Remembering Wes Craven, horror movie icon and master of screams
Wes Craven, arguably the most recognizable name in the slasher-film world as the mastermind behind the Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, died Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 76. According to a statement by Craven’s family, he passed away due to complications from brain cancer.
Though his body of work is long and impressive, Craven is probably best known for creating the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and Freddy Krueger, its dream-usurping villain. When the world thinks of cinematic horror baddies, Krueger completes the big-three trifecta that also includes Michael Myers of the Halloween franchise and Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th films. The first film in the series, the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, premiered in 1984 and cost $1.8 million to make.
Craven was also the driving force behind the wildly successful Scream films, of which he directed all four. The first film raked in almost $100 million domestically, making the Scream franchise – a little bit of a spoof, with all the scariness of its predecessors – somewhat of a new beginning in Craven’s career.
Aside from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Craven was responsible for bringing us other well-known thrillers such as The Last House on the Left (1972; his first feature film), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Swamp Thing (1982), The People Under the Stairs (1991), and Red Eye (2005). A well-rounded filmmaker, Mr. Craven also directed a handful of movies not in the horror genre, including Music of the Heart (1999) and a segment in Paris, je t’aime (2006). In fact, of Music of the Heart, Craven stated:
“That’s my mom’s favorite movie of mine, because it was the only one she saw. It was something that I was really drawn to. Horror films are not me, or they’re not all of me. They’re a very thin slice of me.”
Still, Craven’s contributions to the horror genre are undeniable, and today his colleagues flooded social media to pay tribute. John Carpenter, another modern horror icon who created the Halloween franchise and its villain Michael Myers, took to Twitter and Facebook to express the sense of loss he felt at Mr. Craven’s passing.
Joe Dante, director of the cult horror classic Gremlins, stated the following about Craven:
“Wes was a pioneer. Scream was a very self-aware film, and it was one of the first films that acknowledged that the audience knows as much as the characters do, or even more, about horror films and what their tropes are.”
Other big names in the horror world, including Scream cast members Courteney Cox and Rose McGowan as well as author Anne Rice, also expressed their love for the director on Twitter.
I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you, Mr. Craven, for the impact you left on the horror genre. As someone who spent my tweens and teens growing up with Scream and has had the pleasure of seeing so much of the rest of your work, I can safely say there has been no one else like you and never will be. The next time someone asks me how I can enjoy watching scary movies so much, I’ll recite to them something so very true that you said once: “Horror films don’t create fear. They release it.”
(Image via Shutterstock, Dimension Films)