Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story

The Springwood Slasher is better known as Freddy Krueger. And, actor Robert Englund is also better known as Freddy Krueger—you might even say best-known-as, but this documentary hopes to change that by covering his whole body (er, bodies?) of work alongside his most iconic role.

Filmmakers Gary Smart, Christoper Griffiths, and Neil Morris have teamed up in the past to give us documentaries on Hellraiser, Fright Night, and IT but this is their first foray into the one-man territory. There’s plenty to cover throughout Englund’s decades-long career. From his first foray into the industry in Buster and Billie (1974) to his directorial debut with 967-EVIL (1988), and noting his appearance on Netflix’s ever-popular “Stranger Things,” this documentary dives deep. It nods to how he went from classical theatrical training to getting Eaten Alive in Tobe Hooper’s tawdry alligator sleaze-fest, and from having TV audiences fall in love with his nerdy alien character in the mini-series “V” in 1983 to terrifying teens nationwide as Krueger just one year later.

An upbeat and erudite Englund tells his own story throughout various interviews in different settings and is bolstered by his witty wife, Nancy (whom he married in 1988), his contemporaries (Tony Todd, Lin Shaye, Kane Hodder), younger costars (Heather Langenkamp, Miko Hughes), and friendly horror pundits (Mick Garris, Eli Roth). There are lots of funny stories but one of my favorites was about the day that Englund’s horror-hating dad finally went to the set to see his son act. As it turned out, there was no acting to be seen at all… it was just Englund secured to a gooey backdrop with Freddy’s “torso of souls” practical appliance getting all the closeups. Needless to say, the senior Englund was not impressed.

The story is laid out in a linear fashion and is presented with humor and grace. There are a couple of minor regrets expressed (Englund wishes he’d done a few things differently on his Phantom of the Opera remake) but this isn’t one of those bitter or tragic tales—it’s a feel-good flick centered on a fictional, famous, frightful, murderous, undead child-molester! Imagine that. (Hey, it was the ’80s.)

Thanks to the subject’s cooperation, Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story has a lot of great clips from Englund’s films and a treasure trove of never-before-seen pictures and footage.

The pace is brisk and the runtime is just right at 90 minutes. By the time Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story ends, you’ll not only feel like you know Robert Englund a whole lot better but you will also have learned a few fun factoids about Hollywood dreams and nightmares from a journeyman actor’s point of view.

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS & NIGHTMARES: THE ROBERT ENGLUND STORY will be available on Screambox and Digital on June 6, 2023.

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