Mr. Englund is one of the most prolific and dedicated character actors and he is best known for playing the psychotic murderer Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street film series. But he also played other important roles in the horror landscape. Check out my list of the ten best genre features that witness the talent of living legend, Robert Englund!
Strangeland (1998): Dee Snider’s Strangeland is, admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine. The screenplay is all over the place, and a handful of the onscreen performances are definitely questionable. All the same I got a kick out of this sadistic little film, and I was damn pleased to see Robert Englund make an appearance. Truth be told, my only legitimate complaint about this film (well, I could come up with many, but for the sake of this article…) is the fact that Englund just doesn’t spend enough time in front of the cameras. He’s present (and there’s an irony in his presence when measured against past works, but that’s a whole different story) in the film, no doubt. But I want more damnit!
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007): And here’s where we get into the real quality! If you haven’t seen Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, do so at once. The story is outrageously entertaining, and serves as a terrific contemporary monster tale. While Trevor Matthews captivates viewers, Robert isn’t far behind. In fact, this is one of my favorite films to feature the seasoned vet. Englund takes on the role of focal antagonist, and he’s absolutely gold here. His rapid transformation from professor to hideous beast is grand, and if the chalkboard scene alone doesn’t win you over, I don’t know what will!
Behind the Mask - The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006): Englund steps away from his typical antagonist role for this film, and instead portrays the sidelines hero, a la Donald Pleasence’s character Sam Loomis in the beloved Halloween films. It’s a drastic change of pace for this star, but it works quite well, and I’m crossing my fingers that when Scott Glosserman’s sequel begins shooting, Robert somehow finds his way back into the fold. A terrifically witty films on all fronts, Behind the Mask is an absolute must see!
Freddy vs. Jason (2003): I refuse to listen to the detractors of this film. Freddy vs. Jason is everything it wanted to be: balls-to-the-wall fun. There’s not a hint of pretentiousness in the picture, and I love it. Sometimes a goofy, self-aware film can be great, and this one is. I love the nostalgia that comes affixed to the picture, as it clearly hearkens to yesteryears Universal monster crossovers, and I cherish that quality quite a bit. Some absolutely gnarly kills await viewers, as does one damn epic battle between two of today’s most recognizable villains. What’s not to love?
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1994): I’m sure plenty are scratching their heads as to why Englund’s most recognizable film landed at number three, but I’ve got my reasons. The film, while frightening and fantastic didn’t enable to breathe complete life into Freddy; that wouldn’t come until following two franchise films. However, he’s petrifying as the burnt child abuser who kills in a dream world. One of the greatest villains ever to be birthed, Freddy Krueger is a terrifying legend that will never be forgotten, and Englund played a massive part in that accomplishment.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987): Craven didn’t return to direct this sequel, but it didn’t matter: Dream Warriors is arguably the best film in the Nightmare franchise (believe it or not). By now you all know the story, so I’ll get right down to it; Robert Englund absolutely kills in this installment! The unforgiving one-liners fly like a swarm of insects gravitating to a fluorescent light, and I love it. There are so many quotables in the film it’s amazing, and the special effects work is absolutely dumbfounding (come on now, the puppet scene? WOW).
The Mangler (1995): There’s no fooling anyone; this Stephen King adaptation isn’t exactly a great film. What we see on screen certainly differs from the content found in King’s tale, and there’s some seriously hokey dialogue to accompany a few miserable performances. Fortunately for Englund fans, the big man delivers. Yep, he’s got some gnarly lines to deal with, but he capitalizes on his understanding over-the-top work, and he brings a strong presence to the film. He’s also damn creepy as Bill Gartley. Don’t check this one out for story; check it out for Englund alone!
2001 Maniacs (2001): I’m not overtly crazy about this film, unless I watch it intoxicated. It’s insanely over the top, ridiculously silly and an outright riot. Robert clearly steals the show here as Mayor Buckman, a vile man with an age old grudge; don’t worry, he’s happy to take out his frustrations on anyone who stumbles across this secluded little town that’s… just a bit strange. Comedy at its finest here, people, and Robert is thankfully to blame!
Dance of the Dead (MOH) (2005): Ah, the Doom Room. This tale basically equates to a giant rave attended by the dead (there’s some more depth to the story, but I’m not here to write you an extended synopsis). A group of youngsters find themselves tangled up in this grisly event, but no worries: they’ll be entertained by “The MC”, Robert himself, as he’s got some wicked plans for the evening’s entertainment. This is, in my opinion one of the more underappreciated Masters of Horror installments, and it’s a shame. Robert Englund is fantastic in this animated role, and the final twist is just bad ass.
Wishmaster (1997): Robert Kurtzman’s tale of a vicious djinn serves as one hell of a tribute to the genre in general. You’ll catch appearances from Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Ted Raimi, Buck Flower, Reggie Bannister and a whole lot more. But it’s the suave England who really shines. It’s rare we see Robert project a debonair demeanor, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t pull it off with conviction. This one is silly, but it’s always been a favorite of mine!