By GABE THOMAS
Starring Robert Englund, Eli Roth and Tony Todd
Directed by Christopher Griffiths and Gary Smart
Written by Neil Morris and Gary Smart
A Nightmare on Elm Street has been a popular topic for horror documentaries for some time now. 2010’s Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy weaves an exhaustive narrative of the franchise’s highs and lows. Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street shares the more personal story of actor Mark Patton’s trials and tribulations. Now, twenty years after Robert Englund’s razor-gloved icon last slashed through our screens, HOLLYWOOD DREAMS & NIGHTMARES: THE ROBERT ENGLUND STORY tells the tale of the man behind the monster.
Starting with Englund’s early days as a character actor in the 1970s, this carefully crafted doc gives so much energy back to its subject. Familiar faces from all over the horror landscape appear to sing the praises of the genre’s most iconic star. The reverence and excitement creators like Adam Green and Tim Sullivan express for Englund is nothing short of heartwarming. Jam-packed with behind-the-scenes recollections from the sets of Wishmaster and Urban Legend, this is the ultimate effort when it comes to capturing a screen legend.
HOLLYWOOD DREAMS & NIGHTMARES uses beautifully rendered animation and re-creations alongside interviews and stock footage to depict Englund’s journey through Hollywood. Masterfully structured and edited, at no point does the film drag or become uninteresting. Robert Englund himself guides the audience through all of the obstacles he has overcome throughout his decades-long career.
Fan-favorite stories and debates are recapped here in their quintessential forms, including the harshest tragedy in monster movie history: Kane Hodder versus Freddy vs. Jason. Some of the most powerful moments come from slasher greats talking about each other with intense love and admiration. Tony Todd and Doug Bradley speak about the perils of type-casting, creating an important conversation about legacy in an industry that can’t let anything die.
Elm Street enthusiasts get their share of insider information, with fresher perspectives applied to Freddy’s impact on younger generations. An extensive amount of attention is paid to how well Wes Craven’s New Nightmare has aged. The movie is bookended by short scenes of Englund in character as Freddy, which is such a rare treat nowadays. Whenever Robert Englund has a chance to sing the praises of late talents, including Sid Haig and Tobe Hooper, the tone is deeply somber and respectful.
The true accomplishment here is the sheer sense of scope given to Freddy Krueger. The narrative is incredibly effective in explaining what a cultural phenomenon the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise truly was. The film’s tone feels intimate when explaining how Englund dealt with suddenly becoming a national treasure. With stories about meeting Quentin Tarantino and George Lucas, the full magnitude of Englund’s entrance into an unfamiliar world is perfectly plotted.
The team behind the documentary has created an expansive and touching tribute to a much-revered celebrity. Englund’s kindness is infectious, as is his appreciation for all the horror community has given him. It is rare to see someone so beloved by their peers and so truly grateful for their fans. This is a long-awaited treat for anyone who ever felt afraid to fall asleep because Freddy Krueger could be waiting for them on the other side – a portrait of a great collaborator, a cherished friend, and a sensitive artist. For all time, this will be considered the last word on the man, the myth, the legend, Robert Englund.
HOLLYWOOD DREAMS & NIGHTMARES: THE ROBERT ENGLUND STORY is now streaming on Screambox.