Last night I started up my computer, signed into Facebook, and was instantly bombarded with status update after status update mourning the loss of Wes Craven.
Now, if you find yourself asking, “Who is Wes Craven?” Then you’re not a true horror fan.
But for those of you who are unaware of this multi-talented writer, producer, and director, and are clueless to the profound influence he’s had over the horror genre, allow me to enlighten you.
Wes Craven was a genius. He was a visionary. And above all else, he was a legend among members of the horror community, both performers and fans alike.
The mark that Wes Craven left on the industry cannot go unacknowledged or unnoticed. New Line Cinema was once referred to as “The House that Freddy Built.”
It should have been the house that Wes Craven built.
Nightmare on Elm Street, the brainchild of Craven, was the first commercially successful series that helped pull New Line Cinema out of a devastating financial slump.
This is why, somewhat against Craven’s wishes, New Line milked the franchise for every dollar it was worth, producing eight films to feature Freddy Krueger with his trademark brown fedora, dirty red and green striped sweater, and razor-sharp blades attached to his leather glove.
Heck, Freddy grew into such a cultural icon, he had his own talking doll and a short-lived TV series, Freddy’s Nightmares, where Freddy assumed the role of the Crypt Keeper, appearing in between scenes of each episode to provide context or spew some witty dialogue as only Robert Englund could.
Released in 1984 and filmed on a budget of 1.8 million dollars, A Nightmare on Elm Street went on to gross more than 25 million dollars at the box office.
But before Craven terrified the world and induced many sleepless nights when he introduced us to Freddy Krueger, he made his mark with films like Last House on the Left (1972), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977).
Last House was the first horror movie that not only frightened me, but also deeply disturbed me. It touched a nerve. It went places that other filmmakers were too timid to travel to at that point in cinema. Call it disturbing. Call it controversial. But this film just shows the raw power that Craven displayed behind the camera and the effect his work can have on some people.
Even his later films like Shocker (1989) or The People under the Stairs (1991) that didn’t quite hit their mark still had unique or original concepts that revealed the wildly inventive imagination of Wes Craven.
But Craven bounced back with the release of Scream in 1996. You might have heard of it. It’s already spawned three successful sequels and is widely credited for rejuvenating moviegoers’ interest in horror movies.
The 90’s were a rough time for horror films and their creators. A lot of genre fans had grown tired of the same old predictable formulas and low budget effects. But when Scream–with its all-star cast and Wes seated behind the camera–made a killing at the box office, the studios all took notice. And the horror genre was reborn again.
Wes Craven cannot be praised enough for his contributions to cinema. And though he is gone, Craven has left behind a legacy that will never be erased. Thank you for the memories.
Rest in Peace, Wes Craven.