Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: A must-see for Freddy fans

Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares - Courtesy ScreamBox
Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares - Courtesy ScreamBox /

Few contemporary horror actors have the name recognition of Robert Englund. Yet, while there have been documentaries on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, there hasn’t been one on Englund’s long career, until now. Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story is an entertaining two hours tracking the icon’s legacy from Elm Street and beyond.

Directed by Gary Smart and Christopher Griffiths (Pennywise: The Story of It), the documentary, like others of its kind, follows a linear nature. It starts by tracking Englund’s time in the theater and arguments he had with his dad, who wanted him to be a lawyer, as opposed to an actor.

Yet, unlike other docs, it doesn’t get too bogged down in biographical details. It’s all the better for it, considering the runtime already stretches past two hours. Instead, the film focuses primary on Englund’s acting career, both his larger and smaller roles.

Englund shares engrossing anecdotes from the outset. Watching this, you feel like you’re at a bar with him, as he recounts working with Tobe Hooper in the 1970s on Eaten Alive, or how he missed out on roles in Grease and Star Wars. Meanwhile, this doc is packed with a who’s who of contemporary horror icons, including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Doug Bradley, Heather Langenkamp, Eli Roth, just to name a few. All of them bestow accolades upon Englund.

While the documentary isn’t just about the Elm Street franchise, it certainly spends adequate time on the films with some cool behind-the-scenes stories and a general assessment of their legacy. Of note, Englund mentions how landing the role of Freddy was a happy accident, that he never thought he’d get the part. To make himself seem more intimidating, he refused to blink at all during the initial interview with director Wes Craven and even rubbed motor oil in his hair to grease it up.

It’s all of these tidbits that make Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares such an arresting two hours. The runtime shouldn’t breeze by so easily, but it does. Englund also gives an honest reflection of the Freddy legacy and admits during the height of the franchise, he gave up some other roles to act in one sequel after the other. Yet, if the Freddy role felt limiting at times, Englund doesn’t express any regret.

The film reminds viewers just how many horror movies the actor has appeared in post-Elm Street, including The Phantom of the Opera, Hatchet, and 2001 Maniacs. While the film focuses plenty on Freddy, it also doesn’t dwell on the role. This also makes it stand out, underscoring the breath of Englund’s career, including his recent, limited role in the last season of “Stranger Things.”

Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the man who played Freddy but has done so much more. Englund’s love and appreciation for his craft and the genre comes through here. Finally, one of horror’s biggest names has his own documentary.

The documentary will stream exclusively on Screambox beginning June 6.

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