Although Jamie Lee Curtis achieved screen immortality as America’s premier scream queen in John Carpenter’s classic Halloween, my favorite heroine of those classic ‘70s and ‘80s “slasher” flicks remains Heather Langenkamp, better known as Nancy Thompson from the original Nightmare On Elm Street series.
Curtis undeniably deserves her iconic status among horror fans, but for my money Langenkamp was more convincing as an “everygirl” pit against an unimaginable evil.
Perhaps it was the lack of a Hollywood pedigree (As the daughter of Hollywood legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Curtis seemed preordained for stardom) or the simple fact that Langenkamp looked like your average – if undeniably attractive – girl next door.
Most likely, it was Director Wes Craven’s intuitive sense to cast Langenkamp as a “final girl” who possessed more gumption than the usual Hollywood scream queen. In the first and third films, Nancy actively plots against the demonic Freddy Krueger and even strikes the killing blow – the second time at the cost of her own life.
“(Nancy) “had a great sense that she could solve problems without anybody’s help at all,” Langenkamp later told an interviewer. “I try to be like her, actually.”
The actress returned to the Nightmare franchise in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a clever, but sadly unsuccessful, reboot that saw the fictional Freddy try to invade the “real” world. The only person able to stop him is, of course, Langenkamp, who played a version of herself who was much like Nancy Thompson.
(To add even an even greater “meta” element, the film was reportedly based on Langenkamp’s real-life experience of being stalked by a fan.)
These days, Langenkamp largely works behind the screen as the co-owner of a special effects company. She has also directed a documentary on the legacy of Nightmare On Elm Street and is producing a second entitled I Am Nancy.
All in all, that sounds a lot better than selling yogurt on TV!