The director of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven, has passed away at the age of 76 on August 30th after battling brain cancer in recent months. The world has lost one of the best movie directors of all time and the horror scene will never be the same again.
Wes Craven was one of cinema’s all-time renegades, crafting some of the edgiest movies ever made in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Alongside greats like George A. Romero and John Carpenter, Craven deserves to be recognized on the Mount Rushmore of the horror genre. I’d like to look back at my top six favourite Craven flicks and why they were impactful then and just as important now in the wake of his passing.
#6. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Michael Berryman’s disturbing image on those posters as the savage post nuclear family mutant man Pluto – is legendary. Another one of Craven’s first hits, I didn’t see The Hills Have Eyes until much later on but I remember the VHS covers scaring the shit out of me when my dad took me to the video store. Berryman was even nominated for a Saturn Award for his performance in this thing. People like to remember The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as the best psycho killer inbred family outing but The Hills Have Eyes gives that one a run for it’s money.
#5. Swamp Thing (1982)
Wes Craven helmed the very first edgy comic book adaptation when he directed Swamp Thing. Based on the DC: Vertigo Comic Series, Swamp Thing was a comic book movie that had nudity, violence and a hero who looked disturbing as all hell. All of these things were unheard of back in 1982 but Craven being the pioneer that he was, went for it.
#4. The Last House on The Left (1972)
This is one of those infamous films that I had been aware of for a long time before ever seeing it, due to the graphic and lengthy rape sequence where a young girl is brutalized by some awful people out in the woods. The genius concept of having the girl’s parents exact even more horrific vengeance upon the villains after they show up at their home is one of the best movie plots of all time. The Last House on The Left spawned a very solid remake in 2009 and is one of — if not the best revenge films ever made.
#3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Freddy Krueger. Without a doubt Craven’s crowning achievement throughout his entire career as a filmmaker will forever be the monster who haunted all of our dreams – Freddy. Robert Englund wore the make-up but Craven created the character who always lands in everybody’s top five movie monsters list – usually battling for the top spot against Jason or Michael Myers.
#2. Scream (1996)
Wes Craven turned the horror world upside down with Scream. He poked fun at all of the genre’s tropes, practically breaking the fourth wall in the process and inadvertantly kicked off the new era of teen slashers. Scream was the first and ultimately the best. A brilliant screenplay loaded with the most clever twists to ever grace a horror film, although the movie spawned three sequels (which were all damn fine in their own ways), none will ever top the original. Plus – what other movie kills Drew Barrymore before the title credit roll? Thank you Wes Craven. I mean that.
#1. The People Under The Stairs (1991)
This was the first Craven movie that I had ever seen and it will always be my favourite of the director’s extensive catalog of legendary horror releases. There were a lot of bizarre horror films of the late 80’s and early 90’s like House or Puppet Master which I loved, but The People Under The Stairs trumps them all. Cashing in on my fear of the basement stairs and then adding scenes where a crazy mother throws her daughter in a scalding hot bathtub to cleanse her — the movie was the most twisted thing I’d ever seen as a young kid. It was also the first time I’d seen a gimp suit being used as villain armour. So there’s that.