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Robert Englund: Freddy Krueger and Beyond - A Biography

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2007

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Robert Englund is probably one of the last ones of a dieing breed - the horror actor.

Like actors like Boris Karloff [Boris Karloff bio - click here], Bela Lugosi [Bela Lugosi bio - click here], Tod Slaughter [Tod Slaughter bio - click here], Lon Chaney jr [Lon Chaney jr bio - click here], John Carradine [John Carradine bio - click here], Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee before him, Englund is an actor who did not enjoy too much success in the mainstream movieworld but was amazingly successful in horrorfilms, usually playing the villain, often hamming it up, and often giving rather bland movies at least a touch of colour.

However, Englund did initially try to make it as a theatre actor (he has classical theatre training), and after he resettled for movies, it took him another ten years to have his breakthrough performance in the horror genre, playing - you probably guessed it - Freddy Krueger, a role that, once he made it his own, would stay with him his entire career (so far).

 

But let's start at the beginning:

Robert Englund was born Robert Barton Englund in Glendale, California in 1947. His father was the engineer C.Kent Englund who helped develop the Lockheed U-2 spy plane in the 1950's. Englund however had no interest in engineering and started studying theatre at the tender age of 12, in a special children's theatre program at California State University, and soon enough he could be found acting in numerous children's plays at local theatres. Eventually, from 1968 to '70, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Rochester, Michigan, but while studying by day, he was already appearing in plays each night at a local theatre.

 

Robert Englund's breakthrough as a theatre actor came in 1972 in a Cleveland stage production of the religious musical Godspell, in which he played the role of Judas.

From his success in Godspell, it wasn't long before Englund felt the desire to go to Hollywood and start a film career, and in 1973, he auditioned for a film to be directed by Terrence Malick, however he did not get the part. The movie in question was the cult classic Badlands (1973), starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Still, Englund did not despair and in 1974, he landed his first movie role in Buster and Billie (1974, Daniel Petrie, Sidney Sheldon), with Jan-Michael Vincent and Joan Goodfellow in the title roles, a bittersweet love-story that turns into a rape'n'revenge flick towards the end. Englund plays Jan-Michael Vincent's closest friend in this one.

 

Interestingly, Englund's second film, Slashed Dreams/Sunburst (1975, James Polakof), has once again a rape-theme: The film is about two highschool kids (Peter Hooten, Kathrine Baumann) making a trip to the woods ... where she is almost raped by James Keach (who also co-wrote the screenplay) - almost because he couldn't get it up. Englund plays a good-guy role in this film as the guy the kids intended to visit.

Quite obviously inspired by Deliverance (1972, John Boorman), Slashed Dreams never matched that film's intensity though and is by now largely forgotten.

 



Hustle (1975, Robert Aldrich) on the other hand was a big budget, high profile film starring Burt Reynolds as a cop and Catherine Deneuve as a call girl who have to team up to solve a murder. Robert Englund's role in this one however is small and in the credits he is only identified as holdup man.

 

In fact, Robert Englund made many high prestige films in the second part of the 1970's, like Bob Rafaelson's Golden Globe-winning bodybuilding comedy Stay Hungry (1976) starring Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and Arnold Schwarzeneggger in an early role, the crime-drama/comedy St.Ives (1976, J.Lee Thompson) starring Cahrles Bronson, John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Maximilian Schell, and also featuring a young Jeff Goldblum and an old Elisha Cook jr.

 




The musical romance A Star is Born (1976, Frank Pierson) stars Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Streisand and Gary Busey and is essentially a weak rock music remake of William A.Wellman's 1937 film of the same name that was also remade by George Cukor in 1954. Then there's the trucker comedy The Last of the Cowboys/The Great Smokey Roadblock (1977, John Leone) that stars Henry Fonda in a late role as trucker and Eileen Brennan with Susan Sarandon in a small role, the TV-biopic Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy (1977, Richard T Heffron) with Peter Strauss in the title role, John Millius' surfer comedy/drama Big Wednesday (1978) starring Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt and Gary Busey, with cult-actor Joe Spinell in a small role, the Oscar-nominated gay interest drama Bloodbrothers (1978, Robert Mulligan) starring Paul Sorvino, Tony Lo Bianco and Richard Gere in an early role as well as Kristine DeBell in a small part, and the TV true story-drama The Ordeal of Patty Hearst (1979, Paul Wendkos).

