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Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story (2022) Review

Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story picks up with a 12 year old Robert being sent to theatre camp getting attention from girls and being complimented by talk show host Steve Allen. That, especially the female attention, pointed him toward his career. And really, what better motivation can a young man have?

Best known for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Robert Englund already had a long history in the genre. Dating back to Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive in 1976. Who could forget his entrance announcing “My name’s Buck, and I’m here to fuck!” and the criminally underrated Dead and Buried in 1981 as well as Galaxy of Terror and a host of others. And it’s continued well past his time as Freddy, most recently doing voice acting in the bizarre puppet film Abruptio.

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Directors Christopher Griffiths (Pennywise: The Story of It, Dark Ditties Presents ‘The Offer’) and Gary Smart (Dark Ditties Presents ‘Mrs. Wiltshire’, You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night) and Smart’s co-writer Neil Morris (Werewolf of Moldavia, Dark Ditties Presents: The Witching Hour) wisely avoid simply rehashing the familiar stories. As a result, Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story runs just over two hours, and nearly half of it is devoted to the years before he broke through with V and then A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The stories from his early career are some of the most interesting in the film. From nearly killing Burt Reynolds on the set of Hustle due to a faulty charge in a gun, sadly some things never change, working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on Stay Hungry and playing a small role and doing the narration for John Milius’s Big Wednesday. He also touches on films he didn’t appear in, auditioning for the role of Han Solo and convincing Mark Hamill to audition for the part of Luke Skywalker. Or gathering leaves for the set of John Carpenter’s Halloween.

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For many viewers, though, the stories from Englund’s time as Freddy will be the main selling point of Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story. That’s understandable given the franchise’s popularity and impact. Unfortunately, most of the stories about that franchise have been told and retold, so much of it will be familiar to viewers. Those new to the films or the genre will get the most out of these segments.

I found the stories about the making of Phantom of the Opera and how he used a character from Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai to shape his character in The Mangler to be more interesting. And it’s these stories like these, or about the making of lesser-known films like The Midnight Man and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, that were more interesting to me than how Kane Hodder got screwed out of playing Jason in Freddy vs Jason which has been covered in documentaries about both franchises.

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Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story also gets a lot of its entertainment value from the various people who are onscreen telling the stories about Englund and his work. And there are a lot of them here, from the expected big names, Kane Hodder, Eli Roth, Tony Todd, and Lin Shaye and archival footage of Wes Craven to cult figures such as Janus Blythe and Gary Sherman to Slipknot’s Cory Taylor and a host of others who worked with him over the years. Again, some are telling familiar stories, but there are plenty of new faces and information mixed in as well.

Those interested in Englund and his career should find Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story an entertaining film. Its brisk pace and wealth of material keep it from dragging, which should help it appeal to more general horror fans as well.

Cineverse, formerly Cinedigm, will release Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story to Digital Platforms and the Screambox streaming platform on June 6th. For those that want a hard copy, Steelbook and Collector’s Edition Blu-rays will arrive on July 25th. And if you’re looking for more like this, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.

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