Over the weekend, horror cinema lost one of its most influential filmmakers, with Wes Craven passing away at the age of 76. After a career of making audiences scream and haunting their dreams, the director’s legacy won’t soon be forgotten.
For a man who would memorably push the buttons of moviegoers, many might be surprised to learn that Craven was raised in a strictly Baptist household, where excepting Disney productions, movies were forbidden and considered sinful. It was only after he went to college and managed to catch “To Kill A Mockingbird” that he realized the power that movies contained. Later, when he started working as a professor, it was watching European films from the mid-’60s at his local arthouse that found Craven taken with the form.
The filmmaker left academia and embarked on his journey, starting on the lowest rung of movie-making—shooting porno flicks—where in addition to directing, he would also write and edit. When it came to his first official feature, that European influence wouldn’t be too far behind, as he turned Ingmar Bergman‘s “The Virgin Spring” into the revenge thriller picture “Last House Of The Left.” And the picture’s intensity (which found it banned for years in Britain and Australia) put Craven on the map. Five years later the director would deliver another classic of the genre with “The Hills Have Eyes” and from there he never looked back.
The director will perhaps be most popularly remembered for two key franchises: “Nightmare On Elm Street,” which introduced the iconic character of Freddy Krueger as well as the self-aware “Scream” series, which turned horror tropes upside down and let audiences in on the scares.
“Horror films don’t create fear, they release it,” Craven once said. And what the filmmaker has released will certainly resonate for years to come.