At times more a tribute than anything else, Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story is a joy from start to finish for fans of the actor, showing him to be so much more than the character he long portrayed.
A classically trained actor and director, Robert Englund has become one of our generation’s most revolutionary horror icons. Englund starred in many well-known movies throughout his career but shot to super-stardom with his portrayal of supernatural serial killer Freddy Krueger in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise.
When an actor gets hired to play a specific character and, whether it be TV or film, that character becomes so well known that said actor can almost only be known for that role. It becomes a horribly great double-edged sword. You have the fame, the notoriety, hell, you can maybe even get any job you like, but what if most of those job offers are in the genre you want to be free from? What if those characters are a bit too close to the skin of the character that made you a household name? It becomes an anchor on you if you let it.
Luckily for us, Robert Englund feels no anchor around his neck. If anything, it seems as if it has freed him so that he can do whatever he likes now he is financially secure. There is a carefree nature to Englund that you gravitate towards with ease. He rifles through Hollywood stories with glee, talking about auditioning for Star Wars and grabbing a script to hand to a good friend.
One thing that Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares does so well in the first half is show us that Robert Englund was so much more than Freddy; he had what was fast becoming a blossoming career after striking gold with the TV show V. While the Nightmare films launched him into superstardom, there was a more than solid character actor underneath that makeup who could do so much more.
As he says in an archive interview, if you asked him tomorrow to play a lawyer, he could. He has the talent not to be pigeonholed into this one character, even if from the outside in for a couple of decades that he was. As he notes, as they were making a new Nightmare film practically every year, it stopped him from being able to take on other roles that may have broken him away from being cemented as Freddy Kruger. Wisely, Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares doesn’t linger on just Freddy after he is touched upon. For good reason, Englund has been a working actor and director, and it is easy to forget how strong an actor he is without the makeup on.
Biographical documentaries have a tendency to weigh themselves down in the facts of a person’s life, to go into too much detail about those early years or personal life. Here, it feels like a wonderful video version of his resume with stories of his experiences and memorable moments to fill out the running time. It is a decision that makes the documentary a much more entertaining to watch, to the point that you barely notice the two hours stream by. You could listen to him wax lyrical for hours, and you just know that he has many more stories there ready for us to enjoy.
Throughout Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares, there is a lightness present that has you continually smiling. The little edits for jokes here and there and the way Englund chats to us make this a very comfortable watch. Though, if you are someone who traverses the convention circuit, you would imagine a lot of these stories will not be overly fresh to your eyes.
However, the whole documentary remains engaging and enjoyable, making it a must-watch for fans and even those with a passing interest. It is a documentary that will have you yearning for at least an extra hour, which is about the biggest compliment you can give. A great love letter to the actor.
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