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Dedicating Wes Craven!

09.01.2015by: Jake Dee
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READ OUR DISSECTING WES CRAVEN ARTICLE HERE

"Horror films don't create fear. They release it." --Wes Craven

Goddamn. I know he lead a fruitful 76 year life and all, but losing such a feted filmmaking icon like Wes Craven - whose face is deservedly and interminably etched on the Mount Rushmore of horror cinema - really, truly sucks. I mean, it's safe to say his family is reeling from such a loss, but believe, the horror filmmaking community at large suffers an unfixably massive blow as well. There's no other way to put it, or even overstate it. What an unparalleled bummer. Utter heartache.

But as sad as the news is, nothing can detract from the 40 year career in movies Craven so daringly explored. Starting with the blistering quasi-snuff film LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT in 1972, Craven's filmography includes THE HILLS HAVE EYES, STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE, DEADLY BLESSING, SWAMP THING, INVITATION TO HELL, THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CHILLER, DEADLY FRIEND, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, SHOCKER, NIGHT VISIONS, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, NEW NIGHTMARE, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, SCREAM, SCREAM 2, MUSIC OF THE HEART, SCREAM 3, CURSED, RED EYE, MY SOUL TO TAKE and SCREAM 4.

And so, it's with a heavy yet sincerely grateful heart and mind that we now look back a little at some of Craven's more underappreciated work. F*ck a dissection this week ladies and gents, this is our Wes Craven Dedication. Enjoy!

SEMINAL WORK

GET THE A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET COLLECTION HERE

There's no mystery that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM are among the most Craven of Wes' credits...going so far as to create villainous icons that will no doubt stand the test of time. Freddy Krueger is, like Craven himself, among the most hallowed and harrowing screen baddies ever laid on celluloid. And while Craven only directed the first and last films, by far the best in the series, he deserves eternal credit for conceiving of the entire premise. Word is he read a news story about Cambodian refugees who were done in by lethally intense nightmares. Here's the gist (via IMDB):

Wes Craven first came up with the basic idea for the movie from several newspaper articles printed in the LA Times over a three year period about a group of Cambodian refugees from the Hmong tribe, several of whom died in the throes of horrific nightmares. The group had come to America to escape the reign of Pol Pot, and within a year of arriving, three men had died, with the situation the same in each cases; the young, otherwise healthy, man would have a nightmare, then refuse to sleep for as long as possible. Upon finally falling asleep from exhaustion, the man awoke screaming, then died. Autopsy results revealed that they had not died because of heart failure, they had simply died. It was this lack of cause which intrigued Craven so much. Medical authorities have since called the phenomenon Asian Death Syndrome, a variant of Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUDS) and Brugada Syndrome.

GET THE COMPLETE SCREAM COLLECTION HERE

Crazy sh*t, right? Of course, as infamous and lasting as Freddy Krueger will continue to be for decades to come, the same level of impression can be said for Wes' slasher reinvention SCREAM and its equally iconic Ghostface killer. Granted, he did not pen the screenplay or conceive the films premise, as he did with ELM STREET, but the case can be made that in 1996, SCREAM did more to resuscitate the moribund slasher genre than ELM STREET did the overall horror landscape in 1984.

The difference being, Craven actually directed all four SCREAM films. And save for a too cartoonish third entry, each film is quite solid in its own right. But that first flick really did pump new life into a subgenre that had been neutered for over a decade in the wake of Reagan-era MPAA f*ckery. And not only did SCREAM reignite the slasher subgenre into the 21st century, it rekindled Craven's career having just come off the woefully lambasted VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN. Talk about a major bounce back!

MUST SEES

GET THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT HERE

Beyond the universal franchise hits, Craven also oversaw a handful of minor horror classics during his time. We'd be utterly remiss not to mention his first feature THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which he both wrote and directed by his lonesome. Even 43 years later, the flick still has the stark verisimilitude of a goddamn snuff joint. So real. Every time I see the flick I can't help wonder where the hell they found such "actors" to begin with. I mean, David Hess still haunts my dreams the way Freddy Krueger would onscreen a dozen years later. Truly terrifying.

