The man who has inarguably made his mark in, and invigorated, three decades of genre pictures, from the gritty The Last House of the Left, to the incredible A Nightmare on Elm Street, to the self-aware Scream, is also the man who didn’t want to be categorized as a “horror director.”
After seeing To Kill a Mocking Bird as a boy, Craven decided he wanted to make pictures for a living. Once unleashing A Nightmare on Elm Street on the world, and making a lot of money for New Line Cinema, he then got stuffed into the category because he was a very lucrative filmmaker for the genre.
Growing up in a small community, with nothing but acres of land and a VCR in the video rental days, my childhood consisted of Saturday morning cartoons and the influence of my older siblings’ horror films, including the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Freddy Krueger is so embedded in my childhood I had learned to love him just as much as Mickey Mouse or Superman.
Now appreciating my parents lack of censorship, my five or six-year-old self was able sit and watch films like Shocker or The People Under the Stairs with my father on a Friday night, after visiting the local video store.
In the mid nineties, long after the death of the slasher film, Craven and Kevin Williamson gave hope to the sub genre with the meta-slasher Scream, which kick-started a whole new franchise and inevitably rebooted the sub genre with PG-rated slashers aimed towards teenagers (although my adolescent self still preferred the R-rated slashers of the 80s).
It wasn’t until years later where I sought out his grittier early works like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, which left the biggest impressions on me. They also made me realize that Craven’s talents were timeless and boundless. He spent four decades changing the course of horror films and influencing generations of young and aspiring filmmakers throughout.
In interviews, Craven came across as a sophisticated and gentle human being. He kept a cool demeanor and always smiled – perhaps a far cry from what some people would expect of a horror filmmaker.
He also seemed to have a great sense of humor while making cameos in films.
In the long run, we shouldn’t be too upset over Wes Craven’s passing. He gave us so much and left a legacy, and he doesn’t owe us anything. He did more in his lifetime than what most genre filmmakers do in three. Craven was a great story teller and a visionist. He wasn’t a great genre filmmaker; he was a great filmmaker. Period.
Rest in peace Mr. Craven.
~ Matthew McPhee