 

But however high profile all of these films were, Englund's parts in them were hardly impressive or vital, with the possible exceptions of The Last of the Cowboys, in which he plays a hitchhiker whom Henry Fonda takes across the country, along with a wagonload of prostitutes, and Big Wednesday, which he besides playing a small part also narrates. On the other hand there was A Star is Born, where he isn't even listed in the credits.

 

Robert Englund's problem was, he was no typical leading man, he neither had moviestar good looks nor an action star physique, he was only average of height, and his classical training as an actor made him perfect for the stage but on screen he always came across a little ham. In that respect it's hardly surprising that he did not get the lead in the first Star Wars (1977, George Lucas), a role he allegedly auditioned for.

All of this made him of course, while unfit for mainstream, a perfect character actor for genre films, and so two of his films from the 1970's are much more of precursors for things to come than any of the above-mentioned movies:


  • Eaten Alive/Death Trap (1976) was Tobe Hooper's first film after his groundbreaking Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and an a bit desperate attempt to top the earlier film with another backwoods shocker, this time set in the swamps of Louisiana and featuring not cannibals but an alligator. Englund doesn't play a lead in this one and gets bumped off (or eaten up?) pretty early in the film too, but as sex-crazed cowboy he manages to leave an impression. In later years by the way, Englund and Tobe Hooper would collaborate on quite a few more films.
  • The other shocker Englund made in the 1970's was The Fifth Floor (1978, Howard Avedis), a somewhat weird hybrid of horror and women in prison movie with some disco music thrown into the mix that stars Diane Hull as a disco babe who is thrown into an asylum and Bo Hoskins as psychiatric technician who turns out to be her main tormentor - with Englund playing a fellow patient.


Apart from his excursions into the horror genre, Robert Englund would also start to more and more work for TV in the late 1970's, having guest spots on many a popular TV-series with the occasional made-for-television movie thrown in. Series Englund was in included The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977), Police Woman (1978), the soap opera spoof Soap (1979) featuring a young, pre-Saturday Night Live Billy Crystal, and California Fever (1979) featuring a young Lorenzo Lamas.

 


The early 1980's saw Englund mainly doing TV-series and TV-movies as well as the occasional shocker, but nothing too great, and even if the films were sometimes good, Englund's parts were usually small.

TV-series Englund did in the early 1980's include Charlie's Angels (1980), CHiPs (1981), the series Walking Tall (1981) that was based on Phil Karlson's 1973 movie of the same name (which got remade by Kevin Bray starring The Rock in 2004), Hart to Hart (1981) and Manimal (1983), his TV-movies include the totally ridiculous (but not in a good way) Lee Majors-starrer Starflight: The Plane that Couldn't Land (1983, Jerry Jameson) - a film about the plane that accidently overshoots into orbit and now ground control tries to bring her back (really, I'm not joking) -, and his shockers include the Alien (1979, Ridley Scott) rip-off Galaxy of Terror (1981, Bruce D.Clark) and Dead and Buried (1981, Gary Sherman).

 


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Of all of those mentioned above, Dead and Buried might very well be the best film, a macabre tale about a cop (James Farentino) invetigating murders of some out-of-towners in a quiet fishing village, only to discover that prominent townfolks themselves, including his wife (Melody Anderson) were involved in the murders - but not only that, they are also all zombies ... yup, including his wife.

Unfortunately, the film was anything but a success back in the day (it has become something of a cult item on video and DVD since) and Englund's involvement in the film is only of minor importance.

The only other film Englund did in the early 1980's is the Filipino-lensed Vietnam war drama Don't Cry, it's only Thunder/Vietnam: Hell or Glory (1982, Peter Werner), but just like Dead and Buried, this film was a failure ...

 



Actually in the mid 1980's, it looked as if Robert Englund's career went nowhere in particular wben fate struck with a one-two punch - and in Englund's favour, too.

