For many people, it was HALLOWEEN. For many, FRIDAY THE 13TH. For me, it was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. I always like my horror with a tinge of the supernatural, so when I was in high school, Freddy Krueger was always my favorite slasher. The movie genuinely frightened my 14-year-old self, and even watching it on home video, the movie freaked me out. Wes Craven created a horror icon for the ages, and with the help of Robert Englund, scared tons of teenagers into not falling asleep (and maybe into binge studying for school, who knows).
But Craven also gave the slasher genre a needed kick in the rear with the SCREAM films, which were always wildly entertaining, funny, and not least of all, scary as hell. Craven knew how to orchestrate the jump scare. He also knew how to play with the expectations and the sympathies of his audience. He could even go meta, proven by the SCREAM franchise, and WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, poking fun at himself and the horror genre. But Wes Craven also made a very effective, intelligent film. Wes Craven may have been a few steps ahead of his audience, but he also knew the basic truth of a great horror movie - you got to deliver the jumps as well as the creeps, and give them something to think about in the meantime. A Craven film was often a blast.
Of course, his early career - THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES - got a lot of people upset at him and at the horror genre, but that didn't stop Wes Craven. I always loved his SWAMP THING myself - I must have seen that movie almost 40 or 50 times on cable when it came on. Craven in the 1970s and 1980s was quite prolific, and although he was chiefly a horror director his films were still quite different - THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW was creepy and disturbing as his SHOCKER was goofy fun. Craven even stepped away from horror to work with Meryl Streep in MUSIC OF THE HEART, and directed a segment of the critically acclaimed film PARIS JE'TAIME.
Wes Craven succumbed to brain cancer, just as his SCREAM television series premiered earlier this summer. We here at Ain't It Cool offer up our most deepest condolences to his family and friends. We'll see you in our dreams, Mr. Craven.