“I knew from the first day on set of Nightmare that there was something special about this movie and I honestly think that had I been involved with a different horror franchise I don’t think I would have been that open to coming back to do any sequels,”… And what I love about Nightmare is that there haven’t been any other horror franchises where you see an original character come back at various stages in her life and experience her maturing along with fans….I think that kind of continuity within a franchise is exceptional and that’s why fans care about the movies we make.”
During the course of three of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films, actress Heather Langenkamp (Just the Ten of Us) portrayed the character of heroine, Nancy Thompson. The first time movie audiences were introduced to her, was in director Wes Craven’s (Scream) iconic horror film “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). In the original entry, Nancy endures the butchering of her friends, at the knife-fingered hand of the ultimate invader of bad dreams, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Determined to stay alive, Nancy fights back by using her ingenuity, and by placing booby traps throughout her home, which she will eventually use to fight Freddy, if she can get his corporeal form into the real world, and out of her nightmares. Nancy believes she has discovered the secret to ending Freddy’s reign, and will do what is necessary to execute her plan. Unfortunately for Nancy, but not for legions of horror fans, she was wrong.
Langenkamp would reprise her role of Nancy for a second time in 1987 in the third entry into the franchise, “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.” In Dream Warriors, Nancy is now a grown woman, and working as a psychiatrist who specializes in dream therapy. This time, she is attempting to help a group of hospitalized teens. Kristen Parker, the most powerfully gifted of the group, portrayed by Oscar winner Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), has the ability to bring other individuals into her dreams. The teens, like her former friends, are being relentlessly tormented by Freddy in their nightmares. Nancy is attempting to show them how they can turn the situation they encounter in their dreams to their advantage, and thereby fight back against Kruger.
Langenkamp’s third, and at least as of the writing of this post, final return to the Elm Street series, came in 1994 with the movie “New Nightmare.” In the seventh installment in the series, a demon has chosen to use Freddy Krueger as a conduit to gain access into the real world. Heather plays a mother, who is determined to protect her son, Dylan (Miko Hughes) from being harmed by Freddy, or more importantly, from the entity using him. This time, she will take whatever steps are necessary to permanently end the existence of Freddy, from committing any more atrocities.
The entertaining documentary “I Am Nancy” was released on April 29, 2011, on iamnancy.net – the film’s website – for streaming rental, and DVD purchase. The 71 minute film marked the directing debut for Arlene Marechal. The project took approximately two years to film, during which time, Langenkamp travelled to different horror film conventions. In between signing autographs, and posing for pictures with fans, she interviewed between one hundred and one hundred and fifty people at each of the convention stops. Throughout the documentary’s runtime, it is shown, that there is not a great deal of memorabilia depicting Nancy’s likeness on things such as action figures and t-shirts. Nor do any fans, it seems, get Nancy tattoos whereas many fans get Freddy tats (some very impressive), such as the ink Mikey Rotella, who is interviewed at the start of the film, has. The topic the documentary concerns itself with, in what Langenkamp fully admits, is a very tongue-in-cheek manner: Why does Freddy Krueger have an immense fandom, considering he represents evil incarnate. Why is there not a similarly enormous fan base for Nancy, as the heroine?
There are a number of fans, however, that were interviewed that spoke about the positive impact Langenkamp’s character has had on their lives. Some of those fans, for example, were people who had been bullied, and used Nancy as a role model to stand up against their own personal ‘Freddy Kruegers.’ One particularly memorable interviewee was a British fan named Jude. She had been involved in an horrific automobile accident, which led to her having her leg amputated, as well as having to endure a prolonged hospital stay. The resilient Jude, however, who had to undergo numerous skin grafts to fix the extensive damage caused by the accident, never gave up. While watching the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” during her recuperation, Jude, in a manner of speaking, not only identified with, but took inspiration from the character of Nancy. She equated Nancy’s fight with Freddy, with her own battle to live and fight on, and it gave her the needed impetus to never give up.
In addition to the fans Langenkamp met at the various conventions, she also conducted interviews with both Robert Englund and Wes Craven. Englund was generous with his time and his praise for Langenkamp’s contributions to the series. He opines as to why he feels the films have resonated as successfully as they have with the fan base. Furthermore, he discusses why he feels Wes Craven made the perfect choice in casting Langenkamp to portray the role of Nancy Thompson. (As an aside: Langenkamp, never collected Nightmare on Elm Street memorabilia. In fact, the only thing she kept from her time on all three sets, were the pajamas she was wearing when she fought Freddy Krueger in the original film. While she’s interviewing Englund, she removes a figure of herself in the tub, during the scene where Freddy’s glove comes out of the water, and asks him to autograph it for her, which he does without hesitation).
Craven’s interview with Langenkamp went beyond just the known information that has been discussed regarding the Nightmare on Elm Street films ad infinitum. For example, the conversation they have about how Craven thought up the Nancy Thompson character was informative. Craven delved into not only the reason he opted to have Nancy be his heroine, but also revealed why he made sure he wrote her character with certain personality traits in mind. His answers were sometimes humorous, such as: when he relays a story from the film “Swamp Thing” where his now grown daughter, Jessica, also interviewed in the documentary, got on her father’s case when she asked him: Why girls, such as Golden Globe nominee, Adrienne Barbeau (Maude), who played the role of Alice Cable in the film, always had to fall down while being chased by the bad guys?
The following are Langenkamp’s responses when asked what she thought of the 2010 remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and if she was approached for a role in the film?
“I made a conscious decision that I never want to see another Freddy Krueger besides Robert Englund, so I didn’t see it…And I’ll never, ever, see it. It was made with the wrong set of goals, and the goals were to take advantage of an entire fan base that would basically pay 10 bucks to see Freddy again… I just can’t even express in words how disappointed I am in that kind of motive.”
“After they tested it and saw that it wasn’t going to be well received, I think they called me and asked me to do a cameo and I said, “No thank you.” I thought that it was very cynical, the whole way they made that movie was very cynical.”
For those of you interested in watching or owning a copy of “I Am Nancy,” visit the website iamnancy.net. For $2.99 you can buy a streaming download of the film. If you prefer to own the documentary you can purchase it right on the website, with the option to receive an autographed copy for an additional fee. If you would prefer, there is also a link to buy the film on Amazon. Additionally, the website also sells a few other “A Nightmare on Elm Street” memorabilia items.
In closing, when I still lived on Long Island, on a number of occasions, my friends and I would take the long drive from Nassau County to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to attend Monster-Mania Conventions. Once there, we got autographs on actions figures, posters, still photos, and also took pictures with numerous entertainers, who work both in front of, and behind the camera on horror films. On two separate occasions, I had the opportunity to meet, talk with, and get items autographed by Heather Langenkamp; she couldn’t have been nicer, both in terms of her attitude while meeting me, and in the time she took to talk with me.