Top 10 Wes Craven Movie Kills!
Not sure about you, but we're still reeling over the sudden death of Wes Craven last week. And no matter how much we try to pay heartfelt homage, it feels like no tribute is good enough to honor the great work this undisputed titan of horror cinema gifted us for well over four decades. But that doesn't mean we won't keep on trying. We owe the man that much, and much more for all the screams he's given us for so damn long.
So, it's with that sentiment in mind that we've decided to look back and highlight our 10 favorite Wes Craven movies (that he directed), and focus on the single most standout death scene in each. A lot of ground to cover, we know, as he left us with such a fecund filmography, but we can't think of a better, more deserving way to spend our Friday night. Friends, fam, strangers...do wise and dive in to our Top 10 Wes Craven Movies/Deaths!
In the immortal words of the late Roger Ebert, SWAMP THING lies somewhere between hidden treasure and guilty pleasure. It really does. That said, one can take solace in the 10-year old just desserts first-rate creep David Hess is given from his days in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. For what Mari's parents did to him was not enough for his lecherous behavior. In SWAMP THING, Hess plays a military man tasked with hunting our mutated half-man-half-plant hero. Yet, as you can see, Hess catches the wrath of the Thing and ends up suffering an ultra-bloody death.
I remember taking a date to see RED EYE in '05 and the two of us walking out with a sheepishly guilty grin and sentiment of...well, it was entertaining. 10 years on the sentiment still rings true, in large part due to Craven's elevation of an otherwise pot-boiler-plate premise. The two leads - Murphy and McAdams - also deserve credit for keeping the acting as grounded as you can for a movie 30,000 feet in the sky. Of course, the way Jackson's gets slowly dismantled by his female target is half the fun, culminating in a shootout that renders the demented psychopath lifeless in a puddle of blood.
We almost bestowed SCREAM 4 among Craven's honorary Top 10, if for no other reason than bouncing back from SCREAM 3 a good 11 years later, but when push came to shove, it's Randy's relentless demise in SCREAM 2 that earns the nod. And really, it's not so much they way he dies - getting stabbed indefatigably inside of a news van in broad daylight - as it is the loss of the character himself. Randy, like Noah in Scream The Series, is the one character we all know and love for his horror film geek knowledge and running meta-commentary he offered in the first two films. A shock to see him go!
Painfully outmoded 90s fashion sense aside, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS remains one of Craven's more underappreciated horror joints. Hell, didn't Tarantino take his Gimp getup right from Daddy's sadomasochistic leather jumper? Either way, beyond that truly harrowing sequence where mother forces Alice into a scalding bathtub, it's the former's ultimate death that ranks among Craven's most satisfying. After wielding a butcher knife at Alice, the gang of cannibalistic wall-dwellers come swarming for Mommy until the crazy old bat finally succumbs.
I've always dug the hell out of the exotic setting and inexorable subject matter of Craven's voodoo zombie flick THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. In a time where zombie joints pander to the basic common denominator of grave-rising flesh eaters, in typical Craven fashion, a lot more thought is brought to the table with SERPENT. And while there are some worthy beheadings in the film, it's the trapped-in-a-box panic and paranoia of Dennis Alan's faux-death that always makes me squirm like a worm in the sun.
Consider this a bit of a call back to Tina's grisly evisceration in the OG ELM STREET, no matter, Julie's ceiling-splayed flay-job in WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE is one of the more horrifying moments in one of the legend's best films. If intelligence is one of Craven's trademarks, few films of his demonstrate such like NEW NIGHTMARE, which, even before SCREAM, really played with the notion of meta-narrative and self-reflexive pastiche. Props to Craven for writing the script himself, one of his last greats, and updating his own Elm Street franchise with a wholly unique take on the material.
Despite the odious haphazard sequel in 1984, THE HILLS HAVE EYES has remained one of Craven's strongest horror ditty's. The reasons are legion, but one of the main ones has to be the heinous rape-and-sadistic-killing of Dee Wallace's character, Lynn. So foul, so vulgar, so hard to keep your eyes on while it's happening. And I think the reason is the intimacy. Yeah I know, not the word that comes to mind when considering rape, but that Lynn's body is savagely violated in front of her own family, in tight claustrophobic quarters like that camper, there's a raw immediacy to it that inherently ups the terror.
Few films this side of a snuff joint reach level of realistic disturbance that Craven's debut feature THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT does. Period, full stop! The deeply debasing treatment and graphic bodily violation those poor gals - Mari and Phyllis - suffer at the hands of Krug and his gang are just about as deplorable as anything you'll find onscreen...anywhere, anytime. Phyllis in particular, who suffers a vilely degrading gang-rape that only death can offer salvation from, is one of the most difficult things to witness in any movie ever made. So very Craven!
The opening sequence of Wes Craven's re-inventive slasher masterstroke SCREAM really ought to be taught in film schools on how to direct a scene. Tense, suspenseful, funny, entertaining and downright terrifying are just a few adjectives to bestow on Casey Becker's slowly drawn out homicide. I've once heard Craven claim that, for a horror film, an audience will forgive a lot if the opening packs a breathtaking wallop. That Casey gets sliced, stabbed, butchered, bludgeoned, disemboweled and hung-out to dry with her entrails on display certainly constitutes such. A scream indeed!
I'm guessing few arguments can be made against A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET being Craven's most unique and enduring horror endeavors. I mean, it not only spawned countless sequels that gave way to the modern horror franchise, it also introduced to the world the infamous and iconic Freddy Krueger villain. And for my money, no one death scene in any of Craven's films even holds a candle to Tina's gruesome post-coital slaughter. Ripped to shreds, thrashed around and pulled to the ceiling for her boyfriend to watch her helplessly bleed out like a stuck hog. The tone and tenor here is frightening!