On Sunday the 30th August the horror community lost one it’s most important filmmakers, Wes Craven the creator of several of the most iconic horror movie villains ever died aged 76 of brain cancer.
This is a career retrospective as seen through the eyes of a fan that has grown up watching his work. Wes Craven has made many of the films that helped inspire GBHBL. He will always be a horror movie legend.
So ask any horror movie fan to name a famous horror movie villain & Freddy Kruger’s name will come up…a lot. A Nightmare on Elm Street will forever be Cravens most famous work having a significant impact on the horror genre & huge public appeal. Craven would use that Freddy fame & popularity when he returned to the franchise many years later to make Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
A Nightmare on Elm Street remains one of my favourite horror movies to date. Still scary, still effective and with a final third that will chill you to your bones. The image of Tina in the body bag beckoning Nancy to follow her is an incredible scene. You can read a review of the full movie here.
Many people won’t know that Wes Craven’s early career started off in pornography, writing & editing many an X-rated movie under pseudonyms. His first directorial credit came in 1972 with the infamous brutal revenge horror, The Last House on the Left.
2 teenage girls on a night out are kidnapped by a group of criminals. The girls are raped, brutalised & murdered by the gang who then seek shelter in a nearby house. Unknown to them this is the home of the parents of one of the girls. They find out & extract their bloody revenge on the gang.
What is probably more famous then the film itself is the controversy surrounding it. Censored in many countries with the UK being particularly heavy-handed especially when the ‘video nasty scare’ began. The film was only classified uncut in 2008 & even now getting hold of a completely uncut version is very hard as many claim to be but aren’t actually.
It took me a long time to see it, I’ve never been a fan of these kinds of movies but when I did I thoroughly enjoyed it even though it is a harrowing watch even by today’s standards. The final shot of the bloodied parents sitting together in their living room as the police arrive will stay with you for a long time. What would you have done if it was your daughter?
Craven followed The Last House on the Left with another smash hit, The Hills Have Eyes. A movie that garnered a huge cult following as the years went by & got a sequel in 1985.
Again I didn’t see this for a long time but consider it one of my favourite Wes Craven movies now.
The 80’s were a huge high point for the horror masters career. Some of his most important work both as director & writer were released as well as many that have since gained cult status. Swamp Thing, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Deadly Friend, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors & The Serpent and the Rainbow.
The early 90’s saw The People Under the Stairs released & while incredibly cheesy at times it is a fun horror flick. Craven would direct one final Freddy movie in 1994 (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – a smart take on a tired legend) before sinking his teeth into the horror comedy, Vampire in Brooklyn starring Eddie Murphy.
Mid 90’s saw the rise of the teen-slasher horror & while many older horror movie directors/writers would be left in the dust Craven saw an opportunity to change the horror landscape yet again, in 1996 Scream was released.
The uniqueness of Scream has been lost over time thanks to the glutton of copycat films & average sequels but at the time a cast that made reference to horror movies & the clichés that extended from them was incredibly clever. It instantly made it more relatable & made Ghost Face a Halloween costume favourite!
Like many of his previous movies, Scream would be dogged by controversy after its’ release thanks to a spate of supposedly copycat murders & violent acts.
Unfortunately Scream would become a parody of its self with its next 2 sequels all released before the end of 2000. The next 10 years would see sporadic directorial work from the man with almost none having any of the commercial or cult success of the pervious years.
In 2006 The Hills Have Eyes was remade & he served as a producer as well as on the sequel that came the year after. In 2009 another of his movies was remade, The Last House on the Left to great success.
A Nightmare on Elm Street remake came out in 2010 but Craven had no involvement in it.
Wes Craven’s final movie as director was released in 2011, the 4th instalment of the Scream franchise. Disappointing with a plot that made little sense, it never lived up to its promise of ‘changing the rules’ again.
While the latter part of his career may not have been nearly as successful as the 80’s & 90’s his legacy in horror is undisputable. Credited with changing the horror landscape several times & making some of the most memorable movies ever, Wes Craven died a horror movie legend.
As a horror movie fan his impact on myself, I hope comes across in this post….I’ve lived & breathed horror as long as I can remember & Wes Craven’s remarkable mind has been the cause of many a joy moment for me. The horror community lost a visionary & we should be grateful to have the memories we do.