Robert Englund first starred as Freddy Krueger in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street back in 1984 and, over the course of subsequent decades and multiple reprisals of the role, he has become a horror icon himself, with his real-life personality being nearly as well known as Krueger. Since his last appearance in the franchise with 2003's Freddy vs. Jason, Englund has gone on to explore a number of different characters in genre films, with his latest venture, True Terror with Robert Englund, allowing him to introduce audiences to a number of unsettling encounters and occurrences ripped right out of our history.
The series is described, "Hidden away in the dark shadows of our nation’s history are tales so terrifying, they must be true. Now, veteran actor and legendary horror movie icon Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise) scours news reports of yesteryear to bring viewers twisted tales ripped straight from the headlines in True Terror with Robert Englund. In each episode, Englund uses his ominous tones and creepy charisma to masterfully weave together a trilogy of spine-tingling tales, guided by newspaper accounts and layered with commentary from historians and experts that prove that truth is always stranger than fiction. From flying monsters to creatures in the night, to evil possessions and hauntings, these twisted tales will leave viewers wishing the stories really were only in their dreams."
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Englund to discuss his series, his legacy in the horror world, and what the future could hold for the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Catch new episodes of True Terror with Robert Englund on Wednesday nights on the Travel Channel.
ComicBook.com: The world is currently quarantining themselves due to the coronavirus pandemic, how are you holding up in these difficult times?
Robert Englund: I'm doing well, as well as can be expected in these trying times. It's gotten proportionately more scary and it's getting a little crazier every day, but we kind of see light at the end of the tunnel. Both China and South Korea have leveled off, they plateaued, and gone way down. And apparently even poor little Italy has finally peaked and there's fewer and fewer cases there as well. We have to look for good news wherever we can find it. I think it's going to get worse here before it gets better. But I think we should be turning a corner here by mid-June.
One of the joys of horror, and going to see horror in theaters, is sharing that cathartic release in a communal setting, which we don't get to enjoy right now.
Well, the superficial scare is gone. Although the superficial scare or the theatrical scare, that can be a diversion sometimes, sometimes that is the antidote for the very real terror that we're living through right now.
Sometimes it takes something scary and diverting to take your mind off something scary and real. I know years ago, I dropped off a bunch of horror movies, a bunch of DVDs at a hospital in the male adolescent ward. A lot of kids were waiting for bone marrow transplants and things like that. I think the doctors and the nurses, they thought I was crazy. And then a week later they called up and asked if I had anymore because all the teenage boys were watching horror movies and they kept their minds off of the worry about the bone marrow transplant or any of the intravenous stuff that they had to go through every day. And it's interesting how that can divert you.
Then, it's like during the Great Depression in America, we had all the crazy Busby Berkeley musicals and everything to keep people's minds off of it, and also during World War II, sometimes we need stuff like that.
Many horror fans are turning to Twitter and, while it's not the same as being in a theater, we can at least experience somewhat of a community there.
I think what we have to do, and I know I have to do it with myself because between the Mueller investigation and the impeachment and the election and now the coronavirus, I've become a kind of a news junkie. The last time I was a news junkie was way back during Watergate when I was in college. I stopped being that for decades and, the thing is, you just sometimes have to change the channel. I just have to change the channel and watch Chopped or Deadliest Catch or The Curse of Oak Island or TMZ or something just to get my mind off of the dark news.
Well I'm sure a lot of people are tuning in to True Terror to gain a sense of perspective, witnessing all of these horrifying events that people have endured throughout history.
What's nice is that it's fresh. I think a lot of people, we're in that transition now. I know that The Outsider just finished, the Stephen King project, and now we've got Westworld, which my wife and I love and we love The Outsider, but we're in that transition now both on streaming and on network and the new shows are coming in. It's great that we can provide something fresh and new and distracting for everybody that's sitting around eating peanut butter and jelly and watching TV and trying to stay home and not go out and keep social distancing alive and well.
Not only are fans excited to get a weekly dose of Robert Englund, but audiences can learn something from the series as well.
The source of some of these urban legends and some of these true stories, I think what's fun, what I learned today from talking to other journalists is some of the people that had to watch the first episode, they realize that some of these were really intriguing and it makes you want to go to your computer and Google and find out more about some of these things.
As many of us are trying to take comfort in movies and TV, what are some of your go-to horror movies and TV series that you're revisiting to pass the time?
