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I Am Nancy

by on July 4, 2011
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Disturbingly enough, horror fans seem to gravitate more towards bogeymen than their prey. Children, for instance, dress up as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees — the very madmen who terrorize them on the silver screen. Why, oh why, don’t we see more idolization of the slasher survivors?

“I Am Nancy,” the new documentary from scream queen Heather Langenkamp, addresses these points with thoughtful insight. It only skims the surface of why people worship Freddy Krueger, but that’s because the film is refreshingly more concerned with Nancy Thompson, the girl of his nightmares and the heroine brought to life by Langenkamp herself.

“I Am Nancy” digs beneath the blood-splattered surface of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films to reveal the positive and uplifting influences in these visions of fear.

As a statement, “I am Nancy” is more than Langenkamp’s identification as an iconic character of modern horror; it’s an attitude horror fans adopt when confronting their fears.

As the film points out, Nancy is far from the kind of clueless victim featured in most slasher flicks. Rather than running out the back door, she faces her attacker and conquers her fears. Apparently, her perseverance has been imparted to “Elm Street” fans.

One of the many poignant moments in the documentary features a fan confessing how she was inspired and motivated by Nancy during her recovery from a terrible car accident.

As Langenkamp travels to horror conventions across the globe, she finds more and more of this “Nancyness” within her fans — people willing to share intimate details of how they were empowered by Nancy’s battles with Freddy. That inspiration will undoubtedly rub off on viewers. In that regard, the film is a true testament to the cathartic power of the horror genre.

While it does explore this catharsis and healthy approaches to fear, “I Am Nancy” is never preachy, and Langenkamp’s intentions are never self-righteous. In this documentary, she is a gracious and charismatic host, letting fans speak for themselves and interacting with them as if they are long-time friends. She is also quite funny, making her excellent company with which to tag along.

Langenkamp’s camaraderie with the men behind “Elm Street” (actor Robert Englund and filmmaker Wes Craven) is entertaining, and their conversations are casually profound. For example, Craven discusses how Nancy’s house represents different parts of the human psyche: the attic holds the memories, the kitchen the primal needs, the basement stokes our fear of darkness and silence.

All in all, this documentary is essential viewing for “Nightmare on Elm Street” fans and movie lovers, period. It’s imbued with exuberance and panache thanks to Langenkamp and director Arlene Marechal (her sister-in-law).

The DVD is available online at Amazon or