Directed by: Arlene Marechal
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and Wes Craven
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"I am Nancy!"
To say that last yearís Never Sleep Again documentary had a wealth of material would be an understatement. Essentially the be-all, end-all of the Nightmare universe, it covered just about every inch of the franchise. One of the extra features on the disc included a preview of Heather Langenkampís documentary about the character of Nancy, wherein she would explore why she never became a worldwide phenomenon like her burnt-faced counterpart. One year later, the documentary has arrived in full to have the final word on the franchise--but is it a word worth hearing?
I Am Nancy follows Langenkamp across the globe as she interacts with fans and some of her fellow horror icons; sheís trying to figure out just why so many people have been drawn to the series and the characters of Nancy and Freddy. She also has conversations with co-star Robert Englund and director Wes Craven, and the two icons weigh in on the qualities that made Nancy a definitive horror hero.
The short glimpse offered on the Never Sleep Again doc lead me to believe that Langenkamp would be taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to her quest, and the final product seems to reflect that, sort of. Iím pretty sure she isnít 100% serious when she wonders why her character never became as popular as Freddy; anyone familiar with the series knows that itís been all about Freddy for a long time, so I canít assume that Langenkamp is completely oblivious of that fact. But I do think sheís genuinely interested in a lot of ancillary things, specifically the passion of the fans and her own legacy as a scream queen. The documentary ends up taking a more interesting route than you think it would, probably because that main question is so obviously answered. Still, watching Langenkamp lament her lack of action figures and long lines at conventions shows sheís a good sport about it all; I think you do gather a hint of vulnerability when she claims she doesnít want to constantly be looking back fondly on things rather than enjoying the moment.
She has that latter conversation with Robert Englund, who appropriately steals the show for a while. The always-loquacious Englund waxes philosophically on why the Elm Street series worked so well and also offers his co-star some kind words as to why she was perfect in the role of Nancy. However, the conversation with Craven is perhaps the most interesting and candid; she not only interviews the horror master, but also his daughter Jessica, who discusses what it was like growing up through her parentsí divorce. That sounds like it has nothing to do with Nancy, but it sort of does because Jessica rationalizes that her father was trying to teach her the values of strong women through his films (loosely paraphrased). Craven himself discusses the inspiration behind the Nancy character, which was cool to hear; weíve all heard the same story about Freddy ad nauseam, so it was nice to hear how he came up with his heroine (believe it or not, Swamp Thing had something to do with it).
The only major problem with I Am Nancy is that thereís no clear through-line; itís kind of listless at times and just feels like weíre random information from the testimonies of various fans at conventions. We donít really learn anything we donít already know about horror fans--theyíre passionate, a little weird, but, ultimately, (mostly) normal human beings who just happen to have a marginalized interest. Langenkampís interaction with them is fun to watch--you can tell sheís taken in by some of their stories, particularly how some of them have used horror as an outlet to overcome their own problems. The way the documentary eventually ties the fans into what it means to be ďNancyĒ is unexpected and satisfying. At the end of the day, we canít all be as cool as Freddy, but the world needs a lot of Nancy as well. Is that trite and maybe a little corny? Maybe, but you sort of have to give the documentary some credit for paying homage to the fans.
I Am Nancy is a neat addition to the Elm Street dialogue; itís perhaps a bit perfunctory, but itís entertaining, particularly in the way it mixes in constant pop culture references to Freddy (there are none for Nancy, of course). The disc (which you can purchase from the official website) well done too, and even features some extras. The two meatiest ones are the extended conversations with Englund and Craven. Englund especially has some interesting things to say about the remake, which is poignant and spot-on--basically, he says itís the nature of the beast and that he (and the rest of the original cast) will always hold a special place in horror history, so thereís no sense in having sour grapes over it all. Anyway, if you order now, you can still get a copy thatís been autographed by Langenkamp. If youíre a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan, youíll want this for sure. You might not learn a whole lot, but youíll get to see some of your favorite faces having some fun and looking back on something you also like a whole lot. Others probably wonít see the same appeal, but itís worth a look, regardless--if anything, it allows you to get a convention experience without actually attending one (which is kind of invaluable, honestly). Rent it!
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