Master of horror Wes Craven passed away yesterday, at the age of 76. The world has lost a legend and key element in the history of horror cinema.
With characters like Freddy Krueger, Papa Jupiter and sons, and Ghostface, Wes Craven gave us countless sleepless nights, nightmares, some jump scares (ok a lot of jump scares), and many hours of pure horror entertainment.
Let’s make a small look back to his legacy.
His first movie, The Last House On the Left, inspired by The Virgin Spring, by Ingmar Bergman, follows two teenage girls who are taken to the woods and are tortured by a gang of murderous thugs. It was heavily censored back in the 70s, which just added to the gory greatness of it. This was only the beginning of Craven’s prolific career not only in the horror genre but in cinema in general.
The tagline from The Last House on the Left is the best advice you can have when watching a horror film: “To avoid fainting, keep repeating, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…”
The Hills Have Eyes was his next take on exploitation-horror films, guaranteed to give you a few nightmares and you definitely won’t see road trips the same way you did. Once more, Craven’s work was received with censoring due to its gory nature. But hey, isn’t that what we are here for?!
All the censoring and the overall bloody nature of it gave it a cult status, and it’s among the scariest movies of all time. Take that, censorship!
Probably his top moment came in 1984, with the release of a movie that has been the source of the nightmares of many (me included): A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was the film debut of Johnny Depp, and it introduced us to one of the greatest villains/monsters ever: Freddy Krueger. It’s this whole “dreams and reality” theme that makes it unique and truly terrifying.
Sure, some of us couldn’t sleep for days after watching it, but that’s where it’s greatness and legacy lies.
In 1994 came Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which basically broke the fourth wall by bringing Freddy Krueger to the actual real world to haunt the cast and crew of the Nightmare films.
Do not fight me on the greatness that is the premise and mythology of the Nightmare series. Freddy will haunt you if you do.
Wes Craven also left his mark in television, with TV movies like Invitation to Hell and series like The People Next Door. He was also serving as executive producer for MTV’s Scream series.
Speaking of, let’s make a jump to 1996, with the beginning of his next big saga: Scream.
Not only did it introduce us to a new villain who also became iconic with that mask of his/hers, but Scream is also considered as the film which revitalized the horror genre in the 90s. In my opinion, big part of its appeal is how they make fun of horror movie cliches, like “never say ‘I will be back’” or “don’t have sex or you will die”.
Out of the sequels, only Scream 2 had an equal successful run as the first but hey, they all have their strong assets.
Scream 4 was Wes Craven’s last movie.
Wes Craven and his craft are the reason why I want to make horror films. Freddy Krueger terrorised my dreams when I was little, but years later I was able to appreciate the greatness of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the whole Freddy Krueger mythology.
The Scream saga has a very special place in my heart (I actually dressed as Ghostface when I was nine and my favourite pair of earrings have the mask), mainly because of the way they reference and mock the horror genre. I will forever mourn the loss of Randy, by the way.
Scream was also the movie that made me realise I want to do horror films. In fact, and here’s a confession, I mentioned Wes Craven on my application for film school.
The Hills Have Eyes is a constant topic of conversation with my uncle (who is a huge fan of the genre), and a love for the Nightmare movies is one of the elements that brought some of my friends from college and I together. Wes Craven had a huge influence in my life in many ways.
Filmmakers and actors have paid their respects to Wes Craven on social media; from the cast members of Scream, to horror directors like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth. The fans have also been sharing their feelings in the form of tweets, photo collages and gif sets. The world has lost a legend, and nobody will ever be able to fill the void.
Rest in peace, Wes Craven. Thank you for your greatness.
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