Well, I don't revisit much. There's so much out there now between Amazon Prime Video and Netflix and HBO and Showtime and iTunes and going through the movies and networks. There's just a lot out there to catch up with. And now we have the Scandinavian noir and we're getting some really great stuff from the UK. I mean, for me, one of my favorite things in the last couple of years has been Penny Dreadful. I just thought Penny Dreadful from the UK was brilliant. That sort of ... Jack the Ripper, London, where you have young Frankenstein and the Wolf Man is there embodied by an American sharpshooter with the Wild Bill Hickok Wild West show. And you have a Renfield and you have Dorian Gray.
I love Penny Dreadful, oh my God, Eva Green ... I love that show. I love the idea of putting all of those characters, the Bride of Frankenstein and Renfield and Dorian Gray and young Frankenstein and the monster all in that stew, and they were all some of my favorite British actors.
There's lots of stuff I go through. Obviously, the Jordan Peele films Get Out and Us are terrific films. I love A Quiet Place. I love John Krasinski and I'm looking forward to the sequel, but there's stuff that slips through the cracks, too. There's a dark, nasty little thriller with an edge called "Hold the Dark" starring Alexander Skarsgard and Jeffrey Wright and the wonderful Riley Keough that I think that horror fans really need to seek out and watch and support. It's got a great actor in that movie who also starred in a film called "Blue Ruin," which I've been encouraging people to see.
Yeah, Macon Blair.
I don't watch stuff a second time, much. Maybe a half a dozen movies that I like that I'll watch if I come across them, sometimes that I've seen before or I'll watch scenes from them. But I don't really re-watch horror because once you've, for me, once I've seen the gimmick or I've seen or I've discovered the gimmick, Bruce Willis is really dead [in The Sixth Sense]. Once you know that it, I don't really want to see it again, but I do seek out the new stuff.
One of my new tricks is, I watch on Fridays, I'll watch the new trailers, the new previews for iTunes, for Prime Video, for Netflix and on-demand. And the previews are free and I have a pad and paper by the side of my bed. What I'll do is I'll just write down this stuff I want to see. I'll just write and then it may take me three weeks to get to them because there's other stuff I'm watching that's on broadcast or that's already currently streaming or on cable.
But I potentially get through them and that's where I discover movies like Hold the Dark and films like that. It disappoints me a little bit that the hardcore fan base isn't celebrating these movies more. I think what's happened for a lot of people, because of the internet and because of advertising and because of blogs and things, we tend to get so saturated with the hype of the easy stuff. Now, sometimes that can be good to be hyped, to have Quiet Place or to have one of the Jordan Peele movies hyped to you. That's certainly a good thing. But I think sometimes some of these little gems get lost.
It fits, also, the case of some really great foreign movies. I know with Netflix and sometimes Prime Video, the subtitles are so good now and they're so bright that I've been really gravitating to a lot of the sort of crime drama, serial killer stuff, they call it "Scandinavian noir," I think. And a couple of the writers of them are these best-selling writers and some people call them "airport books," but they're really good thrillers. Some alcoholic Swede leaving Stockholm and going back to his hometown in the snow, and he thinks he's going to be able to heal his wounds from his bitter divorce.
And instead, the second day he's there, he finds a body under the ice, "Oh my God, there's this serial killer." But they're great because they're really nasty and they're really dark and the characters are flawed and they're not all pretty people like on American television. I call them "Blood in the Snow." The "Volvo noir," everybody drives a Volvo, but I like them. The crunch of ice, you can see everybody's breath. Gosh, I watched one out of Belgium last year [Hotel Beau Séjour], it's this really strange one about a town where they have the dirt bike races in the Netherlands. And there's this wonderful little girl and she's this old teenage girl with short hair. And she's sort of halfway between the girl on Billions and a young Sinead O'Connor and she's dead.
She's a ghost, but you don't know it. And some of her friends, they just see her. They just know she's a ghost and they don't mind. They tell her she can sleep on the couch and then you think, "Oh, well, maybe they did it. Maybe they killed her. That's why they can see her." But they just accepted that she's there to solve her own murder and it's just this great, strange, wonderful limited series. I've been encouraging everybody to seek it out. It's ripe for a remake.
Have you seen The Lodge yet? Starring Riley Keough from the Belgian directors of Goodnight Mommy?
No, I haven't seen the movie yet. I know about it, but I haven't seen it.
Between being a fan of Keough and snowy mysteries, it's right up your alley.
I'll watch it. Yeah, thank you for the recommendation. I'm writing it down as we speak.
Lights in the Sky
True Terror runs the gamut of ghosts and goblins and cryptids and Bigfoot, so has hosting the series caused you to reevaluate your beliefs on any of those subjects?
