Ladies of Horror May-hem: Nancy Thompson

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Ah, Freddy Krueger. The man, the myth, the legend…who had his fire-scarred ass handed to him four times by two of the lovely ladies to grace this month of May-hem (five times if you count New Nightmare). While our intrepid Alice Johnson was able to defeat Freddy through the powers she gained each time he killed one of her friends and family, the original final girl of Elm Street did it all with nothing more than her wits and sheer determination to survive.

[Loba Tangent: Spoilers ahoy, denizens.]

Nancy Thompson, as played by Heather Langenkamp, starts out in director Wes Craven’s slasher classic A Nightmare on Elm Street as the average all-American teen, with a best friend, a boyfriend who looks like Johnny Depp, and an idyllic suburban life with a broken home and an alcoholic mother. And the dreams in which she is haunted by a horribly scarred man with knives for fingers.

Soon she learns that she’s not the only one dreaming this hideous nightmare. Everyone in her little clique is dreaming the same guy, the same dream, every night. I’ve heard of group psychosis before, but group nightmares? Something’s rotten on Elm Street, Horatio.

All that was once, perhaps not perfect, but at least manageable…understandable leaps out the uppermost window as Nancy finds herself faced with a horrible truth about why this crazy striped-sweater freak is offing all the Elm Street kids and she starts losing everything. But once that happens, that’s when young Nancy proves herself to be a worthy final girl, as she takes into her own hands a one-woman rescue mission in which she’s either going to prove herself right about what’s been happening to her and her friends, or prove she’s gone completely around the bend.

What makes Nancy so remarkable is that she came across as believable. I believed that she was a confused high school student being faced with some incredibly unbelievable events. Her mother thought she was going crazy and her father was at a total loss as to how even as the sheriff of the town, he was failing to protect her from something he couldn’t even believe in.

Regardless, Nancy has faith in herself…and in the booby traps she learned to make thanks to a book she finds at the library. Come on, of course I’m going to love her! She’s a book nerd commando! And you know what? She gets her man. Literally. This is what makes Nancy the most bad-ass teen in town. She rips the villain right out of her dreams so that he has to face her in reality rather than where he is most powerful. And she then proceeds to make demands of him and tell him that she’s taking back all the power that he’s stolen from her and her friends. AND THEN SHE TURNS HER BACK ON HIM AND WALKS AWAY.

It doesn’t get much more bad-ass than that, denizens.

Ladies of Horror May-hem: Alice Johnson

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I was so excited about the thought of adding Alice Johnson to my list of horror heroines. See, most of the time, when people think horror heroine, especially in reference to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, they immediately (and rightly) think of Nancy Thompson. She was, after all, the first Elm Street kid to defeat Freddy Krueger.

(Sorry for that spoiler and for the few spoilers that I have to drop into this post…but I kind of have to reveal some stuff to reveal my reasoning…)

What a lot of people fail to remember is that, yes, Nancy defeated Freddy twice, but there’s only one bad-ass grrl who both defeated Krueger twice and lived to tell the tale.

Enter Alice Johnson.

We first meet Alice in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. She’s one of those “transformation girls,” quiet and shy and mousy and weak…but guess what? Let’s just say that she “masters” those issues like a baus. Honestly, it’s one of the best depictions of the transformation trope I can think of in slasher-level horror. Of course, I say that with the full confession that I have a huge soft spot in my horror heart for Freddy Krueger (the Robert Englund version…which, let’s face it, is the only version that matters at all in the history of ever).

Still, watching Alice Johnson metamorphose through this movie is a joy to behold, and nearly as much fun as watching Englund not just chew scenery but devour it, whole piece at a time as Krueger. When you’ve got someone like Englund playing your main villain, you need an actor who not only can convince viewers of her inherent weakness but also can be believable as a suitable counterpoint to Krueger when the time comes. Lisa Wilcox was quite a brilliant choice for these reasons. She pulls off timid, fearful Alice quite well. And bad-ass Alice? Oh, yeah. She could match the camp and slash of Freddy K.

When I saw that they’d brought Alice back for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, I was actually sad. I kind of figured, based on previous track records, that this meant that she wasn’t going to make it to the end. Again, I’m sorry for this spoiler, but this is ultimately one of the main reasons I chose Alice…she kicks Freddy’s ass one more time and lives to tell the tale.

For the final movie in the original series, the creators decided to go in a decidedly different direction from the previous movies, and then Wes Craven came back to reclaim Freddy with his New Nightmare (which ironically brought Heather Langenkamp back into the Krueger fold), so we never saw Alice again in the movies. I’m actually okay with that. I admit that I wanted to know what had happened to her after the fifth movie, but I also reminded myself that the third time could have been the charm…for Freddy.

No, I’d like to believe that Alice never encountered Freddy again and that she and her son found a nice little suburban neighborhood to live in. Somewhere green and quiet, where her biggest nightmare would be trying to pay bills or get her son to ball practice on time. I know, it doesn’t sound all that exciting…but she’d probably love every minute.