Thursday, July 14, 2011

Long-overdue review: I Am Nancy

For those who don’t know, I Am Nancy is a documentary about the place of the hero/ine in horror from Heather Langenkamp’s unique perspective as the actress who plays one of the genre’s strongest female characters, Nancy Thompson, in the film series A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the original Elm Street, Nancy was just a regular teenaged girl-next-door thrust into a life or death battle with a paedopheliac child murderer who had been lynched by her parents and the other adults of Elm Street an unnumbered amount of years prior and had come back in the dreams of their children to avenge himself. She defeated this dream demon, the infamous Freddy Krueger, by herself and without the aid of special powers or high calibre machine guns. She only had her wits and the strength to face her fears.

Heather begins the documentary with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek as she establishes who Nancy is for the non-fans who might be watching, then asks the question “Why Freddy and not Nancy?” Through the course of her journey, she discovers that Nancy means a lot more to people than even she previously knew.

By the end of the film, the viewer sees the original Elm Street in a whole new light and with a whole new appreciation, especially after hearing her conversations with actor Robert Englund (Freddy himself) and Elm Street writer/director Wes Craven, and Nancy herself is seen in a different light after hearing the handful of stories that could fit into the slim 70-minute runtime from fans about how she inspires them in their daily lives.

The fact that the film is made by Heather and her sister-in-law, director Arlene Marechal, makes the film so much better and so much more honest than if some random fan, such as myself, had made it. There’s an integrity and humour in the film about the Freddy phenomenon and the relative lack of a Nancypalooza (if you will) that can only come from someone who’s lived with it since its inception.

Heather is an engaging and refreshingly honest host. Even though she has lived with the shadow of Freddy looming over her for a long while, there are times during the film where it’s as if she’s discovering the loveliness, and occasional insanity, of fandom for the first time. It’s a breath of fresh air to be honest, because while I love how informative Never Sleep Again is, it's also a bit stale. I Am Nancy never gets stale. The majority of its vibrancy comes from the fans who know and love this film and this character so much.

The film is available on or on the website at I Am Nancy. They’re also selling posters (I have one!) and photos (I have the original poster of the Freddy and Nancy go to the prom one, but I actually don’t have any of the others she’s offering! I’m not a complete nerd after all! Okay, nevermind, I am...) and you can have personalized autographs! (Details are on the site.)

A SLIGHTLY MORE PERSONAL REVIEW and a FULL DISCLOSURE (for those who don’t already know):
This film expresses everything I’ve known and felt about Nancy for years. I love that now I can tell people to go watch this movie if they want to understand my love for Elm Street and Nancy or for Heather herself. No matter how disparate my characters are, I always try to put a little Nancy in them.

I tried to get this film for my own festival last year, but things just didn't work out. I hope that I run a festival again sometime, even if it's a couple of years down the road, and maybe Arlene and Heather will let me run it then!

I am a huge fan of Heather Langenkamp. I had the honour of meeting her at Spooky Empire (which was my very first horror convention) and I had the honour of co-presenting the West Coast Premiere of I Am Nancy at the BleedFest Film Festival in L.A. last month. I also had the honour of attending the MidWest Premiere of I Am Nancy when it played at the inaugural weekend of Days of the Dead (my post about that is forthcoming, I promise.) Surprisingly, I’ve seen I Am Nancy only four times so far, but every time I’ve been home, I’ve made a music video, I’ve been sick, or I’ve made a short film. After Viscera, I hope to sit down and watch it again! Or...maybe I’ll put it on my iPad for the trip to L.A.

I can go on and on about how much Heather meant to me as a young girl in search of a role model in the midst of chaos and how much she and her work means to me now and how she continues to inspire me as a grown woman and a filmmaker. And all I can say to her is thank you, which seems so paltry...which is why I’m writing this review even though it’s been a while since I got my DVD. I realized today that, for a while, I was Twittering incessantly about the DVD and telling people to get it, but I never wrote a review for my website!

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