When I learned of Wes Craven‘s passing in the Summer of 2015, it hurt.
He was one of the originals. He was a horror director who helped create the “slasher” genre, but he did so with more backstory and style than some of his peers. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET brought us Freddy Krueger, one of the greatest villains of all time.
So many films of the slasher genre involved teenagers being teens, and having to deal with the repercussions of bad or questionable choices. When this movie appeared I was fourteen years old and among the age demographic that Craven had targeted. (I was perhaps a tad on the young side of the demographic, but the movie had a greater effect on me because of it.) Nightmares are by nature scary and intangible things and have the potential to impact in emotional and scarring ways. Wes Craven tapped into this in a very effective way, and Freddy’s history ensured that he was an invincible villain. Freddy became iconic and instantly recognizable around the world.
Craven had an incredible career. In addition to an impressive resume of horror films like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, the ELM STREET series, SWAMP THING and THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, he also stretched his creative muscles with movies like THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. In 1996 he directed SCREAM, a movie which tackled the slasher genre in a very tongue-in-cheek way. In this film, the teenagers had seen all the slasher films, knew the “rules” to horror, and could in fact predict what was going to happen to them! Many of you have probably seen it. It’s clever and funny and tense and pulse-pounding. I still remember the first time I saw it in theatres. Two people sitting behind me were complaining to each other after the teaser death sequence (starring Drew Barrymore.) “This is so stupid,” one muttered. But at the end of the film, as the credits rolled, both were smiling and raving about how entertaining the movie had been. It made me happy that a horror director could elicit this response from people who obviously hated horror films! (I should state here that Kevin Williamson wrote the script, and he deserves great credit for it.)
I’ve heard others note the (obvious) fact that as we age, our childhood heroes begin to pass on. It’s sad and scary and depressing and crushing all at the same time. It makes us ponder our own mortality. In recent years I’ve watched three of my heroes pass: Michael Crichton, Frederik Pohl, and Leonard Nimoy. I am happy that they contributed in massive ways to the Science Fiction genre, and they will live on forever because of it, but each passing hurts.
I still remember those teenage days when The Boys and I would get together and watch film marathons of ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13th and HALLOWEEN. Those films (and many others like them) influenced my writing, and I am forever grateful to the people who created them.
I will miss Wes Craven.
(Originally published at TSJ’s Facebook page.)
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