I’m saddened by the passing of Wes Craven, though I don’t think I ever followed his career assiduously enough to be considered a fan. Like any other horror buff my age, Scream was a big deal for me when it hit theatres, even though prior to it I’m not actually positive I had seen more than maybe one or two Wes Craven films. Of course, I grew up with Freddy, just as I did with Jason and Michael Myers, but, like with those other two, I grew up with the sequels to the original movies, and never saw the ones that started it all until I was already an adult. I’ve still never seen any of Craven’s pre-Nightmare films, except the so-bad-its-good Swamp Thing. Maybe this will be the impetus I need to finally check some of them out…
If A Nightmare on Elm Street was the only thing that Wes Craven had contributed to our collective mythology, that would have been enough to cement his position as a legend in the field. While its legacy may have been diluted by sequels, the original Nightmare on Elm Street remains one of the weirdest and most potent horror films ever made, with imagery as indelible as any ever committed to celluloid, and ideas that are more surreal and bizarre than you would imagine possible in something that launched a franchise and effectively built a movie studio.
Of course, Nightmare isn’t Wes Craven’s only legacy. He’d already made a name for himself by the time Freddy Krueger slunk onto cinema screens, and he continued to create horror flicks long after, giving him one of the most consistent filmographies in the business. And while that filmography is loaded with as many duds as gems, it’s difficult to deny Craven’s impact on the genre. As Kim Newman said on Facebook, “Wes Craven reinvented horror at least four times – most directors don’t even manage it once.”
It’s impossible to talk about Craven without talking about Scream and Nightmare, but a big one for me from his “lesser” works has always been The Serpent and the Rainbow, starring a pre-Independence Day Bill Pullman. And of course, we need to mention best/worst movie contender Deadly Friend. As Ross Lockhart observed, who else would have given us this ridiculous thing?
So here’s to you, Wes. Given some of the dominant themes of your oeuvre, it seems somehow inappropriate to say “rest in peace,” so instead I’ll content myself with celebrating the work of a master of horror, and second Thomas Boatwright‘s suggestion that we consider this the official kickoff of Halloween for this year.