Sorry I’ve been absent from this blog for so long. Between work, projects, and the perils of simply living day to day have made it difficult to keep up with watching a movie every day and writing a review. Do not worry, the reviews are coming soon. However, I submit for your approval, a change of pace for only the immediate future.
This past Sunday the world of film, the horror genre, and the world in general, lost a true visionary. Wes Craven passed away on Sunday due to brain cancer. Even though I didn’t know him personally, it was with a heavy heart that I received this news from the news media outlets (and of course Facebook). It really hit me, hard. After doing some deep thinking about why, the reason became clear. Without Wes Craven, I would not be the man I am today, with the interests, talents, and career that I have effectively became.
In particular, it was two of Craven’s films that made me want to be a writer, which led to screenwriting, which led to directing, which led to writing and directing for the stage, which led to getting a Theater degree in college, which led to not one, but two day jobs at a stage theater over the past eight years (5 spent at one theater, 3-to-current-day at another). I’ve made short films, of had plays produced, I’ve directed published work at the theater, and all of this wouldn’t have been if not for Wes Craven and two of his films I saw during my early teenage years, WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE and SCREAM.
Well…okay, there was a third film in there that helped show me that film is an art, not just a medium, but it was THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION directed by Frank Darabont, but it isn’t horror so we’re not going to go into detail on that one.
I was 14 the first time I saw WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, I had seen several of the previous NIGHTMARE films, including Wes Craven’s original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) up to that point in my life, but NEW NIGHTMARE was special, different, awe-inspiring. NEW NIGHTMARE was self-referential, dealing as though it were reality commenting on the NIGHTMARE films, showing us the ‘real’ lives of actors from the original film, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and of course writer/director Wes Craven. It was smart, bordering on brilliant with its depiction of a world with Freddy Kruger as a boogeyman, slowly rising to the surface to become no longer a figment of our terrifying imaginations, but a physical fixture that brings with it all the mythos and lore that came before. I knew immediately that if I made movies, this is what I would aspire to. A great achievement for Wes Craven.
Then, two-and-a-half years later I would finally get my hands on a copy of SCREAM once it came out to rent on VHS. One viewing and I was hooked. Hell, I was hooked from the opening sequence, anything that came after that was just topping on the delicious cake (or pie, if cake’s not your thing). Sure, writer Kevin Williamson, deserves credit here as well, but without the right direction, his excellent script could have become just another failed slasher-genre outing. The intelligence of SCREAM was of the level I had never before seen in the slasher genre, and had only seen once before in film itself. That film of course being WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE. The ability of SCREAM to have hyper self-aware characters that fall prey to the very tropes and clichés of the slasher genre that they were just discussing a few scenes before was incredible, and more importantly, refreshing. After seeing the film for the fourth or fifth time on VHS was when I decided to take my first stab at screenwriting, penning a fan-script sequel to SCREAM. The screenplay was probably terrible (I have no copy to prove this to myself, just an educated guess, as it was my first script, and based on someone else’s lore), but it was an attempt, one that would lead to the next 19 years of screenplays, stage plays, and all sorts of other creative projects related and a serious interest in all things film and filmmaking.
Without these two films, I would not be the artist I am today (or any artist, for that matter). So when I got the news of Wes Craven’s passing, I felt almost like I had lost a piece of myself, when in actuality it was the inspiration for most of me that was lost. I took a lot of cues from Craven and his career, followed it maddeningly, and always had an eye out to emulate a part of his style, vision, and inspiration. So thanks for all the nightmares, Wes, and in no small part making me the man I am today.
For this, and so many other reasons, I’d like to take a ‘time out’ from reviewing my blu-ray collection, and do a special series on the films of Wes Craven, the vast majority of which I own, the rest I will have to fish around for. So in the coming weeks, expect reviews and discussions (including some videos with special guests) of Craven’s filmography in order from earliest (THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 1972) to latest (SCREAM 4), from the best (WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE) to the worst (VAMPRIE IN BROOKLYN), from horror favorites (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), to interesting film ventures beyond (MUSIC OF THE HEART). I’m going to do my best to get it all down in this blog. Some of his films are impossible to get your hands on and so we won’t be doing those, but we will mention their existence. Other cases, like episodes of a TV series, or an entry in an anthology film, we’ll also be glossing over as it is hard to get my hands on those.
You can expect the first review, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), to be coming later this week, or early next week.
Thanks again Wes for all the nightmares, your filmography is a wild ride that I’d gladly do all over again (even entries like MY SOUL TO TAKE), and am indeed, going through all over again. What a thrill and a treat the coming month or so is going to provide. You will never be forgotten, you will never be just a footnote, and your influence will never stop being felt. Congratulations, you will be deeply missed.