With Fear Clinic hitting Blu-ray tomorrow, we had a chance to sit down with the great Robert Englund to get the skinny on the spooky. Read on for the goods.
Dread Central: We’ve been covering Fear Clinic since it was a web series. I remember watching footage in Rob Hall’s office at Almost Human and feeling like it looked so cinematic. And now that it’s a film – it still does!
Robert Englund: I love it over there at Almost Human! I’ve spent half my lifetime, it seems, hanging out there because I was over there using one of his other studios – Glendale – I also use one of his studios out in Culver City. That was so cool. I love hanging out with those guys. We did a lot of the pick-up shots at the studio when we got back from Cleveland [from shooting Fear Clinic].
DC: As an actor in the roles you’ve played, you’re no stranger to dreams and hallucinations and mad science, so… can you tell our readers about what initially drew you to this in particular?
RE: I’ve had great success, obviously, with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. And of course, the hook there is the age-old Hollywood dream sequence, but the dream sequence done darkly. And I think what attracted me to Aaron Drane and Robert Hall’s script, and working with them, was that I love the gimmick of phobias. Because there’s such an array of fears that we can exploit as a potential franchise, and the way it manifests on the screen with special effects.
So that’s really the hook that got me interested, more so even than the character. I’ve done a couple of so-called “mad scientists” before, and obviously, as I get older, those roles increase, you know, and so that fits me well. But it’s really the idea of the phobia and how that manifests. Whether it’s fear of spiders or claustrophobia or hydrophobia… I mean, my God, the list goes on and on. There’s even fear of clowns. So it’s really what intrigued me – how we could exploit that. And I was really happy with the work Rob did on the web series. And it just seemed to me a natural continuation to make a feature of it. It originally began as a movie script. And we had to meet the challenge of the web series. And so now we’re back to making a movie again. And I just feel that it’s ripe for a franchise because I can remember Aaron Drane’s massive list of all the different phobias that exist, and it’s so rich.
DC: You have a great cast of characters to work with, played by some really good actors. I’d love to know, especially, what was it like to work with Fiona Dourif?
RE: I had heard about Fiona before I met Fiona. I had an ex that was working on “Deadwood”, the great series, that sort of profane Western series. And Fiona was hanging around on that show. Her father, the great Brad Dourif, was so magnificent on that show as the town doctor – the Western era doctor – and I’m a big fan of Brad’s. I played the role he played in the movie Cuckoo’s Nest – I did that role on stage years ago. And I’ve just always been a fan of Brad’s. We worked together briefly in Urban Legend. And so I had heard about his daughter – this beautiful girl that was hanging around on this set. And I even heard that had the show continued, she would have been a regular on it – or an irregular.
So I knew about Fiona. I’d heard these rumors about this great, gangly, tall, beautiful girl that was Brad Dourif’s daughter. And so when I heard she was up for the movie Fear Clinic, I lobbied for her with Mark Hall and Mark Johnson and all of the executives involved. And to Aaron Drane I just said, ‘You’ve got to know her reputation precedes her.’ And she’d just done some really interesting work in the Chucky franchise. And she was all without make-up and in a wheelchair and everything. And then I saw her over in Rob Hall’s shop, in the same place you were, and she came waltzing in in a low-cut blouse and skin-tight black jeans, a big leather bag over her shoulder, and I’ve had a crush on her ever since.
And Thomas Dekker, too. I’ve been a fan of Thomas’ since “Sarah Connor Chronicles” and the Terminator. And Thomas is just amazing because he’s done so much TV. I mean, now he’s doing “Backstrom” with Rainn Wilson on the Fox Channel, and he’s sort of like the boy with a dragon tattoo. With a little bit of a comedy edge, you know? And he can just do anything. I felt he should have had a Cable Ace nomination for “Cinema Verite” with Diane Lane. I just think he’s an amazing young actor. And I think he’s equally talented in music too. I think he helped with some of the music for the film.
DC: Tell us a little bit about Rob Hall, and his style as director, since he is mainly known as being a special effects guy.
RE: Well, Rob and I go back. We go back a ways. Rob’s worked on my make-up before, and I’m a big fan of Rob’s as a director. He did an amazing job with the web series. He was really under the gun for that – with time and budget, and reducing the segments to five minutes and then to expand them again, with Aaron, for the feature. To tell you a little about his character – we had to work in a snowstorm in Cleveland for a month right up to Christmas Eve. Just working around the clock. I don’t think Rob slept once. The weather didn’t cooperate. We were locked in this old, almost like a nunnery, a convent, a Catholic nun school, or something like that, out in the boondocks outside of Cleveland, in the suburbs, in this little town. And also we had to work a bit around Corey Taylor’s schedule. Because Corey was… It was close to Christmas; Corey was obligated to do a lot of charity work that he’s big on. So that was kind of tricky. And Rob really rose to the occasion, although I don’t think he slept for a month.
I think he was living on cigarettes, coffee, and French fries. I remember when the famous effects guy Steve Johnson came to help us out, and Rob sent his assistant to pick Steve up at the airport. And then we all went out for a beer at midnight, to this little pub in the suburb we were working in. And I hadn’t seen Steve Johnson in years. Steve Johnson worked on Nightmare 3 and 4 with me. He did a big sequence in Nightmare on Elm Street part 4. Steve, he hasn’t aged at all. He looked great. And I remember Rob – I think that was the first beer Rob had allowed himself in the whole shoot because he had the cavalry coming to help him with some of the effects. I remember he sort of got his second wind that night. We were all sitting there with big mugs of beer in front of us at one in the morning. We had to get back up again at seven. But you know, he needed that. And I knew he needed that. And I knew that we needed to get Steve Johnson up-to-speed. And I think the make-up girls – both of the make-up girls – they came with us. And you could just tell that Rob really needed that little break that night. That for him, a beer and one in the morning was like a nap because he’d been working so hard for so long.
DC: Sounds like a lot of hard work!
RE: Yes, he just did an amazing job and I like the way the film just sort of evolves into sort of like this hallucinogenic fear loop, you know. It’s really interesting the way he conceived it. He had it all in his head. There were rewrites while we were making it. And he couldn’t really share it because some of it was just in his head. So there was a big leap of faith with Fiona and me especially, we had to really just sort of do this leap of faith with Rob because he had to alter some of the story telling and juggle and shift some of the sequences because of the nature of the weather and available sets.
DC: Thanks, Robert.
Directed by Robert G. Hall (Lightning Bug, Laid to Rest, ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest II), with blood-chilling special effects by award-winning FX creators Robert Kurtzman and Steve Johnson, Fear Clinic will take viewers on an unforgettable journey into the very soul of terror itself.
Co-written by Hall and Aaron Drane, the film is based on the critically acclaimed and fan favorite 2009 FEARnet.com series. When trauma-induced phobias begin to re-emerge in five survivors a year after their horrifying tragedy, they return to the “Fear Clinic,” hoping to find the answers they need to get cured.
Dr. Andover (Robert Englund), a fear doctor who runs the clinic, uses his “Fear Chamber” to animate their fears in the form of terrifying hallucinations. However, the good doctor soon begins to suspect that something more sinister may be at work, something that yearns to be more than just an hallucination…
Fear Clinic is available on DVD and Blu-ray February 10th from Anchor Bay Entertainment.