If there’s one person in the horror industry who doesn’t have a thing left to prove, it’s Robert Englund. He’s conquered live theater, been successful in both film and television for over the last 30 years, worked as a film producer and director, and he’s now a published author.
So, why would someone who single-handedly revolutionized the 80’s slasher flick with his portrayal of the timeless Freddy Krueger take on a web series? There’s always the idea of taking on the challenge of a new medium.
In “Fear Clinic”, which is playing all week on FEARnet, Englund joins other horror heavyweights like Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris and Lisa Wilcox in a twisted journey into people’s deepest fears. It was a project that Englund immediately connected with when he read the script.
“I got involved with “Fear Clinic” when Mark Johnson (producer) sent me over the script because he and I had worked together recently,” explained Englund. “I knew the moment I finished reading it that there was something there- that Aaron (Drane, the writer) really put together a great story and I had to be a part of it.”
“It was hard at first to wrap my head around the idea of the webisode because it’s consolidated storytelling. I didn’t want anything to feel shortchanged. But “Fear Clinic” has everything- it’s gritty, psychological, has some really interesting subplots and great flashbacks. It doesn’t skimp on anything even if each part is around five minutes,” Englund added.
For Englund, “Fear Clinic” was more than another project- it was a chance to bring together a select group of people that he’s worked with in the past for a project that no one in the horror community had seen before.
Englund said, “When I got on board, Robert Hall was involved to direct and do the special effects and I had worked with him in the past, so getting to have him a director was truly a pleasure for me. Then, as we kept fleshing out “Fear Clinic”, it seemed like we were bringing more and more people together that I’ve worked with in the past, which is always something I enjoy. It really felt like this series was my family.”
Creating a web series isn’t what most people would expect as a next step in the career of someone like Englund, who has enjoyed a very lucrative career working in the horror genre. What really drew him into “Fear Clinic” though was the opportunity to collaborate on bold, internet-based content.
“The people at FEARnet really understood what we were trying to do with the “Fear Clinic”,” Englund explained. “I will be the first to admit that creating a web series is something new to all of us but everyone from the cast to the crew really believed in this type of storytelling, so we knew we could pull off something really special.”
Even though filming wrapped on “Fear Clinic”, that doesn’t mean that Englund sees his character Dr. Andover as a done deal. In fact, the actor is still dreaming up possibilities for the maniacal creator of the “fear chamber.”
“I’m still forming my character of Dr. Andover because I think he’s got some interesting stories to tell himself. I think his back-story is that he might have been up to some hanky panky where he lost his license stateside so he has to take his methodology down to Juarez, Mexico to start the clinic to avoid the authorities. Andover’s controversial technique (the fear chamber) combines a high tech approach with Freudian theories to try to cure very deep psychological problems.”
“There’s one particular girl I’ve never been able to get through to and that’s Susan (played by Harris). I become her Dr. Frankenstein and she becomes our narrator/Wes Craven warrior girl. I’m obsessed with curing her so I keep her captive at the clinic. What happens through Susan’s journey (and the other kids too) is that there is an accumulation of all the patient’s angst that has stained the fear chamber so that begins to manifest itself and eventually will form a character of its own,” Englund added.
One of the reasons that “Fear Clinic” is a landmark moment in horror is that it’s the first opportunity for both Englund and Hodder to act together ever, despite their long histories together in the industry.
“I’ve been in countless movies where I’ve worked with Kane indirectly, dating all the way back to the television series “V”,” said Englund. ““Fear Clinic” was the first time where we’ve actually had scenes together so it was fun to finally get to act with him. It was also amazing to reconnect with Lisa too and then to collaborate with someone like Danielle, was just a perfect scenario all-around.”
“I see our characters (Kane, Lisa and my self’s) as ‘The Unholy Three.’ We are the bridge between the hallucinations and reality, which is where the kids are grounded. We sort of occupy both worlds which means, as recurring characters, we have great potential and interesting back stories that we can explore in the future,” Englund added.
Despite his long career, the actor still gets apprehensive about using his own visage on film.
Englund said, “What’s really funny for me is that most people think that the makeup is restrictive for me (or even Kane), but it really isn’t. In fact, I almost prefer being creative in makeup as opposed to just being myself on screen.”
“I can do so much more with a character like Freddy than I can with a normal-looking guy in a suit. It’s like the makeup brings out the character inside you and just pushes you beyond what you normally do when you’re performing. I can change my voice and move differently. Out of the makeup, I am a completely different person. I am almost boring,” Englund joked.
Getting to enjoy such a lengthy career means one thing for any actor in Hollywood: Age starts to creep up on you no matter how much you try to fight it. Englund, however, is embracing his age and all the nuances that come with it.
“You know, it’s 2009, and I am looking my age for the first time in my life,” explained Englund. “I am no longer this boy I always saw in the mirror – I am now a man. With growing older, I find myself playing doctors, fathers, and psychologists; and honestly, it’s really fun for me to do something different now. I never imagined as a young actor that I’d be playing these types of roles. I always thought I would keep being the bad guy.”
So as Englund continues to move forward in his career, where does he see the future of horror? In the past – but not like the remakes we are seeing these days.
Englund said, “Look, we’ve recently gone through the splat-stick, retro-horror, and even torture porn subgenres, so I think it’s time for us to start investing in measuring the scares out in the right doses and take a look at going back to classic literature-type horror.”
“As a horror fan, I’d love to see films based on Poe’s work or even Jack the Ripper, but do it seriously. I thought the Mummy movies were a lot of fun, but I’d love to see a serious mummy movie. We should be exploring the literature of the 19th Century rather than remaking every single movie that has come out in the last 30 years. There’s so many great stories out there just waiting to be rediscovered,” Englund added.
Something else Englund would like to see in the future is the return of Dr. Andover and his “Fear Clinic.”
“When I signed on for Fear Clinic, I always saw the potential for more than just these five webisodes,” explained Englund. “There is so much going on in Fear Clinic, I definitely think there are more stories to tell, and I’d love to come back and continue my work as Dr. Andover. I’d even love if a cable channel like Showtime picked it up and ran it like they did with the Masters of Horror series. I guess it all depends on how it performs.”
One definite project on the horizon for Englund is The Vij.
“The Vij is based on a story by Nikolaj Gogol, and I would be playing the God of Purgatory that is after a Snow White-like character. I am still playing with the design of my character, but I want him to be a Tony Soprano-type with stunted wings that seems like a dumbed-down angel,” Englund said.
Englund added, “He doesn’t know how to do anything but guard this town which he thinks is Hell, and it’s got a great Gothic, creepy feel to it. There is so much interesting weird stuff when you have great source material like this. We are hoping to start shooting soon in Italy.”
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