Love him or hate him, Wes Craven has been one of the most influential horror genre directors.
Raised in a strict baptist house hold, and very well educated (undergraduate degree in English and Psychology with a masters in Philosophy and Writing), Craven was bitten by the film bug while teaching, and got into film making via 70’s porno. From there he grew to the master of horror that we all know and love, and is the singular director that sent me running from, and back to horror.
Personal anecdote time!
When I was but a wee lad of 6, I would go over to a friends house and watch movies, usually cartoon fair. The fateful night in question, said friend decided to raid his brothers movie stash and came out with 1984’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘ and in a scant 91 minutes, scarred me for the next 8 years. There were endless nightmares about Freddy chasing me, dismembering Care Bears and Smurfs (shut up, I was 6). It got so bad that my mother, in her infinite wisdom and sick of her kids shit, sat me down to watch 1991’s ‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare‘. All with the logic of ‘It says he dies in the title, now you can stop it with the goddamn nightmares’, and while it wasn’t the best entrance in the series, it did serve up a fresh crop of nightmares as my mothers plan spectacularly backfired.
It wasn’t until 1996’s ‘Scream‘ that I revisited Craven, and used it as my gateway into horror movies. No stupid anecdote here, just a bored teen chewing his way though the previously untouched horror section at the towns general store.
While I owe ‘Nightmare‘ and ‘Scream‘ a lot, they are by no means my favorites, ‘The People Under the Stairs‘ and ‘The Serpent and The Rainbow‘ are the movies of his that I hold near and dear to my heart. Craven was always at his best pushing the limits, without trying to maintain mainstream appeal. Be it with haunting the nightmares of teens, giving us a new slasher, or an inbred ‘father’ running around in a gimp suit, shooting holes in the walls with a shotgun. He always found a way to make looking at the seedy underbelly of the mundane scary and fun at the same time.
He left us with a legacy of films that, good or bad, are always fun to watch, and I truly hope his spirit is out there doing what he loves… Mercilessly slaughtering teens.