Horror cinema has been around since the late 19th century. That gives us 130+ years of thousands of individuals who have laid some cement on the foundation of the genre that we have today. From the performers who were drenched in blood and screamed their way through countless films, to the writers and directors who created the causes for those screams, to the makeup artists and costume designers who brought the horrors to life.
The Sound of Screams are heard throughout the air this month at Nightmare on Film Street. There are many screams that are identifiable throughout the genre. There’s a scream that belongs to one individual in the genre that incorporates all of the right ingredients of a perfect scream. It belongs to Heather Langenkamp. Heather has portrayed characters that screamed fearfully, defiantly, and victoriously. Let’s take a look at the films that you can hear Heather Langenkamp use those vocal chords.
The year is 1984. The director is Wes Craven. The movie is A Nightmare on Elm Street. The lead character is Nancy Thompson. She who brought Nancy to life is Heather Langenkamp. As Nancy, Heather created an individual in horror that would have a lasting effect on the genre for what will be forever. There was something noticeably special about her portrayal. The journey from innocent to terrified to willing to fight back to avenge the deaths of the friends has been relatable to horror fans. Her screams began in terror, but they transitioned to screams of rage and power as the film progressed. “God damn you!” she curses him. “Come out and show yourself, you bastard!” she taunts him. Heather created a legend in Nancy Thompson.
So much a legend that she returns for the remaining children of Elm Street in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors in 1987. Now a student of psychiatry, Nancy aides the remaining Elm Street children who have been placed in a mental hospital because of their nightmares. Again, Heather gave Nancy a light that shone bright throughout her performance and her chemistry with the remaining Elm Street kids. And she brought one of the most heartbreaking moments within horror history near the end of the film. Young me took forever to get over that moment.
Heather had a small cameo in Wes Craven’s Shocker in 1989 as a victim. It’s literally a blink and you’ll miss it – or maybe not even see it – moment. And this ended her horror involvement in the 80s. She stayed busy throughout with films and TV, most notably as Marie Lubbock in the ABC sitcom, Just the Ten of Us, that ran from 1988 through 1990. She starred alongside fellow Nightmare alums Brook Theiss (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) and JoAnn Willette (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge).
In 1994, Heather appeared alongside another Nightmare alum, Andra Jones (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), in the sci-fi/horror, The Demolitionist. More noteably, in 1994, a return to the world of Krueger occurred in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Portraying herself, Heather battles a demonic entity who takes on the form of Krueger and pinpoints her kid. New Nightmare actually incorporated a lot of Heather’s real life: the stalker elements, her husband being a SFX creator, she has a son, and she was having a hard time finding work. Those elements of her real life combined with Craven’s brilliance resulted in one of my favorite performances from Heather’s. She’s powerful, resilient, and still knows how to piss off and ultimately defeat any entity resembling Krueger. There’s also a scene in the film involving a closet (that has forever scarred me) that results in a scream from Heather that is one of the best screams of horror.
Almost 20 years would pass before Heather appeared in another horror film. That next film saw her portray the daughter of a psychotic Barbara Steele (Black Sunday) in 2012’s The Butterfly Room. Steele’s Ann is a woman who develops obsessive relationships with young girls, and causes destruction for anyone who gets in her way of reclaiming a love that she once had with her own child, Heather’s Dorothy.
“Heather has portrayed characters that screamed fearfully, defiantly, and victoriously.”
If you watched American Horror Story: Freakshow (2014), you may have noticed Heather among the participants in a Tupperware party scene that ended not so great in the season’s 9th episode, Tupperware Party Massacre. Imagine me upon my initial viewing being a personification of the famed Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme when I saw her sitting among the Tupperware party.
Heather returned to her motherly ways in 2016’s Home. In this supernatural tale, she is ½ half of a couple who move into a new home that has a demented past. Her wife, Samantha (Samantha Mumba), and she are present throughout the first half of the movie before it turns over to the two daughters to deal with the haunting. Heather’s presence in Home gives the film a sense of charm that is brought to any film that she’s in.
Ever wanted to see what Heather Langenkamp would look like with a similar makeup applied as Krueger? Check out 2017’s Truth or Dare in which she portrays a woman who was a survivor of a demon hosted experience of the titular game who helps the current round of players figure out how to beat the demon and survive. Heather assists another group of young folk defeat a demon in 2018’s Portal in which she’s the survivor of her family’s brutal massacre courtesy of a demon who is now working its way through the crew of a caught-on-camera ghost show. She’s not always a pleasant character, though. In her cameo in 2018’s Hellraiser: Judgement, she’s a grumpy apartment landlord with a few sassy things to say in her limited screen time.
There’s something to say about Heather’s roles in her films in which she plays a protector or someone who is meant to guide protagonists on their journey. Her demeanor on film and in real life is of a comforting nature. Part of it may be that she has a wonderful motherly nature to her, but I find that it is the aura of a mentor that she exudes. I had the pleasure of meeting her back in 2014 at Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, NC. The motherly / mentor aura that she gives off in her films was heightened during my conversation with her. She’s an incredibly pleasant and brilliant individual that I can not recommend enough that you experience.
Speaking of horror conventions, Heather has been a constant at many of them. Her insight during meet and greets as well as panels is a treat to experience. That insight is also seen in many documentaries on horror including Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010), Eli Roth’s History of Horror (2018), In Search of Darkness (2019), and in I Am Nancy (2011), a documentary that chronicled both Nancy’s life as well as Heather’s own life.
Mentioned earlier was that Heather appeared in an episode of American Horror Story. Her husband, David Anderson, is a part of the makeup special effects team for the show which may have led to her appearance. What few people know is that Heather is a part of her husband’s SFX team, and has assisted in the makeup effects on many horror and non horror films that we all love where she is credited as Heather L. or Langenkamp Anderson. A few of those horror films that she assisted her husband are Dawn of the Dead (2004), Dead Silence (2007) and The Cabin the Woods (2011).
Speaking to the Shock Waves podcast on episode 70, she tells of how she assisted her husband from working the books to actually being a part of the crew with Dawn of the Dead as pretty much managing the crew, the producers, and handling the important business aspects. The episode is a must listen for any fan of Heather as she delves deep into her experiencesas her part of the makeup effects as well as Wes Craven, being a woman in Hollywood, and other aspects of her career that are great to hear.
“What few people know is that Heather […] has assisted in the makeup effects on many horror and non horror films […]”
Heather Langenkamp is an icon. She’s always working in the genre of horror. I haven’t even mentioned the numerous horror shorts that she’s in (inc The Sub, Intruder), or that she’s directed a part of the anthology, Prank (2008), alongside Danielle Harris (Halloween IV, V), or that she’s written and directed her own short, Washed Away (2019). Washed Away was a very personal project for Heather. In 2018, Heather lost her son to brain cancer, and she pulled from her experience to tell a story of loss and confusion.
As for the future for Heather, it’s quiet. But I feel that it’s only quiet for us as Heather is constantly working. Imagine a future where a new Nightmare film is announced, and Heather somehow plays a huge part in it. There’s a level of excitement that is not containable if that were to manifest.
What’s your favorite performance of Heather Langenkamp’s? Outside of Nancy Thompson, of course. Let us know over on our Twitter, reddit, Instagram, or on The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook! And remember, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.