Sad news in just now that Wes Craven has died. He’s one of my heroes when it comes to the modern horror movie (his Nightmare on Elm Street series) – and then of course the meta-horror film (the hugely popular Scream series).
I was such a Craven fan I even bought – and read (and kinda loved) his 1999 novel, Fountain Society (in a sub-Stephen King/Dean Koontz kinda way).
But it was Elm Street that did it for me; cured my fear of horror, gore, fright, terror, ghouls –all of those things. Turned me on to the genre in fact. And I was young. Too young to be watching that stuff, probably. But I was also so scared of some really shitty, awful b-grade shlock and the only cure – I figured – was to dive right in. Go get scared – until I could get scared no more. So it was Elm Street that, for no real reason in particular, appealed first. And from there it was to the Friday The 13th series, Halloween, Howling, Chainsaw Massacre, anything…(nearly) everything…
Those first four Elm Street movies – magnificent. If I’m picking a favourite it’s the third, sure Craven was out of the director’s chair for that (but still writer/producer, and the series is his – even if he wasn’t always there at the helm). But Elm Street 1, 3 and 4 – all magic; all watched many times; usually as part of a sleepover-deal, a few wrestling videos, coke and chips, sleeping bags on the lounge of my house, or a mate’s house, annoyed parents up at 3am finally telling us to knock it on the head…(Elm Street 2 is the weakest, but you don’t ignore it, it’s still part of the four).
When the Scream franchise hit big I felt like I already knew “the rules” – felt superior to some of the people in the theatre, probably. No real reason to – but I’d just done my time with Craven and the other horror mavens. I’d also, between Elm Streets and Screams gone back to suss Craven’s debut feature, 1972’s The Last House on The Left and 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Both are great. There were other things too – I watched Vampire In Brooklyn not because it was something different for Eddie Murphy (okay, okay, not just because it was something different for Eddie Murphy) but because it was directed by Wes Craven. I liked his off-beat way with that uneasy blend of comedy and horror. Even his flat out scary stuff had jokes. I always liked that. Corny lines made memorable.
It was fun to spot him in films – often as himself – but sometimes actually acting, though usually just a cameo-spot. He’s one of those guys for me…the strange worlds he created sucked me in. Enthralled me. Excited me. Cured me of movie-fright, made me a lifelong fan of horror. Taught me to go back – to find the stuff that inspired him. And kept me keen to at least check in with the modern (often throwaway) stuff his most successful franchises inspired.
R.I.P. Wes Craven