Wicked Horror managing editor Tyler Doupe´ had the chance to spend a few moments catching up with genre film legend Robert Englund. The Springwood Slasher took time out of his busy schedule to chat about his new film Fear Clinic. We got into the dynamic of the feature film versus the web series on which it is based, how the roles he is being offered have changed over the years, and how his appreciation and respect for the horror genre has done him well.
The idea for the Fear Clinic feature film was adapted from a FEARnet web series of the same name that was helmed by Robert G. Hall. Fear Clinic follows Dr. Andover (Englund) who has successfully treated a series of patients with a variety of phobias. When a leak in his fear chamber finds those phobias resurfacing, Dr. Andover is certain that drastic measures must be taken if the fear is to be contained. The film will be released on DVD Blu February 10, 2015. Robert
Wicked Horror: One of the things that struck me about this film is that it’s one of the rare instances where you’re playing the good guy, rather than the villain. When that kind of opportunity comes along, does that stand out to you more than a chance to play a killer of the bad guy again?
Robert Englund: I played best friends and sidekicks all through the 1970s. I played opposite people like Jeff Bridges, Peter Strauss, Jan-Michael Vincent, and Henry Fonda. And I had onscreen girlfriends like Susan Sarandon and Sally Field. So, I’ve done a lot of that in my youth but what’s fun now is that after Fredy and after the makeup roles like Steven King’s The Mangler and Phantom of the Opera and some others, it’s really fun to see how my face has aged on film. I’m older now and it’s really fun because I sort of paid my dues and trudged through the fields of horror for many, many years. I’m being rewarded now with roles as priests and scientists and doctors and professors and occult experts and mad scientists and things like that. It’s really fun because I’m not so sure that had I not done my my toil in the fields of horror for so long and respected the genre, I’m not so sure I would be offered these parts. I might be fourth or fifth billing on a sitcom, playing the old cantankerous guy at the bar or an old redneck white trash guy on Justified or something, which would be great. But I kind of like starring in films like Fear Clinic and the other film I have out now, The Last Showing, where I play an old projectionist from England who is taking his revenge on being retired prematurely. These have been really great roles in the last year and a half and I’m really proud of those films. I probably would not have been offered either of those had I not done my time in horror.
Wicked Horror: Given that you are being offered a wider variety of roles now, what do you feel like you are gravitating more towards?
Englund: I’m at that age now where I go where I’m wanted. I make it easy on myself. I’ve had too many friends–better actors than myself–try to steer their careers. The classic example would be the girl that left Cheers early, Shelley Long. I’m a veteran character actor. I’ve done close to 80 movies now. Scores and scores of guest starring roles on television. I’ve done, I think, four television series. I’m just a veteran character actor and it makes it easy for myself not to worry about it. There’s enough to worry about in my life. I go where I’m wanted. Sometimes, it’s traditional television. You know, they call me up and want me to guest star and just be the detective on Criminal Minds. Sometimes, it’s me exploiting my baggage and I will go on and tool around with the kids on Workaholics. Sometimes it’s starring in a hardcore horror movie like Fear Clinic or sometimes it’s off to England to do an interesting thriller. A kind of Brian De Palma thriller like Last Showing which is out also now. I just go where I’m wanted and that way I don’t complicate my life. There was a time where I was younger and there were a couple of roles I wanted to play. One famous movie I didn’t get back in the seventies was The Last Detail. It starred Jack Nicholson. Randy Quaid got the role. I would have loved to have done Shakespeare’s Othello and played Iago. But I don’t want to cry over spilled milk. Those are the only ones I can really think of. I’m happy to go where I’m wanted because it’s constantly surprising me. You know, one day I’m doing voiceovers for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and the next day I’m on a plane to Europe to chase some beautiful young British actress around a castle. i just sort of like go with the flow now.
Englund: The web series was very difficult for us because it began as a movie and we had to truncate and do the ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ kind of storytelling in small segments. Andover is much more arrogant and much more full of himself [in the web series]. He’s still actually curing people. He’s up and operating. He’s probably operating without a medical license. He’s probably out in some abandoned warehouse hospital in El Paso or somewhere. But he’s still got his clinic running and he’s younger. In Fear Clinic the film, he’s lost a patient named Paige. Something has gone wrong with the chamber. And it’s just set him into a downward spiral. He’s closed the clinic and he’s unplugged the chamber and had his minions carry it downstairs to the basement. He’s living on coffee, cigarettes, and scotch. He’s trying to figure this out. He’s haunted by her death. He’s trying to figure out what went wrong. He’s immersing himself in his daily isolation bath. He’s let his hair grow long. He hasn’t talked to people in nine months. He’s down to a skeleton crew of helpers. He’s got one nurse and a couple of people helping him out at the clinic and that’s it. Then, his prior patients have begun to return and the question is if Andover will rise to the occasion. He’s damaged goods. And that’s sort of the question that we ask of him. He’s sort of a reluctant hero in this film.
Wicked Horror: Were you able to reuse any of the set pieces or props from the web series when you shot the film?
Englund: No. Because time has passed, there’s been a transition. We changed the head nurse and we changed the male nurse/handyman/janitor. In the new version, that character is played by Corey Taylor from Slipknot. In the web episodes, it was Kane Hodder. So, Lisa Wilcox, who was my leading lady in several of the Nightmare on Elm Street films was the original nurse and she was like a cold, blonde, beautiful Hitchcock woman. In the film, we have a new nurse. This was done because the idea is that time has passed and there have been other clients and something terrible has gone wrong. Years have passed. Something has gone wrong. The clinic has closed. A single traumatic event has triggered the onslaught and the flashbacks of phobias that were previously cured. These people know that the only person that can heal them–even though his methods are questionable–is Dr. Andover. But Dr. Andover himself is damaged goods now. So, that is the conflict. The premise is ‘what if the chamber itself, which takes and removes this phobia from people through a series of hallucinogenic treatments where they confront this phobia, what if the residue leaks? What is actually being removed? If the phobia is being removed, it has to go somewhere? What if this fear residue accumulated? What if it’s leaking out into the real world?
Englund: I don’t think Robert Hall slept through the course of the entire movie. He really had this hallucinogenic, snowballing effect in his head and we just had to all make this leap of faith with him because they were doing rewrites and we had to work around Corey Taylor’s schedule because he was doing a lot of Christmas charity work. Beyond that, we were also fucked by the weather. There was a huge winter snowstorm on location in Cleveland.
I loved the cast. I love Fiona and I love Corey and Cleopatra, and all the girls. But I just think Thomas Dekker is a talented kid. I loved him on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I like that show very much. I loved him in Cinema Verite. He’s done completely different work in his various roles. I just think he’s amazing. I’m a big fan of his. I think he’s a real up and comer.