First there was V (1983, Kenneth Johnson), a (not only) from today's point of view rather ridiculous but back then widely popular miniseries that mixes an all-out alien invasion plot with soap opera elements. Englund didn't have a big role in this one, but a memorable one, he played Willie, the alien sympathetic to us earthlings. Willie wasn't actually a role vital to the plot as such (though who can say such a thing concerning soap operas), but he was vital to the feeling of the series as such, so Englund was called back to repeat his role in the follow-up mini-series V: The Final Battle (1984, Richard T.Heffron) in which his role has gotten significantly bigger as well as the resulting (but short-lived) TV-series V (1984 - 1985).

 

It's fair to say that V put Robert Englund on the map for a wider audience, but in 1984, Englund finally got the role that would be his breakthrough performance and would redefine his career until this very day - I'm talking of course about Freddy Krueger here.

 


Freddy Krueger was the killer in a teen slasher movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Wes Craven, director of two cult shockers of the 1970's (Last House on the Left [1972] and The Hills Have Eyes [1977]) who was in 1984 thought to be pretty much as past his prime as the teen slasher genre as such.

However, A Nightmare on Elm Street was no ordinary teen slasher as much as Freddy Krueger was no ordinary killer, the twist was that Krueger had already been burned to death way before the movie started but has found a way to come back to life - in the dreams of the teenage kids of the people who killed him. And to really put an emphasis on his menace - as if the badly burned face and diabolical smile were not enough - Freddy wears a glove with blades in form of claws attached to the fingers, which he relishes in using to kill his victims. The nightmare-twist to the slasher formula of course allowed Craven the inculsion of surreal elements in the plot as well as an almost philosophical dimension - and wouldn't you know it, the film became a raving success and it reconfirmed Wes Craven's status as a cult horror director.

But the film also had an amazing effect on Robert Englund's career, which is kind of surprising since he has only very little screentime let alone dialogue in this one - which belongs to Heather Langenkamp getting able support from B-movie veteran John Saxon [John Saxon bio - click here] and not so able support from a very young Johnny Depp in one of his earliest roles that gives him no opportunity to shine like he would later in his career. But even when Englund is around, he is mostly kept in the dark or his face is hidden under tons of special makeup - which does make sense since he plays a badly burnt man. However, none of this could hide the fact that Englund gave a very fine performance, and over the next few years, he would turn the character into a bona fide horror icon ...

 



With a film as successful as A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was only a matter of time until a sequel would follow, and in this case it didn't take all that long: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, directed by Jack Sholder, was released in 1985. This film is about a teen (Mark Patton) who is possessed by Freddy Krueger  - as played by Robert Englund, naturally - who through the teenage boy tries to gain access to the real world (as opposed to the dreamworld he is living in). And while a departure from a formula is generally commendable, in the case of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 it simply doesn't work after it has been established in the first movie that Freddy Krueger can only be killed in the real world. But even apart from this nitpicking, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is a rather bad movie, it's sloppily written, directed without any imagination or inventiveness, and the acting is pretty bad - only Robert Englund makes any impression at all, and he seems to make the role more and more his own.

 



In 1987, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Chuck Russell), that saw the return of Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon of part one and featured a young Patricia Arquette in her first film, 1988 brought A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Renny Harlin), and 1989 saw the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (Stephen Hopkins), none of them especially remarkable though at times quite amusing films.

 

Of course the later films as such (from number 3 onwards) were little more than a rehash of the original, only sillier and more in-your-face, but they put more of a focus on the Freddy Krueger-character and gave Robert Englund more opportunity to develop the role. No longer was he just the menacing boogie-man, he now also had a humourous side to himself (as in black humour) and would increasingly use ironic oneliners to accompany his slashings, just like your average action star (or your average court jester, if you may).

Over the course of the years (and sequels), the franchise would get sillier and sillier, and Wes Craven's carefully dosed nightmarish surreal imagery would give way to comicbook surrealism that wasn't always too thought through, but Freddy Krueger himself would over the years gain iconic status, with Freddy Krueger-merchandise, from action figures to Halloween masks, being sold in no small amount.