The grand irony of course, is that Craven grew up as a devout fundamentalist, devoid of even being able to watch movies or television in his house. In fact, lore has it that Wes never even saw a horror film prior to making LAST HOUSE, which couldn't be more astounding giving the flick is canonized as one of the all time most disturbing pieces of pulp fiction ever committed to film. I guess that's it, that he had no frame of reference or influence to pull from...the result being a raw, crude and unbelievably cruel masterstroke of originality. Well, that is, unless you consider Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING as a horror film.

GET THE HILLS HAVE EYES HERE

Another bona fide horror classic of Craven's in the acrid 1977 mutant desert-dweller thriller THE HILLS HAVE EYES, which he actually made a sequel of the year he introduced Fred Krueger to the world in 1984. We'll glance past the sequel for now, and instead recount how twisted and bizarre that original film still comes across as today. Originally given a much ballyhooed X-rating, I've always loved the environmental subtext that backdrops the outward savagery of the film. Remember, our deranged mutant hill-dwellers are really only rendered so after government Air Testing. Themes of abusive power and irreparable pollution ring loud, even if done in the guise of a nasty and ruthless biker-gang assault. Again, that Craven wrote and directed the film speaks to what an influential and authorial voice he had in the horror realm from the time he started to his unfortunate demise.

GET SWAMP THING HERE

Even when Craven chose to adapt a script, as he did with THE SWAMP THING in 1982, penning the script from the classic comic strip by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the man showed a deft hand. I really think this flick deserves to be mentioned among some of Craven's more underappreciated work, chiefly for that reason. Of course, casting the great Adrienne Barbeau and Ray Wise, and calling back David Hess was a brilliant decision that went a long way toward the success of the film.

GET THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW HERE

As for films he directed but did not write himself, I'll submit THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW as one of Wes' most unforgettable. I've always dug the f*ck out of this flick. And no, not just for starring our E.W. dead ringer Bill Pullman, but for setting his horror story in such an exotically intoxicating locale. Such beauty and nature in the film get subverted in favor of sheer terror, all highlighting the real life practice of voodoo reincarnation. True zombie shit right here guys, with rich tradition and thick history interwoven to create a truly memorable movie. So eerie, so outlandish, and so damn unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I can't shake it.

The last film we want to call attention to is Craven's extraordinarily clever NEW NIGHTMARE from 1994. Now, Fincher's THE GAME is often cited as the first real postmodern movie, but I'd take umbrage with that a bit and force folks to take a hard look at the meta-movie-within-a-movie motif NEW NIGHTMARE adheres to. Craven plays himself in the film, as does series original star Heather Langenkamp, together terrorized by a demonic entity that has subsumed the form of Freddy Krueger. It's a really well thought out movie, and one of the last great scripts Craven penned himself. Also, a trivial tidbit for you Scream The Series fans...mother Maggie in the TV show, played by Tracy Middendorf, also played Julie in NEW NIGHTMARE 20 years prior. That speaks to the circular nature of life, sure, but also to Wes' everlasting loyalty. A rarity in this business indeed!

PROJECTS IN THE WORKS

Despite directing his final feature with the surprisingly solid 11-year on sequel SCREAM 4 in 2011, it's no secret Wes still had many irons in the fire. We know he earned exec-producer credit for the wildly entertaining reinvention of Scream The Series on the small-screen, but that's not all the undoubted legend had up his sleeve for 2015 and beyond. Check it...

Producorially speaking, Craven had a number of projects in development all the way up to his final moments. Talk about a dedicatee of the form! On the big-screen, Craven lent blessings toward two promising genre pics. The first being the Katherine Isabelle starring THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPH, for which he have very little to go on at this time, and HOME, directed by LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake man Denis Iliadis. Here's the foundation HOME will rest upon:

A man recently released from a mental institute, who inherits a mansion after his parents die. After a series of disturbing events, he comes to believe it is haunted.

