Studio: Some Pig Productions
Director: Arlene Marechal
Writer: Arlene Marechal, Heather Langenkamp
Producer: Heather Langenkamp
Stars: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Wes Craven, Mikey Rotella
Heather Langenkamp examines her role as Nancy from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” by speaking with stars and fans of the franchise.
Genre fandom is a wildly schizophrenic world, but there is nothing else like it. Comic-Cons and horror conventions are more than opportunities to meet, greet, and say thank you to the talent that influenced countless imaginations. They are also meccas where fans and creators can communicate on even levels, united in a shared passion for popular culture that those outside the niche cannot understand.
Try to think of another corner of entertainment where this takes place. There are book fairs that afford half-minutes to make an ignored remark to a distracted author signing an assembly line of hardcovers. Meanwhile, an invisible barrier separating patron from celebrity always hangs in the air. And outside of a $10,000 a plate fundraiser, there will never be a similar event where someone can get the kind of attention from George Clooney that s/he can get from the lead actor of a favorite B-movie.
Conventions have a way of reigniting the wide-eyed enthusiasm that created the fans in the first place. Finally meeting a famous face that once stared regularly from a bedroom wall poster can excitedly tie even the most erudite tongue.
At the same time, such events are mildly depressing. Part of what makes these actors and filmmakers so accessible is the plain fact that they truly are regular people. A job they once had for two weeks decades ago turned into a cult classic phenomenon and now they are forever enshrined on an imaginary pedestal. That status created in the mind as a child then conflicts with the image of watching said star wear a momentary smile, pocket a $20 bill, and resume his/her seat in a folding chair behind a card table.
Of course, everyone has to make a living. And for many of these personalities, their career peaks have long passed. Some because of shifts in priority to raise a family or to assume a different trade. Some because Hollywood no longer cared. Whatever the reason, posing for photos and signing DVD sleeves puts money in their pockets and smiles on the fans’ faces. Even if something does feel uncomfortable about the whole process.
Regardless of talent or popularity, Heather Langenkamp qualifies for consideration in the scenario described. She illustrates the point with her autobiographical documentary “I Am Nancy.” While fans wait in hours-long lines for Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund to put his John Hancock on a glossy 8x10, Heather has ample time to ask anyone willing to listen, “what about Nancy?”
It is a question without enough battery power to run even a short movie whose end credits start rolling at the seventy-minute mark. This is because it is posed with a limited amount of sincerity to begin with.
Heather is too smart to be at all in the dark about why Freddy Krueger is more popular than Nancy Thompson. As an exploration of pushing female heroism out of the spotlight, or struggling for identity against an iconic juggernaut, “I Am Nancy” never takes itself as crucial social commentary. Scenes are mostly comprised of fans showcasing “Nightmare on Elm Street” tattoos and waxing nostalgic about how young they were when they saw the original movie.
“I Am Nancy” flirts briefly with a peek inside the lifestyle of faded horror movie stardom. Seeing a time-lapse montage of ants marching through the endless line in front of Robert Englund’s autograph table while Heather, a fellow “Nightmare” alum whose table is obstructed by a support column, and a blurred-out Billy Dee Williams watch fingernails grow, suggests that the documentary would have been better off veering further in that direction.
One terrific convention moment has Richard Brooker being introduced as Jason from “Friday the 13th Part III” while Langenkamp responds with, “I’m Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street.” Neither mentions his/her real name, seemingly out of habit. These moments die on the vine however, as the documentary returns to a meandering theme of random anecdotes about what the franchise means to (random person).
Langenkamp has the charisma and good humor to keep the boat mostly above the water instead of under it. The film tries mirroring her playful personality with assorted pop-up texts and accompanying sound effects, but the style is not prevalent enough to give the format a lasting flavor.
The movie suffers from poor technical decisions, too. Opening on an interview in a tattoo parlor is a rookie mistake. The droning buzz of an ink needle over talking heads is annoyingly distracting. Careful planning appears absent, leaving the impression of a haphazard approach towards production.
Focusing too intently on the “Nancy” and not enough on the “I,” the documentary glues itself in place with appeal limited to “Nightmare on Elm Street” diehards only. There might be enough fan service to please Fred-Heads and Nancy-philes, but “I Am Nancy” more or less mutters, “I don’t know” in response to the question of what it wants to say.
Review Score: 50