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Sell-Out or Not: Wes Craven!

Mar. 11, 2013by: Jake Dee

Ready to decide who's a SELL-OUT OR NOT? Last time out, the majority of you felt that the great George A. Romero has NOT become a sell-out over the years. Well this column, not unlike the last, will unofficially indict either an actor, director, producer, writer - basically anyone who at one time or another held clout in the genre world - only to ultimately kowtow to the powers that be and give in to commerce over artistic integrity. We'll present the case before you, weigh the pros and cons of the career decisions made, and leave it up to YOU, THE READER, to decide if the person under the hot interrogation lamp is indeed a Sell-Out Or Not. It's entirely your call!

THE POTENTIAL CULPRIT: WES CRAVEN

THE SELL-OUT FLICKS (as producer and/or director): SCREAM 3, SCREAM 4, LAST HOUSE REMAKE, HILLS HAVE EYES REMAKE, HILLS HAVE EYES II REMAKE, MUSIC OF THE HEART?

Regardless of his recent track record, Wes Craven will likely always be etched on the horror mount Rushmore. Dude's living legend, arguably as iconic as any of the enduring characters he's created, notably Freddy Krueger and all his ELM STREET pop cultural spinoffs. However, creative decisions in the last dozen years or so have made us really start to question whether Craven, one of the all time horror mavens, has sold out his artistic merit/productivity for a cushy financial remuneration? One needn't look further than the facts to make such a damming accusation. Since the year 2000, Craven has directed only 5 films (SCREAM 3, CURSED, RED EYE, MY SOUL TO TAKE, SCREAM 4) and written only 2 originals (PULSE, MY SOUL TO TAKE)...yet has produced twice as many projects since (9), no less than three of which being remakes of his own past hits (HILLS HAVE EYES 1 & 2, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT).

Additional movies Craven has produced since 2000 include DRACULA 2000, THEY SHOOT DIVAS, DON'T THEY?, FEAST, THE BREED, MY SOUL TO TAKE and SCREAM 4. I'm opining now, but I'd say only FEAST and SCREAM 4 have any critical value among the bunch, the others being little more than cash investments Craven served as exec-producer (money men) for. So, in the last dozen years or so, Craven has clearly donned the business hat more than his artistic one, and the results are starting to show in the quality of his work. I do think SCREAM 4 is his best flick in ages, but even that seemed like a desperate attempt to recapture past success...you know, mining familiar and successful territory. I will give him credit for directing it himself, and not simply collecting dough by having his name attached. Still, his involvement in the LAST HOUSE remake and the two HILLS remakes (not to mention earning character credit in the ELM STREET remake), it's pretty clear Craven doesn't mind his films being remade if the price is right. And then there's the Wes Craven Presents monicker. Basically him lending his name to a film for $$$, even though he had nothing to do with the actual making of the picture. THEY, DRACULA II ASCENSION and DRACULA III LEGACY are examples of that.

I could go on to cite possible sellout misfires such as VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, in which Eddie Murphy plays a wisecracking NY bloodsucker. Trying for a comedic hit with one of the funniest men alive at the time obviously backfired. Or MUSIC OF THE HEART, which I actually applaud Craven for going out of his comfort zone with, but it does raise the question of whether or not he completely sold his horror roots to potentially profit off of Meryl Streep's name? Had the movie been a bigger hit, it'd be interesting to see if Craven pursued non-horror direction or if he would eventually return no matter what.

THE GOOD STUFF: LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, NEW NIGHTMARE, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, SCREAM, SCREAM 2

Wes Craven has obviously earned the right to do whatever he damn well pleases in the horror genre. His first feature LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT holds up 40 years later as the definitive grindhouse-faux-snuff film, and remains nearly as disturbing as it must have been in the early 70s. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET not only changed the face of horror in many ways, it helped establish New Line Cinema as a major player in genre cinema...in a franchise run that, at 8 films and counting, has continued to transcend mere movie entertainment over the last 30 years. Freddy Krueger will live on ad infinitum in the lexicon on pop culture. That would be enough for any single filmmaker, but Craven then reinvented himself entirely with the SCREAM franchise, albeit with diminishing returns (part 3 is pretty abysmal). In the mid 90s when horror was left for dead, Craven and future partner Kevin Williamson revitalized the slasher genre and pumped new lifeblood into it for a whole new generation to follow. To a lesser extent, Ghostface has become almost as iconic as Freddy Krueger.

It seems then that, given all he's contributed to the realm of horror, Craven has a certain amount of creative leeway. That said, he's never made a huge blockbuster or a summer tentpole, a giant superhero movie, or ever adapted a bestseller he knew would be a hit. The few times he did try to branch out to a broader audience, they were either small enough (MUSIC FROM THE HEART) or too much of a failure (VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN) to continue to branch out. Because of this, he's never really turned his back on horror. Perhaps those other films have proven he can't, or shouldn't...but be it out of desire or necessity...he's largely remained loyal to the form. Has to count for something, right?

