As we’re sure (and saddened) you have heard by now, Wes Craven passed from brain cancer yesterday aged 76.
For a generation and beyond, Craven’s films were delightful nightmare fuel that left us not only sleeping with the lights on, but grateful to be doing so.
The horror giant was the catalyst for many memories, and we at iHorror felt compelled to share some of our personal recollections with you as an homage to the man who brought us A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left and so much more.
I remember seeing the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and not being horrified, but instead intrigued by Johnny Depp’s death scene. It looked so amazing and out of this world to me that I just needed to know how Craven and the crew did it. It laid the foundation for what I now feel is at the core of my horror obsession: Human ingenuity.
There’s more to a film that just blood and guts, they come from one person’s brain and then, through numerous tricks and effects, come to life on screen. It was Wes Craven’s imagination that helped bring everything to life for me.
For me, Wes Craven was one of the guys who not only influenced what I watched, but also my love for making films.
Craven approached his movies with a fuck-you-attitude which began when he with stole an “R” rating for Last House on the Left and continued throughout his career, which subsequently allowed him to change the genre multiple times.
Craven’s work also had a profound effect on me growing up. When I was a child I suffered from sleep paralysis and would wake up most nights screaming. Being in a Catholic school at the time, I was told they were demons coming to take me to hell. It terrified me because there was nothing I could do about it. Until I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Here was this terrifying, nightmare demon who scared these kids like I was, and they fought back! They ultimately didn’t defeat him, but still, they fought back. Oddly enough, Nightmare helped me with my own nightmares.
I will always be thankful for the terror and humor Craven’s work brought into my life. RIP.
I never met Wes Craven, so all of my memories of him are purely from his films. The one that sticks out in my mind is opening night for Scream 2.
For the first half of the nineties, the horror genre had been fairly stagnant, but the first Scream was able to twist that fact and use it in its own favor, mocking the tropes and stereotypes that had become commonplace. I knew Scream had been a hit, but I had no idea that it had resonated with so many people until that sequel was released, when opening night for Scream 2 was like the Super Bowl.
There was an energy and electricity in the crowd that I had never seen before or since. The audience was a lot like the one in the first scene of the movie — loud, playful and rambunctious. The theater even had an employee dressed as Ghostface stalking up and down the aisles, looking for hapless people to scare.
Once the movie started, everyone quieted down, but at that point I knew the horror genre was on the upswing, because those people were excited. It was all the more impressive that the hoopla was for a sequel, because to quote Randy Meeks “Sequels suck…by definition alone, sequels are inferior films!”
Wes Craven may not have singlehandedly saved horror in the nineties, but he and his Scream movies sure gave it a hefty boost.
Scream was not only a fantastic film, it just made it seem as though what Billy and Stu were doing was, for lack of a better term, fun. How many phone calls were made across the country (and the world) with the sole intent of freaking people out around the time that film was released? I know I was one of them, and that’s the memory I cling to.
My sister was babysitting for my aunt one night, so like any responsible brother, I used that as an excuse to traumatize her. My aunt’s house had a garage which you could climb onto, and with the house just a step away, it provided the opportunity to have some fun at the expense of a sibling. Some phone calls were made, just breathing at first, but messages slowly began seeping through. “What are you up to?” “Are you alone” “Have you checked on the kids?” We had snuck outside the house to peer through the windows and gleefully watched her sense of security wane, and that’s when it was time to take a brief walk on top of the house.
Taps on the windows and more phone calls followed, and at one point we were all hunkered down in the back as a neighbor came out to take his garbage. He was startled by our presence, but with a simple “I’m messing with my sister,” he chuckled and headed back into the house. Talk about neighborhood watch.
About the time she was calling people in tears, we took that as our cue to exit stage left before the cops showed up.
I waited till she was home for the night to let her know it was me and some buddies, for which I took a bit of a beating, but it was worth it. She swore she’d get me back, but my laughter only allowed for a “Good luck topping that!” A year later, some Mormons stopped by to tell me about the book of Jesus Christ for Latter-Day Saints because “your sister said you were interested in learning more.” So, turns out I was wrong. But it was all inspired by a film, yet another Wes Craven film that simply made you want to be a part of that world. And I will never forget it.
I remember the first time I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was really young (like six or seven) and it scared the piss out of me. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, so dark and the music shook me up.
Later in life, seeing films like The People Under the Stairs and New Nightmare, you really see this man who created these films was something more than a horror director, he was a legend. If you can’t see his passion through his films (in which case you’re blind), you could definitely see it in his eyes when he talked about it in the Never Sleep Again documentary. Craven almost teared up at one point talking about New Nightmare.
It’s a beautiful moment with a beautiful man. This world really lost something special, but his memory will live on through his art in films.
My first memory of Wes Craven was when I was five-years old. I was fascinated by theater marquees and how the “black” spaces in between the lights seemed to travel around the perimeter of the sign. Within those traveling lights, as my dad would drive through the city in 1972, I remember seeing the words Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left. I was first amazed that a person could have so many “Ws” and “Vs” in their name, but the intrigue of the movie’s title always fascinated me.
At that time, I thought the film was about a haunted house and that was incredibly beguiling to me. Eventually in the VHS boom of the mid-eighties, around the time of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s theatrical run, I finally go to see Last House and discovered it wasn’t about a haunted house, but things much worse. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, it was a movie like no other and I wondered if what I was watching was real.
Later, I discovered a little “big” book called Video Movie Guide by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter (the IMDB of its time), and I quickly looked up Craven’s name and discovered he had done other films — The Hills Have Eyes and to my surprise Swamp Thing! From then on, after Nightmare, I looked forward to every Wes Craven movie that came out and I would stand in line with my high school friends to watch his latest offering.
My love of horror can be traced back to that weird marquee with the hypnotic, moving lights and the man with the funny name. And I have been mesmerized by his work ever since.
I was working an office job which I truly, truly hated, and to make the day slightly more tolerable I downloaded movies onto my phone and would listen to them with ears buds while I worked.
For three weeks straight, I listened to all four Scream movies back-to-back because it worked out perfectly for the length of my day.
Doesn’t sound like much, but that job literally had me crying every day that I was there, it was horrible. Scream made it less God-awful and gave me something to smile about.
You’ve gotten a sense of our memories, so please feel free to take a few moments and provide us with what made Wes Craven special to you in the comments section below.