Another Hole In the Head 2011 Film Festival runs June 2nd through the 16th at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Check out the Festival Genius site for film schedules and tickets.
I Am Nancy
Directed by Arlene Marechal
The question on everyone’s lips since 1984’s A Nightmare On Elm Street premiered has always been “Who is Nancy?” And by “always” I of course mean never. It’s not a question that anyone has ever been concerned with… until now. Nancy Thompson of course is the heroine of three of the films in the Elm Street series, and she’s played by Heather Langenkamp. The one constant throughout all of the original films is and will always be Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), the razor-wielding, burned, revenge-seeking kiddie killer (or diddler depending on your interpretation). He is the icon of the series for obvious reasons, but Langenkamp and filmmaker Arlene Marechal are wondering why Nancy never reached those same heights.
The answer seems pretty obvious, but let’s give them seventy plus minutes to explore the question anyway.
“Sometimes I think if they dressed me in better clothes I could have had a better career.”
The idea of exploring the lack of a pop cultural response to the heroine character in horror films is interesting, but it’s not really the one the film is asking. Instead the focus here is specifically on Nancy and in turn, on Heather. The film opens with a barrage of clips featuring Freddy from films, TV shows, marketing, etc. before coming to rest on a guy getting a Freddy tattoo. Heather arrives to chat the guy up during the process and to inquire if he’d consider getting a big tattoo of Nancy. Awkwaaard…
She wonders why there aren’t more any tattoos, posters, and collectible figures of Nancy and decides the best way to find the answers she seeks is to go where the fans are. So over the next several months she hits up five different horror themed conventions in North America and in Europe to talk with the fans and the creators of the Elm Street phenomenon.
The fans offer all kinds of input as to their love of the series, but very little of it feels enlightening in any way. The woman in the wheelchair is the singular exception, but even her segment gets a bit melodramatic at times. Nancy as a figure standing up to the bad things that happen in life is a bit of a stretch, but Heather takes it as a minor victory. Most folks are simply fans of the series and of its most charismatic character, period, with no real deep-seated reasons why. Shocker. (See what I did there?)
I Am Nancy works best when Heather sits down with writer/director Wes Craven (and later with Craven’s now-grown daughter) and ferrets out some interesting tidbits about the making of the film itself. The Johnny Depp anecdote in particular is a fun one. And a scene where Heather rips a Freddy figure out of the packaging for Englund to sign is entertaining simply for the looks of horror on the faces of convention goers and professional toy collectors. But the crux of the film’s argument, that Nancy should be more important, feels false and woefully unsupported. Heather makes her case to Craven and he makes the film’s wisest conclusion. “I think that’s a bit overblown,” he says with a smile.
The Upside: Segments with Wes Craven and his daughter are often insightful and interesting
The Downside: Focus is too narrow to truly be interesting for the entire running time; feels more like a desperate search for relevance
Check out all of our Another Hole In the Head Film Fest coverage here.