Well, I mean, I'm not into little green men and I don't know, I don't like the word "ghost" because it just conjures Casper the Friendly Ghost. I just think of a sheet with cutout eyes on it. But I have had two experiences in my life with very pragmatic, sensible, conservative people. Real, not cosmically inspired or extraterrestrial-seeking or occult-seeking individuals. And they were both in my childhood. They were relayed to me in my childhood and one was a neighbor.
A neighbor of ours and I used to babysit for this family and the mother was a screenwriter from MGM and the father was a high ranking Marine Colonel from the Marine Air Corps and in civilian life he was dealing with jets and helicopters. This was a guy that was very strict, very by the book. Liked his martinis dry, stirred, but not shaken. Practical guy, not very conservative. But he and my mother used to argue all the time in the kitchen when he was over or out by the pool. We loved their family, we loved his wife. She was the creative part of the family. And he and his partner had bought an old amphibious World War II PBY plane that lands on the water and they'd converted it into an executive businessmen plane and they would take people from San Francisco to Long Beach Harbor or to San Diego or out to Catalina Island.
He and a businessman were coming back from Catalina to land on the water in Long Beach, I'm presuming, and then drive home to where we all lived in the San Fernando Valley. And in the middle of the night, there was banging on the door and it woke my family up and my father put his bathrobe on and walked down the long hall between my bedroom and the master bedroom and answered the door. It was our neighbor, the fellow that I babysat for and who was working in the helicopter industry as an executive. My father was an executive at Lockheed at that time. He just worked on the development of the U2 and they were in the kitchen all night arguing and talking and smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.
Right around dawn, my father walked Bill out and walked him down the front lawn, and he went across the street and I didn't know what had happened, if somebody died or what. A couple of weeks later, I eavesdropped through the heating vent to our living room and I heard my mother and my father talking and on the way back from Catalina, after dropping off a businessman in Avalon, our neighbor, the Marine Colonel pilot Marine Air Corps retired, had seen something really strange and it was so close to him in the sky.
It got so close that he could actually see the superstructure of the construction of this UFO. He actually saw heat-folded seams, seams that he couldn't figure out how they were done in whatever the material was that it was made of. He saw the equivalent of circular rivets, but they were much larger than any rivets he'd ever seen before. And it flew up to him and away from him, but in perpendiculars, not like aircraft flies. My father convinced him during that long night and a pack of cigarettes and a pot of coffee, he convinced him not to report it, because my father was afraid that our neighbor would lose his very nice, very handsome pension that he had as an officer in the Marine Air Corps. He didn't want him to lose his pension because our neighbor had just had a baby, that's who I used to babysit for. He was a little kid now.
But he had a new kid and both he and his wife were working and his wife had just recently stopped working at MGM and they moved very shortly after that. They moved down to Newport Beach, to Balboa Island. It was interesting because both of those men in that kitchen that night were the strictest, most practical, most unimaginative [people] in the UFO fantasy kind of way.
They were the most practical guys that I knew and strict and I kind of feared both of them. They were guys that I respected, but would never cross, and that they had come to that decision and that they had experienced that, or that my father was there to lend an ear for my neighbor. It was just this strange thing. That sort of always affected me with UFOs. That's my UFO story, because those are two of the most sober, intelligent, strict, conservative men I knew. My father wasn't a conservative, but he was a Skunk Works Lockheed aircraft executive at the time, working on the U2, which was a spy plane, which was supersonic and was flying practically on the edge of space.
And the other bizarre story you know?
My mother shared with me a story about the great flood in California in the '30s and she was a freshman in college in a sorority, and in the middle of the night, as the floodwaters were finally going down and all the girls were asleep, my mother was, because she was one of the youngest pledges in the sorority, she was assigned kitchen duty and she was washing all the dishes and all the coffee cups and all the ashtrays because they'd all been nervous and listening to the radio all night.
I guess the "all clear" or the subsiding floodwater thing had been given around midnight and it was late at night and my mom was just doing the final cleanup in the kitchen, and there was a knock on the door and she went to the door and it was one of the sorority girls who'd been out and they had been worried about her. She came back and she was all wet and she took off her jacket and my mom helped her dry her hair and put on another pot of coffee and they had smoked a cigarette and had some coffee and she had to go.
She was going back, she wasn't staying in the sorority. She was going back to her other apartment, she said, and she left. But she'd stopped by just to see my mom and just to check in. And she left and my mom cleaned up a little bit and went to bed and she woke up the next morning, and there was a knock at the door and there were two police officers there. They asked him if any of the girls knew this name, and it was the name of the girl who'd come at one in the morning and come in and had a cup of coffee with my mom and a cigarette. They wanted a contact number for her parents, they had found her body early in the evening the day before, almost 10 hours before she came and knocked on the door of the sorority and my mother shared a cup of coffee with her and a cigarette. And my mother said that the cup was still sitting on the sink with lipstick on it. And so that's my mother's ghost story.
