Dread Central's Final Girls: Lisa Wilcox
It takes a special final girl to take on Freddy Krueger twice and live to tell about it. Alice Johnson was exactly that girl. Brought to life by actress Lisa Wilcox in the fourth and fifth installments of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Alice was the only final girl in the series to survive the killer clutches of Robert Englund.
Her character was passed the torch by Dream Warriors' final girl, Kristen Parker (Tuesday Knight, who took over the role from Patricia Arquette), when she finally fell victim to Freddy. Part Four became the journey of Alice to find her inner strength as well as take on the strengths of her fallen friends in order to overcome Freddy and help make Elm Street a safe place to dream once again.
In honor of her place in final girl history, Dread Central recently caught up with Wilcox to speak to her about Alice, her time away from the industry, and what brought her back to work in the genre she's always loved.
Wilcox, who describes herself as a lifelong horror fan, was actually a big fan of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street even before the role of Alice became a blip on her radar. "I was absolutely a fan of the series before I got involved," explained Wilcox. "I remember I was at UCLA in 1984 when it came out. I saw it then and of course had no idea that it would be in my future, let alone as two milestone projects in my career. I just remember how dark the first one was, and I loved that it felt so different."
What's interesting is that despite her involvement with both The Dream Master and The Dream Child, Wilcox actually cites Dream Warriors as her favorite chapter of the Nightmare on Elm Street legacy.
Wilcox said, "Nightmare Three is probably my favorite Nightmare film, with the first being a close second. With Dream Warriors you have an amazing cast of actors giving amazing performances that wasn't what you normally see in horror films. It really was a character study; in fact, most of the Nightmare films were."
"What makes the Nightmare series so distinctive is that while it is a fantasy being played out on the screen, they deal with some very real issues for teenagers. Suicide, depression, and even in Part Five we deal with abortion. There are some very heavy things going on within the context of a horror film," added Wilcox.
When Wilcox came on board for Dream Master, she brought a lot of her own self into her characterization of mousy girl-turned-heroine Alice.
"I immediately fell in love with the story of Alice," explained Wilcox. "She's a daydreamer who was kind of pathetic at the beginning of Part Four, and I think we all can relate to that feeling in some ways. Actually, I was totally a wallflower in high school so there was a lot of myself in the character of Alice. There's a lot of Lisa on that screen."
"As an actress, though, what made Alice remarkable is that audiences watch Alice become stronger and stronger as the movie plays along, and you can't help but be a part of her journey because she's so relatable," Wilcox added.
Wilcox went on to discuss why she feels Dream Master was one of the more distinctive installments of the Elm Street series. "With most horror movies the lighting is usually so dark to set a certain atmosphere, but with the fourth Nightmare, that wasn't the case at all. Part of [director] Renny [Harlin]'s approach with the type of lighting we went with was that it would stay in stride with the humor of the film."
"For example, you have the scenes at the beach. That was a first. You're not supposed to see Freddy in sunglasses - and certainly not in daylight! So the lighting in the movie definitely helped set the tone, including the incredible church scene at the end," added Wilcox.
Wilcox feels that the shift to humor for The Dream Master helped open up the franchise to fans who might have otherwise not ventured into the dark realms of Elm Street.
"I think the lighter tone and the humor made the film much more accessible so that's why I think more people went to see it," explained Wilcox. "That just opened up the appeal of the franchise. I loved how distinctive our kills were and how iconic some of those scenes still are. Especially the theater scene, when they had me flying into the screen. That was completely wild to watch."
Wilcox continued to stay busy in Hollywood through 2000, when the actress decided to step away from her acting career to spend time with her family and start her own business, Toe Brights, a company offering customers unique fashion jewelry. After a nine-year hiatus, however, Wilcox decided she was ready to step back in front of the camera. She immediately got busy, taking on several different projects including The Intruders, Savage, and the FEARnet web series "Fear Clinic", which paired her back up with Robert Englund.
More recently Wilcox worked on the film Imago and teamed up with several other final girls for the upcoming thriller Sebastian, which is expected to be released this summer.
I spoke to Wilcox about what brought her back and why she chose to come back to horror, despite having an impressive resume that covered the span of almost every different genre. "I stopped acting for about eight or nine years, just to refocus myself and spend time with my family," Wilcox explained. "I just recently got back into the game about a year ago or so. I worked all over the place when I was really in the swing of things career-wise, so it felt natural for me to decide to come back to my favorite genre, horror."
"I really missed the business because I love the gypsy feeling of being on location so as soon as I started longing for that feeling, I knew it was time for me to come back. I also missed the craft of acting - finding and developing a character within yourself. I just knew I was ready again," added Wilcox.
Now that it's been over 20 years since she filmed both of her Nightmare films, I asked the actress to talk about what the franchise's enduring legacy means to her.
Wilcox said, "It doesn't feel like the movies were 20 years ago, honestly. All those memories seem so recent. It's surreal to me that there are three generations of Nightmare fans these days. I find it fascinating that the movie has had an impact on people of all walks of life, and I feel lucky to be a part of that."
Check out Wilcox below as she sat down with Dread Central to talk about the final girl phenomenon and why she'd want to bring Alice back just one more time.
Dread Central would like to thank Lisa Wilcox for taking time to speak with us and for agreeing to be a part of our February Final Girls Series.
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