 


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In fact, the series was going so strong in the late 1980's that it spawned a TV-series, Freddy's Nightmares, an anthology series that ran from 1988 to 1990, which Robert Englund as Freddy hosted, and where he was also allowed to direct two episodes himself, Monkey Dreams and Cabin Fever, both in 1989.

Occasionally, Englund would also not only act as the show's host but also star in the episodes, like its pilot, the Tobe Hooper-directed No More Mr.Nice Guy (1988) that tells Freddy Krueger's origin story.

 


In 1991, New Line Cinema, the production company of the Nightmare on Elm Street-series, decided to put the series to a rest while it was still on top, but end it with a bang. The final chapter of the Freddy Krueger-saga was supposed to be an over-the-top shocker starring Yaphet Kotto with comic cameo-appearances by Roseanne, her then husband Tom Arnold, Johnny Depp (who has matured as an actor since part one) and Alice Cooper thrown into the mix, to make it the Nightmare on Elm Street to end all Nightmare on Elm Streets - but unfortunately the resulting movie, Freddy's Death: The Final Nightmare (Rachel Talaly) falls short of this promise. In fact, the film is nothing more than just another episode of a series that has long outworn its originality, and the comic cameos just aren't all that amusing.

Still, the film showed that it might be a good idea to really put the series to rest after all - but like all good movie monsters, Freddy Krueger didn't remain dead for long ... but more about that later.

 

Apart from the Nightmare on Elm Street-series, Robert Englund did rather little work in the second half of the 1980's - which is hardly surprising since he had his hands full with the Nightmare on Elm Street-movies and TV-series anyways.

 

He guest starred on a few TV-shows like Night Court (1985), Hunter (1985), MacGyver (1986) starring richard Dean Anderson, North and South, Book II (1986) starring Kirstie Alley and David Carradine, and Knight Rider (1986) starring David Hasselhoff. The interesting thing about his Knight Rider episode, titled Fright Knight, is that he plays a horror actor, giving the story light horror overtones - but that said, the episode is not all that interesting, after all it's still Knight Rider.

 


Concerning feature films, there was the spy-movie oddity Never too Young to Die (1986, Gil Bettman) starring John Stamos, Vanity, Kiss-frontman Gene Simmons in a double role, one of them in drag (!), and George Lazenby - one of those ridiculously bad films that just keeps you watching ... Robert Englund did only play a small part though.

Then there was the US-Soviet co-production Dance Macabre/Phantom of the Opera II (1989, Greydon Clark), a run-of the-mill slasher set in St Petersburg in which Englund plays a facially scarred dance instructor - who is of course also a serial killer. Both Menahem Golan and Harry Alan Towers had their hands in the production of this film, which is in fact little more than a pointless (and by now forgotten) slasher.

Of more interest might be the same year's Phantom of the Opera (1989, Dwight H.Little) which was again produced with the participation of both Menahem Golan and Harry Alan Towers. Though the film was made primarily to cash in on the success of the then current Andrew Lloyd Webber-musical of the same name (and based on the same source, Gaston Leroux's novel), the film is interesting inasmuch as director Dwight H.Little highlights the slasher aspects of the Phantom of the Opera and provides the tried and true plot with an interesting framing story taking place in moern day New York (the body of the picture takes place in 19th century London by the way).

 


In 1989 though, Robert Englund also directed his first feature film, 976-Evil, a film he did not star in himself - but still it's a horror film (seems to be impossible to escape the genre). The film about a satanic phone number that grants its callers supernatural powers but also turns them into serialkillers, is nothing great, in fact it's a bit of a Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma) rip-off with telephones and with Stephen Geoffreys - a man who has allegedly turned to gay porn later in his career - in the Sissy Spacek role, but all that said, it's decent 1980's-style grade B genre entertainment ... and what's so bad about that.

 


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Robert Englund's first film of the 1990's was pretty much a failure, not necessarily in quality terms, but it failed terribly at the box office: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990) by Renny Harlin (of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4-fame), a somewhat misguided attempt to make an action-comedy star out of then popular standup comedian Andrew Dice Clay, whose comedy is normally based on profanity and offensive jokes - not really the right man for a mainstream Hollywood action comedy in the first place, wouldn't you say ? Besides Clay, the film also starred crooner Wayne Newton and Priscilla Presley. Rather fortunately, Englund's role was only a small one.

