Horror Icon Robert Englund Talks ‘Nightworld’ and Indie Filmmaking

Screen legend Robert Englund discusses the joys of independent filmmaking.
By  · Published on November 2nd, 2017

With the release of his latest indie horror film, Nightworld, screen legend Robert Englund discusses the joys of independent filmmaking.

“This is Film School Rejects? I love that name.” -Robert Englund on Film School Rejects.

Horror icon Robert Englund has been wowing audiences for more than forty years. Some of his earliest appearances came in the mid-70’s in films like Stay Hungry and Tobe Hooper’s killer croc masterpiece Eaten Alive. In 1984 he would don his signature fedora for the first time and jump into our nightmares as Freddy Krueger. While it’s been 14 years since he put away his Christmas sweater for good he has continued to deliver frights and laughs to horror aficionados with roles in modern cult classics like Behind the Mask and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. His latest film, Nightworld, is out today on VOD and in select theaters. Englund took a minute from his never-ending schedule to talk to Film School Rejects about his latest film and life on the indie circuit.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new movie, Nightworld?

It’s kind of a nice little Halloween treat for the fans…Twilight Zone, H.P. Lovecraft spirit. It’s not a real violent, real accelerated slasher film. That’s not what it is. It’s much more heartbeat, H.P. Lovecraft. In a way, it’s a ghost story. I guess you would say there’s a jealous ghost in it. Essentially it’s a story about a portal. Perhaps there are 7 portals throughout the world that access, and they always have accessed in these particular spaces throughout the world, they’ve always accessed the netherworld, the dark world, the Nightworld, purgatory. Think of it as a kind of waiting room for purgatory, for heaven and hell, were that moment when a soul leaves a dead body, it’s kind of a waiting room for them. And perhaps there’s been an order like the knights of the temple or perhaps it’s been handed down from families. There’s an order that protects these 7 portals and makes sure that there’s no blend, there’s no crossover allowed here and these doors are sealed. These portals to this Nightworld are sealed.

And how does your character play into the film?

My character is called back into duty. I’m blind and perhaps my blindness was an occupational hazard of working for many, many years and one of these portals and the particular one that I guarded or managed was in Sofia, Bulgaria and I’ve come out of retirement to aid a young police officer who’s lost his wife and is drinking a lot and has problems and he’s taken this security job for this corporation and now manages and oversees these various portals.

It’s appropriate for Halloween and it’s a nice compliment to It and a couple of the other more energetic horror films that are vying for attention this season.

You’ve worked with a lot of young directors in recent years. Is that something you try and do?

I do a lot of B-movies, I’m a genre star and B stands for budget. Not the quality of the movie because certain movies that I’ve done are very low budget like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon or Urban Legend. I’ve done some that I’m really, really proud of, they’re terrific movies.

The reason I’m drawn to it, I’m drawn to working in Europe a lot and I’m drawn to working on location so I love going up to Canada or down to South America or to Italy or Spain or London to make a movie. I’ve made movies all of the world now, and I love the US, and I love going on exotic locations.

I think the thing about your directors that you bring up is, and I got this great answer but it’s really from Lance Henriksen. We were drinking white wine in Germany one afternoon after a film festival. And Lance does a lot of movies like me and Lance was saying that he loves when he works with a talented young director because he said they listen to him. He gets more creative input with his wardrobe and his props and also sometimes even with dialogue. And he says when he goes off and does a big movie he says most of the time they just rush him. That he’s just getting rushed through because of time and money. And I realized that too. It’s more luxurious when I go off to do a $3 or $4 million movie in England or Italy or Russia or Alabama or wherever. I get more input, I get more creative input. I have more fun with the wardrobe people and the prop people. I can work a little bit with the dialogue with the writer if he’s on set or the director, writer-director. I can put in my two sense worth with the director a lot and they’re really open to it because I have experience, I’m a veteran character actor and the young directors seem more open that and they don’t have quite the pressure. Even now we’re a low budget film, they don’t have quite the pressure that a big budget movie does. You get listen to more as an actor and it’s kind of fun, especially at my age to have that creative input.

If I’m working in Europe sometimes and the movies are in English but it was originally translated sometimes I have to help with the translation and I can make the words more idiomatic and sound more American or make the slang work if it’s a little awkward because there’s a more formal way of speaking in Europe. And it’s fun to do that.

I’ll work on a $3 or $4 million movie now and it just reminds me of the first couple movies when I was starting out because I was working in the renaissance of the 70’s but we were still working, they were still kind of independent cinema then. Maverick cinema. In a weird way it makes me feel young again to be in an old motel, you know in a little town somewhere, you know on location. It’s kind of fun for me sometimes.

It sounds like it’s more of a collaboration.

It is a collaboration, you’re right it is a collaboration and you become an ensemble and that’s what it was like. I remember being in a little funny motel with Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and Scatman Crothers from The Shining and Arnold Schwarzenegger and we all bonded, you know. We all went out at night and had drinks together and we watched dallies on a sheet in the conference room in a crappy motel with an open bar and it was a great bonding experience. We learned a lot. And so even though I’m the big deal on some of these movies, I’m the lead or you know I’m the star or I’m the money so to speak, it’s great because you go off on one of these locations and I remember when it was like that anyway so I’m not disappointed. I remember, you know, staying in a motel where you can hear people through the walls and we’re all together out in the desert or something and that’s what it was like when I started. I mean I’ve been in the fancy hotels too, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve done it the other way so I know it’s both ways.

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)