We will begin our series on the female protagonists of the Elm Street series with two movies which exist outside of the main arc of the seven-film series, and the women who lead them: Lori Campbell of Freddy vs. Jason and Nancy Holbrook of the 2010 remake A Nightmare on Elm Street.
I wasn’t sure if I would include Freddy vs. Jason or the 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street in this series. I considered including FvJ since it is made in the same universe as the rest of the series, even if it doesn’t fit in perfectly with continuity, but I really had reservations about including the remake for a couple of reasons. It creates a new canon, for one, and is the first time Freddy Krueger is not played by Robert Englund, but more importantly, it ruins the series’ tradition of strong female leads and I just plain didn’t enjoy it or remember enough about it to include it. Like it or not, though, it bears the Elm Street name and including it gave me a good way to also include FvJ.
Let’s start off with Lori.
In Freddy vs. Jason the main idea is that Freddy has lost his power to kill in dreams because the people of Springwood have actively erased any information about him from public records and locked up anyone who had contact with him in a mental hospital and doped them up with a dream suppressing drug known as Hypnocil, which was introduced in the third film in the Elm Street series. Because of this, Freddy raises Jason Voorhees (the killer in the Friday the 13th series) from the grave and sends him to Springwood to kill people so they’ll think it’s Freddy, start to fear him again, and give him his power back. Preposterous, you say? Well, you really need to concede this one point in order to engage with the movie, so just go with it. Also, I may remind you that this is a film series in which we’ve already accepted that a ghost can kill you in your dreams, so what’s one more stretch really going to hurt?
Because no one remembers who Freddy is in this movie, Lori and her friends have a difficult time learning about him and how to deal with him. Lori believes fairly quickly and learns most of what she needs to know about Freddy from Mark Davis, who was locked in the mental hospital because he saw Freddy kill his brother. Mark emphasizes to Lori that Freddy gets his power from people’s fear and taking that away is the best way to get rid of him. Unfortunately, it’s too late for that, so Lori and her friends try to work out more direct ways to defeat the killer.
Eventually, Lori learns that she can bring things out of her dream and into the real world if she keeps hold of them in the dream as she wakes up, so her plan is to travel from Springwood to Crystal Lake (Jason’s old stomping grounds), pull Freddy into the real world, have Jason kill him, and then hope that Jason will just stay at Crystal Lake rather than follow the group back to Springwood and kill them.
A great plan? No, not really, but to quote every cliché scene ever, “It’s the only one we’ve got!”—and you have to give Lori credit for coming up with it and having the courage to go through with it. While her friends can’t decide on a course of action, Lori makes a plan and then sees it through, being not only the brains but also the brawn of the operation. She is certainly not the best protagonist the series had and there are several scenes that emphasize how she looks rather than what she’s doing:
but at the end of the day, she is strong and determined, and stands up to Freddy which is what I have come to expect from the female leads in this series. Plus, she gets this scene in which she is roughly 500% more badass than any of us can ever hope to be: she runs into a burning building, retrieves two flaming hunks of furniture, screams at Freddy to “GO TO HELL!!”, and uses them to blow him up:
Subtle? No. Awesome? Hell, yes.
Now, for Miss Nancy Holbrook… *sigh*
Now, as you may remember me mentioning, Nancy Thompson of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street is my hero. MY. HERO. The original Nancy was strong, determined, resourceful, a fighter. Nancy Holbrook is so far from the legacy left by this character that it makes me angry they gave her the same first name. No one else in the remake kept the name of the character they were re-creating (except for Freddy Krueger) despite some of them being much more similar to their predecessors than this character.
Nancy Holbrook is quiet, meek, and possibly a loner? Her relationship with the other characters in the movie is pretty poorly defined. The script tells us that they’re friends but the minimal discussions and awkward interactions imply otherwise. She seems to be very removed from everything happening around her, which tends to make her uninteresting since she herself seems so uninterested in what’s going on in her life.
Rather than being stirred to fight by her nightmares and her “friends” being killed, Nancy Holbrook (and yes, I will be using her full name every time I reference her to make sure there is NO confusing her with Nancy Thompson) is mildly interested in this murderer who may or may not be killing her friends and working his way up to killing her. She also somehow forgot that he used to work at her preschool and abused her and her friends (a story element unique to the remake). In fact, they all forgot this and somehow forgot they knew each other and thought they met in high school. I don’t know how that worked out when they grew up in the same town, but since that’s a phenomenon all the characters are suffering from I can’t blame it on Miss Holbrook.
What I can blame on her, however, is how she meanders through the plot, barely affecting its trajectory until the climax. At that time, she does begin to fight back, and does so with the typical plan: pull Freddy into the real world and kill him for real. Like Lori, Nancy Holbrook decides to go into the dream to bring Freddy out herself and she does get to deliver the final blow.
The problem I have with Nancy Holbrook is that she is like most horror film “heroines”; she spends the majority of the film as a bland, directionless, blank slate of a character. Her decision to have a showdown with Freddy is reactionary, rather than the result of planning or thought, and she doesn’t start any of this with strong conviction until the last third or fourth of the movie.
She is disappointing as a character, she is disappointing in the face of this series’ history of interesting women, and she is most disappointing in comparison to her namesake.
Well, we aren’t off to the best start in this little series, but as I said, we’re going from least to most prominent, so it’s only going to go up from here. Next week we’ll continue with the one-offs. Those women who, for better or worse, only made one appearance in the series.
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