Heather Langenkamp leads two very different lives: one as a wife, mother, and business owner in L.A., the other as one of the most popular guests on the horror convention circuit.
Her next stop is this week's Days of the Dead convention, where she will present her new documentary, I Am Nancy — as in Nancy Thompson, the girl of Freddy Krueger's nightmares.
Langenkamp battled the razor-gloved dream stalker throughout her career, appearing in Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Dream Warriors, and of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Now, after riding the wave of horror fandom, she brings audiences her own view of the macabre world in which horror heroine Nancy thrived.
I Am Nancy follows Langenkamp around five horror conventions in North America and Europe as she explores her role in the Elm Street phenomenon amidst all the Freddy Krueger mania.
As a statement, I Am Nancy is more than Langenkamp's identification as an iconic character of modern horror; it encompasses an attitude she hopes others will adopt when confronting their fears.
"Nancy was really courageous and direct in how she wanted to handle Freddy. That response to fear is rare," Langenkamp said. "Most of us are just totally in denial about the stuff that's really gonna get us. So, my thesis in the documentary is: Let's all be more like Nancy. Let's try to look at our lives and fears with eyes wide open."
Much to her humble surprise, Langenkamp found fans doing exactly that, using Nancy as a vessel to overcome their own obstacles. A particularly poignant moment in the documentary features a fan confessing how A Nightmare on Elm Street helped her recover from a terrible auto accident.
It was therapeutic, she says, "to watch someone other than me going through a nightmare" — a true testament to the cathartic power of the horror genre and what Langenkamp considers a perfect explanation of the overall appeal of film.
"Being able to watch somebody else go through a really sad, painful, or hideous situation makes your life look a little better for that hour and a half," she said.
I Am Nancy has a similar effect, only it makes the horror world look better.
"It puts a human and much less scary face on the genre," Langenkamp said.
The documentary is an affectionate portrait of the crazy convention world Langenkamp "dips her toe into" once or twice a year. She remains active in Hollywood, albeit behind-the-scenes as owner and operator (with husband David Leroy Anderson) of AFX Studio. The special effects makeup firm has appeared in horror films like 2004's Dawn of the Dead as well as Oscar-nominated fare like Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon.
Langenkamp will be signing autographs and answering questions following the film's premiere, 8 p.m. this Friday, July 1. It's one of the headlining films in Days of the Dead's weekend-long Fangoria Film Festival.
To coincide with the I Am Nancy screening, world-renowned prop enthusiast Mike Becker will debut his Nightmare on Elm Street museum, featuring dozens of items used in the series, including Freddy's deadly glove, which was, of course, no match for Nancy's perseverance, a quality imparted to her fans.
"Using the way she is with Freddy — always fighting, always tackling head on, not going out the easy way — is our Nancyness," Langenkamp said.