Remembering the man who reinvented macabre movies
Arguably the most celebrated of all contemporary horror directors, the man born Wesley Earl Craven on 2 August 1939 ( who passed away on 30 August 2015 from brain cancer) was an unlikely nightmare- maker. Raised in a strict Baptist family in Cleveland, Ohio, Craven would study philosophy and writing at university and pursue a career in academia as a college lecturer. However, a move to New York City in the early 1970s introduced him to future Friday The 13th creator Sean Cunningham. The partnership gave him a chance to gain some experience producing low- budget softcore skin- flicks such as Together ( 1971).
But it was with 1972 classic The Last House On The Left, Craven’s directorial debut and a provocative and powerful anti- Vietnam allegory, that the filmmaker really hit pay- dirt; today the movie is largely acknowledged as changing the gore- game entirely. Post- Last House Craven would branch out with the more fantastical thrills of The Hills Have Eyes ( 1977), and the Sharon Stone- starring suspenser Deadly Blessing ( 1981), but he made his biggest mark as the father of razor- fingered dream- demon Freddy Krueger.
Hawking his script, A Nightmare On Elm Street, around Hollywood for years, Craven would meet only dismissal until an enterprising independent production outfit, New Line Cinema, opted to green light the supernatural slasher- shocker. The result – unleashed in 1984 – afforded Craven his most mainstream success to date.
After Elm Street made Craven’s name bankable, he would continue to call the shots on a number of stylish, and classy, studio scare- flicks – with choice cuts including the gothic- atmospherics of The Serpent And The Rainbow ( 1987), the bewildering psycho- sickie Shocker ( 1989) and the class- carnage of The People Under The Stairs ( 1991). However, it was with Scream that Craven really returned to the multiplex, although its boffin box office would pigeonhole him into a franchise that did not seem to know when to stop stalking – spawning Scream 2 ( 1997), Scream 3 ( 2000) and a belated Scream 4 ( 2011). In the interim, he attempted to re- imagine the werewolf genre with Cursed ( 2005) and won applause for his tense Hitchcockian thriller Red Eye ( 2005). Remaining busy right up until his final hours, Craven oversaw the Scream television series for MTV and had been collaborating on a comic book, Coming Of Rage, with Steve Niles.
Widely regarded as a gentleman and a good- humoured auteur, whose images haunted viewers for decades but who rarely raised his voice on the set, Craven changed scary movies forever. His throne in any horror film hall of fame is guaranteed.