GET THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS HERE

As for the small-screen, the most exciting of all has to be the adaptation of his very own PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. The televisual update promises to pick up:

When a young woman goes missing at the grand Robeson Family Manor, her search unveils the centuries-old horrors that lie deep within the estate.

Another SyFy TV project Wes had in the pipeline was WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE. Craven was writing the adaptation and was considering directing the pilot as well.

The story centers on Dr. Jan Sayer, an enigmatic psychologist who gathers survivors of five horror-movie scenarios in a support group – and unwittingly unlocks the evils of her patients’ pasts. As their traumas are brought back to the surface, they uncover which monsters they face are within — and which are lurking in plain sight.

DISCIPLES, currently without a network, is the third project of Craven's upcoming. Here's the crux:

A sci-fi horror story set in the near future where the ultra-wealthy have become true masters of the universe, colonizing moons throughout the solar system.

You can bet, given how much clout Craven had and had for so long, that these projects will not die but bolster in the wake of this tragically unforeseen news.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What else can we really say. In a strange way, to see Wes go almost feels like losing a family member. There isn't a horror fan anywhere out there on this mad revolving ball that hasn't been touched, inspired, influenced or informed by the many lasting films Craven left us with. And for a man who grew up devoutly pious and publicly claimed that horror cinema was only a small slice of his life, the name Craven couldn't be more apt for the kind of material he so bravely tackled for 40 odd years. The only thing I can think to say, personally, is thank you Wes. Thank you for helping shape and mold this measly mind into believing what film can achieve when done right. Thank you for the unwavering vision. Thank you for the rich body of work that will endure and live on in your name forever. Thank for it all. We miss you already!

Extra Tidbit: Please share your favorite Wes Craven film or moment below.
Source: AITH

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6:47PM on 09/01/2015
Great article....I'll always remember being scared shitless hiding under my grandmother's coffee table watching the first true horror movie I had ever seen, A Nightmare on Elm street for the first time, watching Nancy sleep and Freddy stretch through the wall, hovering over her. The eternal boogeyman. I was literally scarred by that scene, but in that moment, I became a fan of horror. I'm closing in on 40 now and to this day I still credit Mr. Craven for literally bringing the art of horror
Great article....I'll always remember being scared shitless hiding under my grandmother's coffee table watching the first true horror movie I had ever seen, A Nightmare on Elm street for the first time, watching Nancy sleep and Freddy stretch through the wall, hovering over her. The eternal boogeyman. I was literally scarred by that scene, but in that moment, I became a fan of horror. I'm closing in on 40 now and to this day I still credit Mr. Craven for literally bringing the art of horror into my life. Thank you Mr. Craven. Rest in Peace.
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5:24PM on 09/01/2015

4 decades of awesome.

Sometimes in discussing the master of horror Craven gets suspiciously forgotten. Of the big directors, Romero, Carpenter, Argento, etc., he is the only one to helm big screen hits in 4 decades. Consider that. No one else has managed that. Romero and Argento have stayed active... but have never achieved the success their early works brought and carpenter might still have one in there... but nothing lately. Craven stayed busy and despite having as many hits as misses... managed to maintain his
Sometimes in discussing the master of horror Craven gets suspiciously forgotten. Of the big directors, Romero, Carpenter, Argento, etc., he is the only one to helm big screen hits in 4 decades. Consider that. No one else has managed that. Romero and Argento have stayed active... but have never achieved the success their early works brought and carpenter might still have one in there... but nothing lately. Craven stayed busy and despite having as many hits as misses... managed to maintain his relevance well past that of his peers. Something that only I think sets him on his own stage as a master of the Genre.
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11:25AM on 09/01/2015
Well written article. To me, it's Shocker. The final battle that takes place inside the television while changing the channels is very creative. Salute to The Man who brought us terrors and nightmares. Rest in peace, Mr. Craven.
Well written article. To me, it's Shocker. The final battle that takes place inside the television while changing the channels is very creative. Salute to The Man who brought us terrors and nightmares. Rest in peace, Mr. Craven.
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