WHAT DO YOU THINK...SELL-OUT OR NOT?

The case is before you my friends. Wes Craven is an undoubted legend in the horror film biz, but has his filmmaking track record in the last 12 years or so indicate a sell-out or not? He's produced twice as many films as he's directed in that span, writing only two originals. In that span he's also produced remakes of his original films HILLS HAVE EYES 1 & 2 and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, though he had little involvement outside character credit in the ELM STREET redo. He's tried once or twice to widen his horizons, only to find middling success before coming back to the well with SCREAM 4.

A lot to consider, but it's up to you. Is Wes Craven a Sell-Out or Not?

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8:07AM on 03/12/2013

Of course not.

He isn't making the films that he was making three decades ago, but how many in Hollywood are?
He isn't making the films that he was making three decades ago, but how many in Hollywood are?
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3:44AM on 03/12/2013
I don't think Craven is a sell-out, most of his films are pretty good, evne the ones he just produced. I think this is a seriously flawed column that should be put to rest.
I don't think Craven is a sell-out, most of his films are pretty good, evne the ones he just produced. I think this is a seriously flawed column that should be put to rest.
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8:18PM on 03/11/2013

He's never been a sellout

The other posters are right, he didn't sell out. He's just been stuck in this genre for so long that he's out of ideas. As far as the scream series goes, it might have gone on for a bit too long. but then again a long running series is something craven has wanted for most of his career, he missed that chance with the elm street series and then failed again trying to create a new franchise with shocker. My point is, he may have crapped out in the last few years, but that doesn't mean he's a
The other posters are right, he didn't sell out. He's just been stuck in this genre for so long that he's out of ideas. As far as the scream series goes, it might have gone on for a bit too long. but then again a long running series is something craven has wanted for most of his career, he missed that chance with the elm street series and then failed again trying to create a new franchise with shocker. My point is, he may have crapped out in the last few years, but that doesn't mean he's a sellout.
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+4
6:58PM on 03/11/2013

The thing about Craven

He's a workman filmmaker who got stuck in a genre he doesn't love. It's pretty clear. He doesn't want to do horror and hasn't wanted to for a long time. Music of the Heart was him trying to break out. Can't blame him for that. He made Scream 3 to make Music of the Heart. The Last House remake is ok and the Hills remake is GREAT. He's a workman working with what he has. Sellout? He's as much of a sellout as anyone who works a job. Not a huge fan of his but sellout? Come on.
He's a workman filmmaker who got stuck in a genre he doesn't love. It's pretty clear. He doesn't want to do horror and hasn't wanted to for a long time. Music of the Heart was him trying to break out. Can't blame him for that. He made Scream 3 to make Music of the Heart. The Last House remake is ok and the Hills remake is GREAT. He's a workman working with what he has. Sellout? He's as much of a sellout as anyone who works a job. Not a huge fan of his but sellout? Come on.
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4:38PM on 03/11/2013

This is JoBlo's worst column

No offense, but ill advised and poorly executed. Please move on.
No offense, but ill advised and poorly executed. Please move on.
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4:11PM on 03/11/2013

Not A Sell Out

Wes Craven has been pigeon holed into horror. He's a good story teller and director and I credit him for trying to do new things horror related or not.
Some of his newer films may not be on par with say NOES, Shocker, People Under the Stairs, Serpent & the Rainbow, Scream, etc. But at least they're not all the same movie over and over. Granted some of his films have been watered down with sequels but remember the classics and if it wasn't for Wes we wouldn't have Freddy, Horrace Pinker or
Wes Craven has been pigeon holed into horror. He's a good story teller and director and I credit him for trying to do new things horror related or not.
Some of his newer films may not be on par with say NOES, Shocker, People Under the Stairs, Serpent & the Rainbow, Scream, etc. But at least they're not all the same movie over and over. Granted some of his films have been watered down with sequels but remember the classics and if it wasn't for Wes we wouldn't have Freddy, Horrace Pinker or Ghostface (credit due to Kevin WIlliamson for Ghostface as well)