 


Night Terrors/Living Nightmare (1993) a film once again (co-)produced by Harry Alan Towers, reunited Robert Englund with Tobe Hooper. Like all of Hooper's films since Texas Chainsaw Massacre though, this is a far cry from his early masterpiece, actually this one is a rather brainless and badly scripted blend of horror and sexploitation, but at least Night Terrors, in which Robert Englund roaylly hams it up as the Marquis De Sade and his descendant/reincarnation, is funny in a silly and sleazy sort of way. And it features Zoe Trilling, who is certainly not the best actress around but she is gorgeous, has a hot body and gets naked frequently ...

 



Two years later, Robert Englund teamed up with director Tobe Hooper and producer Harry Alan Towers again for the Stephen King adaptation The Mangler (1995), but while Night Terrors was at least funny in a trashy sort of way, The Mangler, a film about an industrial laundry folding machine possessed by some demon or other, was merely atrocious, an extremely stupid script, an overly clichéd direction, a less than decent main cast - and to top it all off, Englund as the villain of the piece, a disfigured and crippled ruthless capitalist who turns out to be a devil worshipper, can be seen at his campiest, hamming it up without inhibitions like A Christmas Carol's Scrooge on speed. Seen in writing, this might all sound rather interesting, but take it from me, The Mangler is among the worst films ever, and it does not have any so-bad-it's-good qualities.

 


Between Night Terrors and The Mangler though, Robert Englund returned to his most famous role, that of Freddy Krueger, once more, for Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994), in which Craven, director of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, tried to give the series back its dark mood as well as make a self-reflexive meta-horrorfilm, in which Freddy Krueger, the monster of the series, enters the real world and threatens prominent figureheads of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, like Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, director Craven, producer Robert Shaye and Robert Englund, who all play themselves - but of course, Englund plays Freddy Krueger as well, but in a more subdued, less campy way than in the previous films. As interesting as all this may sound though, the film is rather disappointing, a lame shocker that clumsily tries to force an extra dimension onto a formula - and fails, both in quality terms and at the box office ... it would be 2 more years until Wes Craven would find back to former success with another meta-horror film, Scream (1996) - at least at the box office.

 



In the latter part of the 1990's, Robert Englund's career would more or less stagnate: His lasting popularity as Freddy Krueger, would grant him parts in genre features and TV-shows, but hardly any film he made was anything special. Films from that era included ...

  • La Lengua Asesina/Killer Tongue (1996, Alberto Sciamma), a sci-fi/horror comedy that tries a bit too hard to be funny to really live up to its promises. But at least Robert Englund as a sadistic prison warden gives an amusing, consciously campy performance.
  • Starquest II/Galactic Odyssey (1997, Fred Gallo), a Roger Corman production, is basically a trashy space opera with a bit of sex thrown into the mix, just for good measure.


  • The Paper Brigade (1997, Blair Treu) on the other hand is quite from the opposite side of the spectrum, a family friendly teen comedy/drama about a streetwise 14 year-old from New York (Kyle Howard )having to come to term with smalltown life.
  • More family friendly films were the Disney-produced Meet the Deedles (1998, Steve Boyum) which has Dennis Hopper as the main villain and Englund as Hopper's henchman, and The Prince and the Surfer (1999, Arye Gross), a modernized version of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, but with - you guessed it - surfers.
  • The Perfect Target (1997, Sheldon Lettich) on the other hand is a rather pointless action thriller set in Mexico with Daniel Bernhardt in the lead, playing your customary mercenary.


  • Wishmaster (1997, Robert Kurtzman) was a horror/fantasy film produced by Wes Craven about a Djinn (Andrew Divoff) who on one hand relishes in stealing people's souls, on the other wants to force Tammy Lauren into making three wishes, after which he can release his demons on humankind. Robert Englund merely made a cameo appearance in this one, as did Tony Todd, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister and Kane Hodder, just to have a few of the more recent horror actors on board.
  • Urban Legend (1998, Jamie Blanks) is one of the very many typical slick and streamlined slashers that were produced in Hollywood in the wake the success of Wes Craven's Scream (1996) and that in general did not have that movie's (self-)irony. This one is about a group of college students who are bumped off according to various urban legends. The youngsters include Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson and Tara Reid, many of whom were previously TV-stars. Englund can be seen in a cameo as a professor teaching folklore.

