That hauntingly creepy nursery rhyme, which begins A Nightmare on Elm Street, has plagued my childhood memories since the early ’80s with its eerie chords. If you’re like me, A Nightmare on Elm Street holds a special place in your heart as the first film to truly scare you.
You watched the characters battling Freddy Krueger, traveling with them on their sleepless journeys, only to fall victim to your own nightmares long after the movie had ended. Not being able to fall asleep after watching the film was part of the experience.
All but one character from A Nightmare on Elm Street suffered a gruesome (and, let’s be honest, awesome) death by Freddy’s claws. The lone survivor, Nancy Thompson, became the heroine, and she was one of the first characters to spark the phenomenon known as “The Final Girl.”
As the series progressed, however, the Nightmare films began to focus attention on Freddy instead of where creator Wes Craven originally intended it to be: on Nancy Thompson. And fans who embraced Nancy’s strength were left wanting more.
Nancy did return to Elm Street in the third installment of the series,but her time between the end of Nightmare 1 and the beginning of Nightmare 3 remained a mystery.
Don’t Fall Asleep is a fan film that tells the untold story of Nancy Thompson. Inspired by the Nightmares on Elm Street comics from Innovation Publishing, we created a film that is for fans, by fans—specifically those of us who know and love Nancy. It isn’t a Freddy film (although he does make several appearances). Instead, Don’t Fall Asleep is about the fact that Nancy’s nightmare is far from over.
What started as friends talking about making a short movie on our iPhones turned into an indie fan film with all the bells and whistles we could afford.
Ten actors from MadLab make up the majority of the cast and crew. When I initially approached the actors and said, “I’m making a horror film, and I want you to be in it... oh, and you’re probably going to die in it,” all of the actors said “yes” without hesitation. I don’t know whether it was my pitch or the actors’ secret desire to be drenched in blood, but their characters were soon born.
We needed to create four new characters in order to carry Nancy’s story from Nightmare 1 to Nightmare 3, so we wrote each character to represent the attributes that Nancy needed to survive Freddy’s continued tormenting:
- Joel (Chad Hewitt) is the morally flexible punk kid with a good heart. When faced with life-or-death decisions, morals are often challenged—especially when it comes to leaving someone behind. Hewitt takes his raw talent to the next level when bringing Joel to life on screen. His delivery of the character’s arc brought many pre-screeners to tears.
- Therese (Colleen Dunne) is the guarded young woman who comes across as being ruthless. Or, in the famous words of Delores Claiborne, “Sometimes being a bitch is the only thing a woman has to hold on to.” And women often need to possess such qualities to barrel through the obstacles in front of her. Dunne's performance of Therese was perfection. She cleverly crafts a character who avoids being a stereotype, and she plays the role with intelligence and fortitude.
- Dr. Travis (Travis Horseman) is the educated authority figure. He possesses the necessary wisdom to make the best decision. Horseman’s stellar portrayal of the doctor adds depth to a side character worthy of his own spin-off.
- Marshall (Casey May) is the scaredy-cat of the group. He symbolizes the little voice in your head that tells you to run when danger is lurking around the corner. Although Marshall’s part has less screen time than the other characters, May’s magnificent performance leaves a lasting impression with audiences.
These four attributes combined to bring the character of Nancy Thompson (Diandra Lazor) to life; Don’t Fall Asleep explores the question of what happens to Nancy when each of these is taken away.
Lazor was the most obvious choice to play Nancy—and not just because of her years of notable cosplay within the horror community. She knows this character, inside and out, and she plays Nancy from the heart, in a way that isn’t a mere imitation of the original. Lazor’s remarkable portrayal in Don’t Fall Asleep is a testament to what happens when a fan’s love for a character is captured on film.
Vicki Andronis and Erik Sternberger play two surprise characters from the original Nightmare films. Their performances of each character seamlessly fall in line with the original actors.
MadLab Ensemble members Stephen Woosley and Kyle Jepson, along with MadLab affiliates Andy Batt and Michelle Batt, also lend their talents on and off screen.
Written by Michelle DiCeglio, Paige Troxell and Diandra Lazor, Don’t Fall Asleep is available on YouTube and will screen at MadLab on Saturday, October 29, 2016.