Wow. I really don’t know how to even approach this memorial; this is a year that we’ve already lost far too many people from our beloved genre…and it’s with a profound sense of loss that I must write about yet another.
One of the master creators that indelibly changed the face of horror, giving we fans a plethora of memories while simultaneously influencing the art form forevermore, has reached the end of his journey.
Wes Craven has passed from this world.
One of the pioneers of what we call modern horror, first cutting his teeth in the wild exploitation days of the 1970s, building to the creation of what is indisputably horror film legend, the seventy-six year old writer/director/producer succumbed to a long battle with brain cancer Sunday.
Born and raised in a religious family, Craven began his adult life with a collegiate background in English, psychology, philosophy, and writing.
After a time as an educator, he turned his attention to film at the height of the exploitation days, his first feature in 1972 being The Last House On The Left, a collaboration with future Friday the 13th creator Sean S. Cunningham. The film had a polarizing effect on audiences, it’s cinema veritas feel (predating the same, pseudo-documentary styling of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by two years) and realistically portrayed, unflinching violence creating waves of controversy, the film nonetheless established itself as a milestone in the direction that horror films were taking. Following this up with 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes, Craven firmly cemented himself a place of honor amongst horror fans, his merciless yet intelligent stories and direction creating deep unease for the audience, on many levels that horror films often ignored.
Going on to build a filmography including several made-for-television horror flicks and such diverse feature films as Deadly Blessing, Swamp Thing, The Serpent And The Rainbow, The People Under The Stairs, Cursed, and many others, his deft casting gave some pretty impressive future stars their first featured roles, among them Johnny Depp (A Nightmare On Elm Street), Sharon Stone (Deadly Blessing), and Bruce Willis (a 1980’s Craven-directed Twilight Zone episode).
Of course, he’s best remembered for the creation of the redoubtable Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. Close behind this iconic work in our collective memories is his 1996 reinvention of the slasher genre with the Scream series…but whatever he worked on, be it writing, directing, or producing, his films always challenged us in more ways than simply scaring us; Craven made us think. Often exploring dreams or other alterations of the fabric of reality itself, he added dimension to the genre that others had never fathomed, indisputably earning his status as a Master of Horror.
Though he will be sorely missed, he leaves behind a great legacy, one that will continue to influence and inspire for many, many years to come.
Fare thee well, Wes Craven.