  • ... and then there was the reactionary shocker Strangeland (1998, John Pieplow) which revolves around a schizophrenic killer who is released back onto the community where he committed some crimes years ago - and now, when not under medication, he is more dangerous than ever. Robert Englund plays the head of a lynch mob in this one.

TV-work in the latter part of the 1990's included guest spots in many popular series, including Walker, Texas Ranger (1996), Babylon 5 (1996), Sliders (1996), Married with Children (1997) - in the episode Damn Bundys, in which he can be seen as the Devil - and the 1998 Halloween episode of The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror IX (Steven Dean Moore), once again playing (or rather voicing) Freddy Krueger.

 



The 2000's pretty much started like the 1990's ended, with Robert Englund appearing in a bunch of rather insignificant movies and TV-series, like the made-for-TV feature Python (2000, Richard Clabaugh), a typically silly film about a - you guessed it - giant python (created in a secret army lab, naturally) roaming the countryside starring Casper Van Dien with a guest spot for Jenny McCarthy, and Englund playing the scientist who does all the explaining in some theatrical monologues. Casper Van Dien also leads the cast in the forgettable made-for-TV actioner Windfall (Gerry Lively), which has Van Dien and Englund as partners in a botched up casino heist who become the casino's security consultants ... oh well.

TV-series of the early 2000's included the kiddie horror series The Nightmare Room (2001) and the popular horror/white magic show Charmed (2001) starring Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs and Rose McGowan as three benign witches.

 

2002 brought a complete change of pace for Robert Englund as he, for the first time in literally decades, got a role in an arthouse film, the Macedonian drama Kako Los Son/Like a Bad Dream (2002, Antonio Mitriceski) about a guy (Miki Manojlovic) who returns from the Balkan war heavily traumatized and unable to re-establish communication with his wife (Iskra Veterova). Instead he hooks up with a runaway from the war (Ertan Saban). Robert Englund plays the homosexual professor of the runaway who's in love with him despite the fact that he is straight ...

 


However, being in an artrouse film was clearly the exception of the rule, as back in the USA he soon enough turned in another cameo in a pointless crime comedy, Wish You Were Dead (2002, Valerie McCaffrey) - this one starring Cary Elwes, Christopher Lloyd and Gene Simmons - before finally realizing a project that has been announced simply forever, Freddy vs Jason (2003, Ronny Yu).

Freddy vs Jason was the attempt by New Line Cinema to merge two of their most popular horror-franchises, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street and have their popular monsters, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger fight it out for supremacy in their horror universe. But while this concept might sound very exciting, the resulting film is less so, and the reasons are manyfold: First of all, by 2003 the slasher formula has grown immensely stale, and the movie makes no attempt to transcend the formula whatsoever, secondly the film misses out on all the ironic possibilities a film like this quite naturally offers (come on, seeing Freddy Krueger fight Jason Voorhees is just bound to be funny), and thirdly the choice of Hong Kong veteran Ronnie Yu as director might not have been the luckiest one - now don't get me wrong, I love some of Ronnie Yu's work he has done back in Hong Kong like The Bride with White Hair (1993), and with The Phantom Lover (1995) he also showed he was able to create a creepy atmosphere, but with the horror genre he quite simply seems to be at a loss: There is not one single spooky moment in all of Freddy vs Jason, plus all the surreal elements of the Nightmare on Elm Street-series are gone, giving way to a rather straight action plot - with two supernatural villains thrown in rather by accident. That the film was too obviously aimed at a teen audience of course doesn't help either, neither did the absence of memorable actors - Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger aside of course.

Still, I can rant all I want, in all, Freddy vs Jason did rather well at the box office and even opened at number one, making it the highest grossing Freddy Krueger-film in years - which unfortunately means of course that there might be a sequel ...

