Written by J. Weagle
What’s your favorite scary movie?
One of the most difficult things to do in the film business (especially the horror film business) is stand out in the crowd. Wes Craven not only stood out, he also brought something few filmmakers can offer, originality.
If for some unknown reason you think you’ve never heard of him, you’re wrong. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past three decades or in outer space you have heard of A Nightmare on Elm Street, you have heard the name Freddy Krueger. Like myself anyone who grew up through the 1990’s remembers the first time they witnessed Scream and the phenomenon it would become.
This is where I will start. You see as you can probably already guess (seeing as I’m a horror nerd with an entire blog dedicated to all things horror) that Wes Craven has had a major impact on my childhood, and to look at it even broader my life. Growing up through the 1990’s and early 2000’s and having an older brother and a father who loved horror films I was able to get my hands on all sorts of things a child my age probably shouldn’t have. In fact looking all the way back at my earliest horror memories two movie franchises come to mind: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
I can remember my brother having a VHS tape with multiple films on it starring the now infamous slasher icon Freddy Krueger, and how we would watch those movies countless times over and over. The one that first truly stuck out to me was A New Nightmare and Cravens warped vision of dreams and nightmares would forever be burned into my brain. I myself a child who suffered from horrendous night terrors, the premise of being afraid to fall asleep really hit home for me.
I was young then, so the name Wes Craven meant nothing to me. The Nightmare on Elm Street films were simply cool ideas and some of my earliest film memories. It wouldn’t be until the later part of the 1990’s and early 2000’s that the name Craven would begin to mean something in my life with the release of Scream. In fact I’m not sure if any other horror film in existence has impacted me as much as the teenage slasher horror mixed with comedy mega blockbuster that told the tale of a strong, innocent and sexy heroine as she battled a serial killer who wore a ghost mask. Again if you think you know nothing about Scream I can guarantee you have seen the mask as it quickly became one of horrors most iconic symbols.
With Scream, Wes Craven had managed to do with the 1990’s what he did in the 1980’s with Elm Street. He was the absolute master of creating fascinating unique pop horror movies that defined a decade. I won’t sit here and tell you that either A Nightmare on Elm Street or Scream were the best of their respected decades but I will argue that they had the biggest impact.
However despite what impact his major hits had on film in general it’s his other more unknown obscure work that really shows what a genius he was at constructing pure horror. Look no further than his string of films of the late 1970’s all the way up to the early 1990’s starting with his debut, The Last House on the Left. A film that to this day does a better job at making viewers feel horror and tension than ninety-five percent of modern films. A truly jaw dropping rape revenge thriller that remains one of the most uncomfortable movies to watch, and a brave and ballsy debut. Or have a look at how he followed that up with the the inbred hillbilly mutant classic that was ripe with Nuclear fear undertones that Craven himself no doubt had to grow up with. And if you really want to see what he was capable of, check out his early 1990’s film that deals with racial issues of the time and a personal favorite of mine, The People Under the Stairs.
The fact remains that Wes Craven, throughout his long career in the movie business never made a crappy movie. Even his more uneven ones (Red Eye, Cursed, My Soul to Take) were unique enough to stand out as very Craven-esque, proving a bad Wes Craven movie is still better then most of the stuff that gets released these days. He was an innovator with an eye for what would haunt our nightmares. A legend who was humble in his life and vision as he was in his death, and one of the most iconic individuals to grace film, not just horror. I never had the opportunity to meet the man but if I did, I would have told him what I’m sure millions of others have said to him, that he has no idea how much he managed to impact my life and understanding of film. For that I say thank you, and you will forever live on as your ideas were too good to ever die.