My mother, an old school Democrat, liberal Adlai Stevenson. My mother, hardly the cosmic, hippie, crystal-toting, drum-circle person that believes in that stuff, especially back then. This was a thing that happened to her in the '30s. That was my mother's story, my mother's otherworldly story.
When the Candyman reboot was announced last year, original star Tony Todd admitted he was disappointed that he wasn't contacted about the film moving forward. If it was announced that a new Nightmare on Elm Street was moving forward with a new actor playing Freddy Krueger, would you be disappointed if you weren't contacted?
I'm an old Hollywood kid. I was born in the Hollywood Hills on the border of Los Feliz and Glendale and I know that everything gets remade sooner or later. Look how many actors have played James Bond. Everything gets remade and everybody brings a new interpretation and a new value, sometimes better, sometimes not so good. But I know they're going to reboot the franchise. They'd be fools not to, especially with all the new technologies and effects that we have available now that we could enhance this nightmare dreamscape with the landscape of the mind and the imagination, and their subconscious using stuff that we discovered during the making of Inception or What Dreams May Come, that Robin Williams film.
There's so many new kinds of CGI and tricks that we have that would just really enhance the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. No, no, I completely understand that. I would like to be, perhaps, invited back to do a cameo. I was thinking maybe like with Nightmare on Elm Street 3, if they ever get around to rebooting that episode of the franchise, the Dream Warriors. I think it'd be fun for me to cameo, maybe, as the dream therapist, and I think that was played by Priscilla Pointer, Amy Irving's mother. Wonderful, talented Priscilla Pointer.
I think it'd be fun to switch the gender and let me play it as a skeptical therapist who doesn't believe there could be a collective nightmare where everybody's dreaming of the same old guy in a red and green sweater and a fedora with a claw made out of a garden glove and fish knives. I think it would be fun. There's a tradition in horror movies and in remakes of bringing somebody from the original back to cameo in them and I think that would be fun to do. But no, I'm not going to lose any sleep over not being Freddy anymore because I'm too old for the part.
I couldn't face the makeup for six weeks or eight weeks. I couldn't do the stunts. I'm just getting older now, they're going to need a new actor to play it. And, again, even more than the new actor that would play Freddy, I just think that they need to really explore all the new technology for really ramping up the nightmare sequences using all the new technology that they have at their disposal for effects.
Well mentioning gender-flipping that role, I can't help but think of seeing a female Freddy Krueger character. Like how Leigh Whannell flipped things around with The Invisible Man, finding a new angle or perspective for Krueger.
Their choice is whether to go with completely original stuff or whether to reboot the franchise for another generation, and that's the decision. I think it all lies now with the Craven estate. I think all the rights have returned to them. I know that both [Nightmare on Elm Street creator Wes Craven's] son Jonathan and [daughter Jessica], they're really smart, talented people and they work in the industry. I totally trust what they're going to do. I just know that there's some terrific scripts over the last, let's say 15 years.
There's been some really interesting scripts and they're sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust and I just hope that they read all of those, as well as the new ones. Because a couple of those older ones were really interesting. I know there's one or two prequel scripts that are very interesting and a couple of other ones that are interesting. I even submitted one back in the day around Nightmare 3 which would be that the sister, the older sister of the character, Tina from Nightmare 1, would return to the franchise or would be introduced to the franchise as a collegiate X-Files Nancy Drew. Because she was on this obsessed quest to find out what really happened to her sister. I think that would be really interesting to discover the truth of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" through her eyes.
Then she would fulfill the balance, the ingredient and the recipe and the menu of Nightmare on Elm Street, which is you need that strong woman, always, to take you through. It always has to be through the eyes of a strong woman because they, even if they're skeptical and wise and cynical, still need to lose some of their innocence about the darkness and the evil that lurks in the world.
Well a revival of Nightmare on Elm Street written by Robert Englund would be a good approach.
The problem with that script is I wrote it a long time ago and her detective skills are now antiquated. The things that I had her do, that I thought were novel and new and cool, now they're antiquated.
She could just Google everything.
I wrote this back in the '90s, so now I wouldn't be able to update it because I'm not as advanced with the stuff that she should use. But it would be interesting for somebody to use or for somebody trying to solve what happened, looking back. And you could even have her older now, you could have her be a graduate student. You could have her be like 28 years old or 26 years old and just wondering what happened to her little sister all those years ago. It would be fun to do.0comments
True Terror with Robert Englund airs Wednesday nights on the Travel Channel. Stay tuned for details on the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.