Wes Craven was born on August 2nd, 1939. The world didn’t know it yet, but that was an important day, as Craven would go on to become one of the most influential filmmakers in history.
No one gave us nightmares the way Wes did.
Craven exploded on the scene with the grimy exploitation pic, The Last House on the Left. While the film left a lot to be desired in technical terms, the power of the picture was unmistakable, and a future for Craven was set in motion.
The Hills Have Eyes was yet another gritty affair, but it felt just a hint less gratuitous and it showcased some polished skills behind the camera. But The Hills Have Eyes was really just the start of a rollercoaster career.
Craven did a number of small screen films, brought the Swamp Thing to life, and eventually birthed one of the most iconic villains in horror history, Freddy Krueger. A Nightmare on Elm Street was released after The Hills Have Eyes 2, and it was perfect timing. Fans were becoming familiar with Craven’s work, but the ideas changed when his magnum opus arrived in perfect time.
There will never be another villain like Freddy Krueger, and the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise will rest in the history books as one of the finest in history. All of that is because of Craven’s vision, and how he managed to bring that vision to life.
Robert Englund was the perfect embodiment of this walking evil, and although he became more of a comedian in his later years, Krueger was always a terrifying creation. He can kill you in your sleep, where you have nowhere to run and no one to protect you. That’s a horrifying idea.
Craven was far from done. And if anything, Krueger was an ignitor for the man, who unrolled a string of genre films in the following years.
The Serpent and the Rainbow was awesome, Shocker was a ton of goofy fun, The People Under the Stairs was a commentary-laden beauty.
While those were all awesome films, Craven completely regained his steam when he returned to the Nightmare franchise for an early example of a meta-movie, New Nightmare. New Nightmare was smart, featured stunning set pieces, amazing special effects, solid performances and a finale that struck fear in the most macho of viewers. New Nightmare was a genius film that, unbeknownst to us, would work to segue into one final prize slasher franchise.
Scream changed the game in staggering ways. Through the mid-80s into the mid-90s horror had grown stale. Ideas simply weren’t clicking with viewers or production companies and many believed the genre was well on its way to the grave. Until Craven and talented writer Kevin Williamson joined forced for a complete genre re-ignitor.
Scream’s meta-heavy approach was refreshing. The major risks that Craven utilized were refreshing. Who expected red-hot Drew Barrymore to die inside the first 10 minutes? No one. It was a shock, as was the rest of the film. It was savvy and what it accomplished was capturing teenage life in the 1990s with perfection. I know – I was a sophomore when Scream hit theaters.
The success of the first franchise film would eventually open the door to three big screen sequels and a successful small screen adaptation. Ghostface, it would seem, is going to live on forever, occupying the ranks of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.
What Wes Craven did for the fans was create a legacy that can never be tarnished… a legacy that will never dull with time. Wes Craven gave us superb film, and for that we are eternally thankful. We miss you, Wes. May you have the happiest birthday you can upstairs, sir!