 


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Quite a change from Freddy vs Jason was Robert Englund's next film, Il Ritorno di Cagliostro/The Return of Cagliostro (2003, Daniele Ciprì, Francesco Maresco), an experimental comedy in which Englund plays an American horror actor in the 1940's who comes to Sicily to star in a film about legendary Sicilian occultist (and charlatan) Cagliostro (1743 - 1795). In one word, this movie is weird.

 

Back in the USA, Robert Englund did the comedy Nobody Knows Anything (2003, William Tannen), a film about two blue-collar workers who decide to rob a grocery store. The most interesting thing about this film though is probably its supporting cast, that includes American A-list comedians Mike Myers, Janeane Garofalo and Ben Stiller doing cameo appearances - but that's pretty much it ...

 

In Great Britain, Robert Englund turned in another cameo appearance, this time in the film Dubbed and Dangerous 3 (2004, Ara Paiaya), the last part of a trilogy of parodies of the action genre, both Hong Kong and Hollywood style.

 

The short-lived TV-series A Nightmare on Elm Street: Real Nightmares (2005) proves above all else that Freddy Krueger still hasn't died yet, this time he - as played by Englund, naturally - returns as the host of a (real life) game show that challenges its contestants to face their worst fears - oh well, now that wasn't really necessary ...

 


The 2005 film 2001 Maniacs (Tim Sullivan) was a much hyped but ill-adviced attempt to remake Herschell Gordon Lewis' early gore classic 2000 Maniacs from 1964 [Herschell Gordon Lewis bio - click here]. 2001 Maniacs, a film about eight youngsters visiting a Southern town only to be slaughtered one by one at the town's centennial celebrations, was produced by overrated horror director Eli Roth, and it adds surprisingly little to the 41 year old film, instead it's just a rehash with most of the irony of the original gone as well as much of its inventiveness - and to many dedicated trashfilm fans, me included, 2001 Maniacs was little more than blasphemy.

At least, Robert Englund does his best to not sink with the rest of the film, providing a few much needed amusing highlights as pompous Southern mayor.

 


In 2005, Robert Englund was also reunited with Tobe Hooper, for Dance of the Dead, an episode of the series Masters of Horror.

Masters of Horror is a quite ambitious project to bring horror directors (or rather horror auteurs, if you may) of the past decades together including Hooper, Stuart Gordon, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen and others to make inexpensive hour-long horror films, ranging - within the genre - from comedy to drama, from moodpiece to gorefest. As promising concepts like this one go though, the result was a rather mixed bag of goods ...

Hooper's episode is a post-doomsday tale about a club where the dead are brought back to life to entertain the living on stage. Robert Englund is allowed to royally ham it up as the show's MC in this story that is essentially a mildly enjoyable trashy piece of sci-fi-sexploitation.

 


Robert Englund's most recent three movies are all slashers, but ranging from one end of the genre-spectrum to the other:



Flix.com

While Hatchet (2006, Adam Green) and Heartstopper (2006, Bob Keen) are your typical run-of-the-mill slashers with little to distinguish them from similar genre fare, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006, Scott Glosserman) is an intelligent genre spoof in which a serial killer (Nathan Baesel) is followed around by a documentary filmcrew and he gives them insight into his life, his motivations and his modus operandi, en route deconstructing the slasher genre as such. Robert Englund plays a scientist type of guy in this one trying to explain everything.

 



Flix.com

In 2007, Robert Englund has turned 60, but still, he shows no signs of slowing down and has several film projects up his sleeves, some already completed, including flicks with such promising titles as Zombie Strippers (Jay Lee) - also starring adult legend Jenna Jameson - and Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer (Jon Knautz) as well as his second feature film as a director, the horror comedy Killer Pad, in which he has once again resumed no acting duties. Plus a sequel to 2001 Maniacs, 2001 Maniacs: Beverly Hellbillys, again to be directed by Tim Sullivan, is at least announced - though I'm not really sure if this is a good thing ...

 

True, none of this film will probably be a masterpiece, but one can't thank Robert Englund enough for having kept and continuing to keep the horror genre a fun place and gracing many an otherwise forgettable genre film with a fun performance, and one can only hope that future generations of horror fans will still have stars like him ...

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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