-ROM materials is an animated Freddy icon you can put on your computer, as well as an additional trivia game — neither of which I personally found much use for.
As comprehensive and entertaining as the NIGHTMARE SERIES ENCYCLOPEDIA bonus disc is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bonus material from the NIGHTMARE series: For starters, there’s the uncut version of the original film, which was only ever available on Laserdisc in Japan; as well as the TV version, and all of the deleted scenes and outtakes found on the Elite Entertainment U.S. Laserdisc and VHS releases. There’s also the uncut version of NIGHTMARE 5, and the TV version of FREDDY’S DEAD, which includes lots of deleted moments. Missing also is any and all deleted footage from the other movies, vintage documentaries about the series, and bonus materials for the sequels. Then there’s the remake — which I didn’t care for, but I wouldn’t mind seeing all of the excised footage from it before it was re-shot; this includes the extra bits seen in the trailers, much of which seemed more effective than what actually wound up in the movie. Just to say I’ve covered everything, there’s also the FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES television series still locked away.
For its time, the 1999 NIGHTMARE boxed DVD set scratched a major itch for horror fans, and represented a massive home video upgrade for collectors. However, for many of us today, a definitive NIGHTMARE boxed set doesn’t exist yet — forcing us to own several releases in order to get everything. Even though some later DVD and Blu-ray releases of the series contained more extra material, there’s still an Ultimate Edition yet to be developed.
To this day, the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET COLLECTION remains one of the highlights of the DVD format, setting a precedent for other movies’ Special Edition releases to come… and the LABYRINTH portion of the bonus disc is still a spooky and enjoyable bit of interactivity.