The world of horror has lost one of its greatest and most influential writer-directors. Wes Craven, creator of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises, as well as director of such horror classics, Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, died on Sunday at the age of 76, after a battle with brain cancer. It’s safe to say the horror landscape would certainly not be the same without him.
The fact is, unless you are a true horror fan, you might not know his career started in the early 70’s with the infamous Last House on the Left, which came with the tagline, “To avoid fainting, keep repeating, ‘it’s only a movie’…” At the time, it was groundbreaking in its portrayal of extremely reàlistic blood, gore and violence, some of which was cut from prints and not restored until later DVD editions. It was also banned in many states upon its initial release, but overcame that stigma to make money and even be remade in 2009. This movie set the tone for the rest of Craven’s career. It was followed up a few years later with The Hills Have Eyes, about a family being attacked in the desert by vicious mutants. Craven also directed its sequel in 1984. An excellent remake came out in 2006, which also spawned its own sequel as well. In addition, Craven is known for such horror fare as Deadly Blessing, Swamp Thing (another classic), Shocker, The Serpent and the Rainbow and The People Under the Stairs.
Craven’s real claim to fame was the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. There were seven in all but he only directed the first and last in the series. This started the 80s trend of wisecracking villains with Freddy Krueger as the flame-scarred, child-molesting serial killer. Unlike the masked murder machines Michael Myers and Jason, who were closer to a great white shark in killing style and personality, Freddy oozed charisma as well as blood and burnt flesh. His brown fedora, striped sweater and razor-fingered glove become iconic trademarks. His killing method of attacking victims in their sleep was also original, and further set Freddy apart from the other film slashers. It spawned an anthology TV series from 1988-90, and a remake in 2011.
In 1996, Craven revived his career and the tired slasher genre as well with Scream, which introduced another serial killer in Ghostface. It led to four films in total and he directed all of them. This set of movies started the self aware trend where the characters know all about previous slasher films and the various tropes that accompany them. It was a fresh take on the genre and the films were hugely successful (the fourth film, which was terrific, and came out 11 years after the previous one, didn’t do as well). A Scream television series is currently airing on MTV.
Wes also directed non horror movies such as Music of the Heart, which is as far away from his usual movies as you can get! The Gore 4 is glad that he was one of those directors who mainly stayed true to the genre we love so dearly.
Wes Cràven was born on Aug. 2 1939, in Cleveland, Ohio, and died on Aug. 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA. His influence will last for generations and he will be truly missed by all serious horror movie fans.