From the mind of Wes Craven, the A Nightmare on Elm Street series was a caffeinated jolt to the heart of horror hounds worldwide. Not only giving birth to the son of 100 maniacs, the franchise also provided us with one of the most iconic movie themes in the history of cinema with composer Charles Bernstein’s "Prologue." Sitting on a gold mine of Krueger classics, Death Waltz records set out to make every A Nightmare on Elm Street fan’s dreams come true with the Box of Souls: A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection 8xLP set. Not only a choice collection of synthesized dreamscapes, the Box of Souls contains an assortment of original pieces from acclaimed artist Mike Saputo, whose highly detailed works showcase the Elm Street horror icon in a terrifying new light.
As with most horror franchises, it never gets better than that first, classic installment, and according to Saputo, A Nightmare on Elm Street is no different. “I loved the first film, I thought and still think it's unmatched in its creative concept and vision, and has become part of popular culture lore. I don't think there are many people who don't know who Freddy Kreuger is. That's pretty crazy. That being said, I can't say I was a huge fan of the subsequent movies up until New Nightmare. I appreciated them for some of the campiness, one-liners, and especially the creative ways Freddy would put an end to his victims, but overall those films in between the bookends [A Nightmare on Elm Street and New Nightmare] never quite hit the high mark for me."
Looking back at how he got in the minds of Mondo/Death Waltz for the release, Saputo notes, “I've been working with Mondo for somewhere around eight or nine years, I believe. Typically the way Mondo works is that they usually pair an artist they think will fit best with a particular property or project. I can't really remember how it was brought up, but I think I may have been chatting with Rob Jones about something else and he talked about a Nightmare vinyl box set and asked if I'd be interested in doing it. It was as intimidating as it was exciting. [It was exciting because] when you are asked to create visuals for these films, that's where the entire franchise excels—there are so many iconic, great visuals and scenes to play off of. It really is a visual smorgasbord.”
"The great thing about Mondo and Death Waltz is that they understand the creative process. For initial concepts, they let an artist do what they do without interference, and when initial concepts are turned in to them, they are pretty good with picking the right concept to move forward with, and giving feedback that usually always ends up improving the project. So in regards to this particular piece, I was allowed to improvise to my heart’s content.”
Working with both Illustrator and Photoshop, it took (from initial concepts to final production) Saputo about 15 months to complete the project. Delving deeper into his creative process, Saputo notes, “Anytime you get a project this big, you have to take a step back and think about how you want to approach it as a collection. Taking this on was a bit daunting. It's not like a single cover or poster. My initial thought about the approach to this was to capture the iconic deaths from each film accompanied by the memorable quote, e.g. The Dream Warriors head-in-the-TV scene with "Welcome to prime time, bitch," or the Freddy's Revenge pool scene, "You are all my children now," etc. As we went through it though, there ended up being some holes here and there, as some of the death scenes I wanted for the covers just weren't as strong as some of the other images from the films. So a lot of the concepts I actually I had thought of for the back covers were chosen for the covers.”
Saputo takes a humorless approach to the artworks. Each piece is a dark take on a franchise that had gotten lighter with each installment. The theme of unbridled gloom that Saputo conveys is overwhelming—every line and shape comes to life with a strong focus on negative space and shadows. “The films were my one and only inspiration for everything,” explains Saputo. “For the outer box, which is Freddy's chest of souls, as seen in the films (NOT inspired from the film Society, okay? If anything, that Society art was inspired by chest of souls), I wanted to do a molded rubber case with the souls coming out, like how the limited Evil Dead Book of the Dead DVDs were, which was the coolest DVD case I've ever seen and was the inspiration for the outer box. Doing the chest of souls outer art was also where the name "Box of Souls" came from, but unfortunately it was too expensive to produce for a box set of this size.”
Nearly two years in the making, the quality and care put into the Box of Souls release ensures that Saputo and Mondo have dished up a fearsome feast for Freddy fanatics. “I'm really damn happy with how this turned out,” reflects Saputo. “My only wish was that the rubber outer box worked out. It would've taken it to the next level, but also would have shot the price so high most people wouldn't be able to afford it. Working on big box sets like this, it's really hard to see how everything looks put together at size, so you just have to trust your mind's eye. Once you see over a year's worth of work finally all together and produced is a big thrill for any artist/designer. I've also gotten a lot of positive feedback from fans and artists to Mondo/Death Waltz, which is really great to hear and just further makes it worth it. Because really, my main goal for this was to create something that fans of the franchise would feel warranted in spending $250 of their hard-earned money on with no regrets, and I hope I achieved that for the most part.”
The ultimate collection for both vinyl and horror enthusiasts, the Box of Souls is by far Mondo and Death Waltz’s most ambitious project to date. Showcasing a tormented collection of some of the most frightening and memorable horror sequences of the ’80s and ’90s, Saputo’s work on the A Nightmare on Elm Street box set is not something to be slept on.
As a special treat for Daily Dead readers, Saputo provided us with concept art and rough draft sketches he did for the Box of Souls vinyl set, and you can check out the artwork by clicking on the top image below, as well as viewing the gallery at the bottom of this article.
Click the Box of Souls image below to view Saputo's sketches: