“YOU ARE ALL MY CHILDREN” growled Robert England to the masochistic fans at Edmonton Comic Expo. He was one of the major stars to attend the convention alongside Christopher Lloyd, Ron Perlman and John Barrowman. On the afternoon of September 28, he was the star of a Q&A, where his fans got a chance to ask the questions they had been longing to ask.
While many people don’t know who England is, his blade-gloved, dream stalking serial killer Freddy Krueger needs no introduction. As his costar Heather Langenkamp stated in the Meta sequel New Nightmare; “Every child knows who Freddy is, he’s like Santa Claus.” He’s not so much an Icon as he is a force for Horror fans to reckon with. He definitely stands apart from other killers. While Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees are iconic, they are also big, lumping figures with no dialogue and limited personality. In contrast, Freddy is a larger than life with his red and black sweater, Fedora hat and of course, the razor blade gloves(1). He lives by the single minded goal to kill (albeit for revenge purposes), and takes sadistic glee in killing, always ready with a one liner, whether a leering pickup (“I’m your boyfriend now Nancy”) and a dated references (“You forgot the power glove”). Come to think of it, if you had to compare him with other villains, Jason is Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men and Freddy is the Joker from the Dark Knight.
Though still terrifying, Michael and Jason are both limited in terms of killing. Yes, they are immortal and borderline supernatural but they are still grounded by reality and limited by their own weight and movement. With silence, they have the advantage of sneaking up on their prey(2). But once the horny teenage girl becomes aware of their presence, their heavy bodies will prove a disadvantage when she goes darting through the woods. Plus, they are limited to using only what weapons closets at hand. Michael’s weapon of choice is a kitchen knife and Jason’s a machete. Freddy, however, is without limitations except his imagination. With the dream world at his disposal, he can appear in any place and leaving no place to hide. He can kill in the most creative ways possible, considering he’s not bound by any laws of nature. And considering Dreams are the work of the subconscious, he has complete access to all your vulnerability and will use it against you. Do you have asthma? He’ll suck all your air in until you are literally flat. Do you love comics? He’ll bring you into a comic, then turn you into a piece of paper and cut you to shreds. You get the idea.
But enough about Freddy, what about Robert England himself? Since Nightmare on Elm Street, he has become a frequent player in Genre TV and movies. Besides the Elm Street sequels(3), other horror films include The Mangler, Wish Master and Urban Legends. He also made appearances in some Superhero cartoons including Justice League, The Batman and Spectacular Spider-man. During the Q&A, he promoted an upcoming film, Sanitarium, a horror anthology set in a mental institution costarring Malcolm McDowell and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Considering his major role in the Horror genre, it’s surprising to find that before Elm Street, he was typecast as either a nice guy or a redneck. In fact, his most notable role was Willie, a nice alien from the original V miniseries. He says his emotional high was his nomination for his role on the show.
What is he like in real life? At my encounters with him during autograph, photo op and the Q&A, he is a larger than life. He was the first guest star I saw sitting at his autograph booth. While I was waiting for autographs, he struck up a conversation with a guy in front of me about the rare poster he had^4. I didn’t care how long it took, it was awesome to be hearing this. Then at photo op, he had the glove, which was given to him by some kid. He posed with the claws around my neck. I tried to make a scared shitless face but ended up looking like a dork.
He shines the most in his Q&As. He brings some entertaining anecdotes about his work. He admits that when he did Nightmare on Elm Street, he was jealous of his young co-stars, especially Johnny Depp. Then he decides to use the jealousy in his portrayal of Freddy. After, he gets to brag that he got to kill Johnny Depp. If you want to hear a really entertaining story, ask him what it was like to work with John Saxon. Trust me; it’s worth it when you hear the Burt Reynolds story.
What is surprising is how much insight he brings when it comes to talking about filmmaking. He comments about finding peace with being remembered because Freddy for it allows him to get work around the world, while other actors “more talented than [England]” have a hard time getting work. He also lambastes the shameless advertisement of Michael Bay’s remakes. To him, the fans are the key to his success. He doesn’t have a problem with the overflow of remakes for there have been remakes since Charlie Chaplin’s silent films. “There are only so many stories you can tell by the campfire” says England. He is concerned about is that there are some original scripts waiting to be made into films, being overlooked because the producers want to play it safe.
All in all, he seems to have the right level of fame. Big enough for people to recognize him and ask for his autographs but not so much that he is hounded every second by paparazzi. Plus, it’s nice to encounter a star who is content with where he is now. There is a slight stereotype of stars being resentful of their fan base and wanting more serious work (to win Oscars). England is a breath of fresh air. I’d like to end this essay with a horror pun, but I can’t think of one right now, so I’ll end with the pun from England’s favorite Freddy Kill; “Nice hearing from Ya, Carlos!”
1)An iconic prop more immortal than Freddy himself.
2) Element of Surprise, HO!
3) and a phone hotline if you can believe it.
4) It was the 3rd Nightmare movie. The poster had Freddy’s eyeballs staring at you. Below was the image of a guy in bed, with red rope pulling at the terrified kid’s arms and legs. I could tell it was from the scene where Freddy cuts the kid’s arms and legs so he can use his veins like puppet strings. As you may guess, the poster’s a little dishonest and is as gross as it sounds.