Is the new feature from the Pennywise: The Story of It team, about horror icon, Robert Englund, a dream come true for film fans or a nightmare to experience?
Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares gives us a tour of Robert Englund’s life. From his beginnings as a child theatre actor who disappointed his parents by not becoming a lawyer through the many film and TV highlights of his nearly five-decade-long career in front of and behind the camera, and to his role as Freddy Krueger, which turned him into a legend. But the film also looks at his impact on those around him. Including the actors and directors he has worked with and his romantic relationships.
What Did I like?
I like the full picture the film gives of its subject and his impact on his colleagues. Near the film’s beginning, Robert says how fantastic it was to receive compliments for his early work. As it helped him feel confident in himself. From there, through the film’s many interviews, we see how that relatively little act helped create the Englund of today. He becomes someone always willing to give an assuring word to veterans and newcomers. And the love and care that Englund gives to analysing his roles, no matter how minor, really showcases someone who loves every bit of what they do. It helps that Robert is a naturally compelling interviewee. His laid-back manner and lovely voice make him a pleasure to be around. By the film’s end, we feel like we really know Robert. Additionally, the way it delivers its message about kindness and acting power is infectious, made even more brilliant by every other interviewee being engaging presence.
Highlights include Heather Langenkamp, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Corey Taylor, Gary Sherman, and partner Nancy Booth. Listening to them talk about how Robert helped them in their work/personal lives and how they are so close, particularly, Nancy’s retelling of their burgeoning relationship and Heather’s imparting of a personal tragedy, gives great insight into what kindness can do in a sometimes toxic industry.
And the film flows incredibly well. Editors Peter Appleyard and Christopher Griffiths give just the right amount of time to each subject to make it feel needed. Never allowing segments to overstay their welcome. Thus the runtime flies pleasantly by.
What Did I Not Like?
Being a Nightmare on Elm Street fan I have watched several behind-the-scenes documentaries concerning the series over the years. Unfortunately, a vast proportion of this film feels like it’s retreading old ground. It’s obviously unavoidable as Freddy Krueger is a hugely important part of Robert Englund’s life but I can’t help but feel a little tired. Though this may not be a problem for everyone.
That said another thing that holds the film back is its rather bland presentation. Despite the best efforts of the participants and the intermittent use of animations the film still doesn’t have the energy it needs to be cinematic thanks to odd framing, flat lighting, and bland music. It feels like a rather generic horror documentary more suited to being a NoES series home media bonus feature.
Lastly, the film really seems rather lacking in diverse material. Mostly relying on old footage and talking heads to deliver a story. I feel like more could have been done to dynamically showcase Englund’s career. Like a home tour or a visit to the set of a current project.
Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares is an average film about an amazing subject but features lots of heart. It suffers from its generic presentation and content style which doesn’t differentiate it from many recent horror documentaries, and its unfortunate need to discuss an already well-covered cultural touchstone. But it’s salvaged by its thorough focus on a fascinating, talented actor who brings out the best in those around him, some great interviewees, a good pace, and a fantastic central throughline emphasising the value of kindness. It’s amazing that the man who scared a generation is so nice.
Rating: (3 / 5)