Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wes Craven Merges With The Infinite

The thing about being my age is that so many of the names we grew up with, who were just doing amazing work during my youth, are beginning to pass.

My social media is flooded with the news that writer/ director/ producer Wes Craven has passed at the age of 76.

If you grew up in the era I did, you saw Wes Craven movies one way or another.  Most famous of his movies, likely, is A Nightmare on Elm Street, something I was already planning to re-watch this Halloween and now have a moral obligation to take in.

He also brought us The Hills Have Eyes, Swamp Thing, The People Under the Stairs and Scream.

Here's my film-school story about Scream.

JAL managed a theater when we were in college.  They were showing Scream after they wrapped the rest of the movies in that theater.  It was all the way across town, and I don't really like horror movies, and I was just feeling cranky, and, etc....

JAL:  Do you want to see Scream tonight at the tech screening?
Me:  Man, I don't want to see that movie.  It's just some slasher shit, and it's going to be a total hassle.
JAL:  Wes Craven directed it.
Me:  What time does it start?

We'll miss you, Wes.  You were one of the good ones.


Stuart said...

I'm still at a loss for words. Suffice to say that Wes Craven was a man of creative integrity and vision. Even his worst films were never boring, always trying something different.

I've never met the man, but his creative output had a huge impact on me at a young age. I’m sort of glad I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 first, as it was the first of the series to really exploit the concept for all its potential. I of course immediately sought out every other Nightmare film, and anything else Wes Craven was involved in for the rest of his life.

I happened to be working full time at a video rental when Scream was released on VHS (Assistant Manager - my highest paid position ever at that time) and ho-lee crap was that thing popular. I actually think the meta-textual stuff he did in "New Nightmare" was more clever and ahead of its time, but I fully recognize that Scream not only tapped into the zeitgeist of the time but also reinvigorated the horror genre (again).

I’ve seen a lot of behind the scenes and interview footage of Craven as a writer and director, and what comes through over and over again is that this is a man of intellection. He was not interested in the cheap scare, but in the deep scare. Certain themes he returned to time and again, like the horror hidden in the mundane (“Every town has an Elm Street…”) and the sins of the parents passed to their children, tried to get at something primal and unexpected.

It’s sad to think that we’ll have no more New Nightmares to look forward to, but somewhat comforting to know that an entire generation (and beyond) has been influenced by his imagination.

The League said...

Even a guy like me who struggles with horror as a genre saw the deeper waters running beneath his work. It doesn't just scare, it resonates. Especially for certain audiences. Really, I can't think of a more perfect horror film for people in school than Nightmare on Elm Street. For the genre freaks, Scream. For all the rest of us, I guess... we can wonder at what our neighbors are up to in The People Under the Stairs.

And, of course, Swamp Thing is just fantastic, even if I'm one of five people who believes that.