Horror movie pioneer and one of the most influential minds in film, Wes Craven, died Sunday after a battle with brain cancer; He was 76 years-old.
Craven is known by many as the grandfather of the slasher film genre that was extremely popular in the 1980’s and 90’s. Most notable were his writing and directing contributions to “The Last House on the Left” in 1972, “The Hills Have Eyes” in 1977, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in 1984 and the “Scream” franchise.
He was responsible for creating who is now one of the most iconic characters in horror, Freddy Krueger, in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and worked on the first of the film’s many sequels. Though the film is credited by many as reinvigorating the horror genre, and creating the new image of the “slasher” villain, Craven kept working and moved on to even greater success.
In 1996, Craven reached a new level of acclaim with the release of “Scream.” The film grossed more than $100 million domestically, as did the sequel the following year, “Scream 2.” Craven took aim at some of the clichés of the horror genre, and created one of the most iconic film series to date.
Craven was born in Cleveland, OH in 1939 and was raised in a strict Baptist household. He lost his father at the age of 5. Throughout his youth, he was not allowed to watch most movies. An upbringing full of rigorous adherence, yet punctuated by death, created a world-view in which Craven saw his surroundings as somewhere in which violence and chaos lurked just beneath the surface of everyday life.
He later earned a master's degree from John Hopkins and began working as a professor. Frustration in the work place pushed Craven to find a creative outlet, and he began work on a film through his college. After his initial cinematic experience, he was hooked. He quit his job and moved his family to California.
Craven did not adhere solely to the confines of one film genre, however. Between the end of production on “Scream 2” and before he began “Scream 3,” Craven worked on “Music of the Heart “in 1999. The project earned Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for best actress in the inspirational drama about a teacher in Harlem.
Though he was not originally one for re-hashing his work, Craven produced remakes of two of his most iconic films; “The Hills Have Eyes” in 2006 and “The Last House on the Left” in 2009. He then wrote and directed “My Soul to Take” in 2010, before his final film work, “Scream 4,” in 2011.
Though he had not recently been involved in cinema, Craven had signed a television deal with Universal Cable Productions on a number of projects, including “The People Under the Stairs” for the Syfy Networks. He also was an executive producer the new “Scream” series for MTV.
Regarding his intentions as a film-maker Craven said, “I tried to make movies where I can honestly say I haven't seen that before and to follow my deepest intuitions, and in some cases, literally my dreams."
Craven will be remembered for his ability to delve into the deepest fears of the subconscious, and draw out what really scared people, though he said his movies were created to be "an inoculation against a deeper and darker and more frightening reality."