The world of horror films lost an icon when director Wes Craven died August 30th of brain cancer in his home in Los Angeles. Craven was a noted director, writer and producer. His films include “Last House on the Left,” “The Hills have Eyes,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream.”
While not every movie he made was a classic, he did create two of the biggest horror franchises in Hollywood. “A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)” owned the eighties and “Scream (1996)” defined nineties horror. His legacy spans across nearly four decades, his influences can be felt even today.
“Last House on the Left (1972)” and “The Hills Have Eyes (1977)” were Wes Craven’s first shots at directing. They are both low budget horror movies. “Last House on the Left” is about parents who avenge the murder of their daughter by trapping and killing her killers. “The Hills Have Eyes” is about a family on a road trip who are attacked by a cannibalistic family. Both films were made for less than $1 million.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” is arguably one of the best horror films in history. It tells the story of a group of teens who are haunted by the ghost of serial killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) who can kill people in their dreams. The film was also Johnny Deep’s first acting role. The dream world is filled with strong dark shadows, while clever edits blur the line between dream and reality.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” has one of the biggest, most well-known horror villains, Freddy Krueger. Everything about him became an icon. The glove with the blade fingers, his hat and sweater, his burnt face. Craven came up with the character by mixing the nightmares he was having and memories of a school bully.
To this day, Freddy Krueger stands as one of the great villains of cinema along with Darth Vader.
“He brought so many different things to a film. In “Nightmare on Elm Street” he brought the characters to life,” said Matt Nichols, asophomore music education major, “I don’t know if anyone else can do that.”
Craven also directed all four “Scream” films. The film series follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) as she and her friends are stalked by a serial killer. The premise in each film involves a killer who would kill by horror tropes while the cast, being fans of horror movies, are aware of them.
The opening scene with Drew Barrymore being taunted on the phone is an iconic moment in movie history. The first “Scream” film, which was filmed in Santa Rosa, CA, was a parody of slasher movies in general, while the second one was a parody of horror sequels, and the third one was based off the idea of trilogies and the fourth one playing off the idea of horror reboots. The franchise was notable for its use of meta-horror. The films also introduced the popular “ghostface” mask. While ghostface didn’t match the popularity of Freddy Krueger, the mask became a staple for Halloween costumes.
Wes Craven directed numerous other films, some good and others not so good. The comic book adaption “Swamp Thing (1982),” “Music of the Heart (1999)” and the psychological thriller “Red Eye (2005)” are a few of the films that were not as celebrated by his fans. Wes Craven will always be known as someone who made the world a little scarier.