He created Freddy Krueger and scared us for decades. Wes Craven will be remembered for his renegade approach to the horror film genre.
“Horror films don’t create fear. They release it.”-Wes Craven
When I was a kid, I was convinced Freddy Krueger was going to get me in my dreams. Or at the very least, he was standing in my doorway waiting for me to hit the snooze button. I told my dad all the time. “Look at the door, dad, can you see him?” My loving father did what every other father on this earth did. He reassured me that there was nothing there. Right, dad. Thanks to Wes Craven, true horror like Freddy and other horror film gems kept me awake many nights.
Craven passed away on August 30th at the age of 76 after a battle with brain cancer. The master of horror films like Nightmare on Elm Street, The People Under The Stairs, Shocker, The Hills Have Eyes and Scream went quietly, at peace with his life and accomplishments.
What he left for film fans was a reminder of what true horror was all about. Forget all the modern wannabe auteurs of gruesome cinematic fare. Craven laid the blueprint on how to not only scare someone, but deposit a fear in their minds as they left the theater.
The worst thing you could do was watch a Craven film during a thunderstorm. You came out of the theater and had to check every way and path in the parking lot before you got in your car. Once inside, you checked the entire backseat. He made you drag that excitement from the theater into real life. Renegade creators can do that and it’s not easy. Most films can be enjoyed but easily detached from the brain once the lights come up and the outside world is reintroduced.
I remember watching Craven films with my dad and instead of asking him 70 questions on the way home, I asked a single easy one. “Is any of that real, dad?” He always had a good answer but man Craven made me think twice.
Craven’s first film was released in 1972 and it was called The Last House on the Left. He wrote and directed it a film about a pair of teenage girls who try to score drugs at a concert and get kidnapped and terrorized by a gang of psychos. In 1977, he directed The Hills Have Eyes but it wasn’t until 1984 that he introduced Krueger, the tortured badly burned man with knives for fingers who attacked young teens in their dreams. Earlier this year, Craven was still writing short films about Freddy’s carnage. Throughout an epic career, Freddy was his baby and rightly so. How can you escape a boogeyman who gets you in your dreams? Brilliant.
That kind of horror will live forever. It will scare your kids and their kids. Long after Robert England(the actor who brought Freddy Krueger to life) is gone, he will freak people out. That’s Craven’s legacy. Long lasting terror.
Rest in peace, Wes. Your mark on film will be felt for decades.