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4:11PM on 03/11/2013
Not a sell out.
Honestly I thought The Last House on the Left remake was better than the original. It was not as shocking as the original but I think overall it was better made film. The Hills Have Eyes remake was also pretty good but the original was better. Remakes are almost always cash grabs but I can't hold the remakes against him because they have gotten newer audiences to check out his older works. Scream 4 was certainly better than Scream 3, I love the whole poking fun at the idea of
Not a sell out.
Honestly I thought The Last House on the Left remake was better than the original. It was not as shocking as the original but I think overall it was better made film. The Hills Have Eyes remake was also pretty good but the original was better. Remakes are almost always cash grabs but I can't hold the remakes against him because they have gotten newer audiences to check out his older works. Scream 4 was certainly better than Scream 3, I love the whole poking fun at the idea of remakes and reboots. His contributions to the genre are just too great to call him a sellout. He did that Music movie, which I didn't watch, but the guy is getting old and I'm sure he wants to get away from horror and make some other movies. And I can't hold it against the guy for branching out. I wish he'd do another thriller like Red Eye.
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3:44PM on 03/11/2013

sell out

One of the worst director working at hollywood. A total sell out
One of the worst director working at hollywood. A total sell out
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4:37PM on 03/11/2013
good argument too
good argument too
7:18PM on 03/11/2013
Arguments lol

My Soul to Take,
Scream 2, 3, 4
Cursed
Vampire in Brooklyn
The Serpent and the Rainbow
The Hills Have Eyes Part II

Need more ?
Arguments lol

My Soul to Take,
Scream 2, 3, 4
Cursed
Vampire in Brooklyn
The Serpent and the Rainbow
The Hills Have Eyes Part II

Need more ?
3:23PM on 03/11/2013

Music of The Heart

To hear Wes tell it, MOTH was the type of movie he always wanted to make but he got stuck in the Horror world for too long.
To hear Wes tell it, MOTH was the type of movie he always wanted to make but he got stuck in the Horror world for too long.
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2:45PM on 03/11/2013
One of the kickstarters to the sex & violence exploitation sub genre, made a couple classics along the way. The bad outweigh the good but for what he has done for horror history, he is not a sell out.
One of the kickstarters to the sex & violence exploitation sub genre, made a couple classics along the way. The bad outweigh the good but for what he has done for horror history, he is not a sell out.
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+1
1:32PM on 03/11/2013
That's a tough one. The remakes were obvious cash grabs, and even Jay and Silent Bob went as far as to mock Craven as a sell out with their bit of him in that film. I have to say though that I don't think he is. Even Scream 4, which was stretching it with being the fourth film in a franchise, found a bit of originality in the story it was trying to tell. I do wish that he had more in him than what we've been getting, but I don't think he's quite the sell out. Not yet.
That's a tough one. The remakes were obvious cash grabs, and even Jay and Silent Bob went as far as to mock Craven as a sell out with their bit of him in that film. I have to say though that I don't think he is. Even Scream 4, which was stretching it with being the fourth film in a franchise, found a bit of originality in the story it was trying to tell. I do wish that he had more in him than what we've been getting, but I don't think he's quite the sell out. Not yet.
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11:42AM on 03/11/2013
Wait, what does Music of the Heart has anything to do with selling out or not? The guy's just trying to branching out a little bit. If that's considered as selling out, then Sam Raimi was selling out by doing Spider-Man. Nevertheless, I don't think Craven is selling out. Scream 3 might not be that good but he, in my opinion, returned to his top form with Red Eye.
Wait, what does Music of the Heart has anything to do with selling out or not? The guy's just trying to branching out a little bit. If that's considered as selling out, then Sam Raimi was selling out by doing Spider-Man. Nevertheless, I don't think Craven is selling out. Scream 3 might not be that good but he, in my opinion, returned to his top form with Red Eye.
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11:16AM on 03/11/2013
I agree with the person below me. The term "sell-out" is for someone for makes things because other people think they're popular. These directors may have made some stinkers but that doesn't mean they weren't their own ideas. I honestly don't see the point in trying to call any of them "sell-outs".
I agree with the person below me. The term "sell-out" is for someone for makes things because other people think they're popular. These directors may have made some stinkers but that doesn't mean they weren't their own ideas. I honestly don't see the point in trying to call any of them "sell-outs".
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9:01AM on 03/11/2013

Not a sell out

Sorry but i find it a bit of a confusing column. Most of the culprits you've discussed it's not a question if they're sell outs or not, some just ran out of creative juices or got burned out by being stuck in Genre films (Carpenter, Romero). Craven, thanks to the mainstream success of "Scream" was one of the few that had a chance to try his hand at other sufff like Hitchcockian thriller (Red Eye) or a Bio Drama (Music of my Heart). I can't blame the guy for wanting to try out different stuff
Sorry but i find it a bit of a confusing column. Most of the culprits you've discussed it's not a question if they're sell outs or not, some just ran out of creative juices or got burned out by being stuck in Genre films (Carpenter, Romero). Craven, thanks to the mainstream success of "Scream" was one of the few that had a chance to try his hand at other sufff like Hitchcockian thriller (Red Eye) or a Bio Drama (Music of my Heart). I can't blame the guy for wanting to try out different stuff since he always ends up returning to the genre he's best loved for.
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