Written by: Adam Vaughn | June 5th, 2023
After almost 50 years of performances in his acting career, Robert Englund inevitably deserved a documentary biopic. Everyone’s favorite nightmare slasher gets to relate his Hollywood experiences and how his career led to playing the role of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Directors Christopher Griffiths and Gary Smart throw together the ultimate ode to their subject which, while insightful and thorough, follows the trajectory of a typical such work, with nothing special beyond.
Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story starts with a very captivating image of Englund against blood-red lighting, wielding his famous knived glove. Immediately, the tone is set, bringing back the nostalgia for Freddy and the huge success of that franchise. Griffith and Smart spend a considerable amount of the film’s exposition delving into Englund’s early career, Englund himself delivering much of the information. I appreciated the in-depth look at the over-two dozen films Englund featured in before his fateful encounter with Wes Craven and the role that would, in many ways, define him. And needless to say, a wide variety of interviewees (from personal/industry friends to fans of Freddy and the horror genre) keeps the documentary nicely moving along.
While Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares captures the vivid start-to-finish highlights of Englund’s career, it also never strays from the clear objective of focusing solely on Robert Englund as an actor, never really reaching for any big ideas or having any true commentary on that time period in Hollywood. By the time the viewer chronologically passes the “Nightmare on Elm Street” phase of the story, many details seem to be recycled, with the central narrative mystery already revealed. The last half of the film simply goes through the motions of telling Englund’s year-for-year history, and finishes with an abrupt “to-be-continued” conclusion.
While Griffith and Smart’s film isn’t anything special, fans of Freddy Krueger will relish the opportunity to trace a pop culture icon’s career, and vividly see all the various behind-the-scenes moments of Englund’s experience as an actor. At the end of the day, the film’s objective is to celebrate A Nightmare on Elm Street and its impact on society, and there is a clear passion from the directors and the production team to share this celebration. For those susceptible to its charms, Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story will surely leave them feeling as if they know as much about the man who made Freddy real as one can possibly learn.