Mr. Wes Craven. He mastered the tongue-in-cheek horror and produced some of my favourite “B” movies like Wishmaster (1997) and Feast (2007), but he is of course know for bringing to life some of the most memorable horror icons in recent history.
Starting with the rape-revenge horror The Last House on the Left (1972), a twisted and brutal cult favourite to The Hills Have Eyes (1977) showcasing a vicious cannibal family that would terrorize a desert roadway for 2 films plus their remakes, Craven’s vision would carry on to a not-so-well received version of Swamp Thing (1982) and then finally to the king of horror (in my eyes) Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street(1984).
Like Dracula’s fangs and black cape, nightmare-dwelling Freddy Krueger’s clawed glove, striped sweater and tatty fedora has become such an iconic image. Ask anyone on the street who those items belong to, and you’ll most definitely get a resounding “Freddy Krueger!”. I was 14 years old when the film came out, and my love for the franchise has grown from teenage horror fan-girl glee to a deep appreciation for his writing and direction. Craven combined nightmares and teenage angst with intelligence and schtick to create a mythology that set a precedent for horror to come.
His brilliance would carry on to many other films, directing a then unknown Mitch Pileggi (of X-Files fame) in Shocker (1989), Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett in Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) as well as the underrated thriller The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), and writing and directing another of my favourites, The People Under the Stairs (1991); but his next set of films would cast a critical eye on horror tropes in such a clever way. The top-grossing Scream (1996) and its franchise would become another blockbuster winner, and Craven’s vision took it to the next level of cult fandom. It revived the horror movie yet again, and gave us another go-to Halloween costume with the creepy Scream killer, Ghostface.
Craven gained a huge following and was greatly respected within the horror nerd and teen set because he had his finger on the pulse of what horror fans wanted; crushing the idea that horror had no charm or intelligence by mastering what others dismissed. He was also a mentor to many of his peers and had a knack for casting actors such as Neve Campbell, Johnny Depp and Robert Englund that would make or revive their careers.
And speaking of charm, it seemed as if all his colleagues and friends could attest to his lovely nature. Looking at his pictures, and following his Twitter feed, you didn’t have to know him personally to see he was a kind man who loved his craft and his fans. It is incredible to see the heartbroken horror community and their outpouring of grief, admiration and love for his films and accomplishments, as well as support for those close to him. I think I can speak for horror fans everywhere when I say that I am truly saddened by his passing and send out the deepest condolences to his family, friends and peers over this terrible loss.