Sunday, August 30, 2015

RIP, Wes Craven

In a bit of shocking news:  Wes Craven passed away today after battling brain cancer.  He was 76.

The news broke today through various outlets and was confirmed by his family members.  Craven was an influential figure in the world of horror, directing classics of the genre like The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream.  He was a true master.

Craven came from a teaching background and could be described as "professorial" which always seemed to surprise people considering the sometimes transgressive and nightmarish nature of his work.

In addition to directing and writing feature films, Craven also worked in television, wrote novels, and was a committed bird conservationist, serving as a member of the Audubon California Board of Directors.  He is survived by his wife Iya Labunka, children Jonathan and Jessica and three grandchildren.

RIP, to one of the greats.

The Last House on the Left (1972) is a brutal horror film, as audacious a debut a filmmaker could make.  It's a tough film, but an important one.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977) is a personal favorite of mine.  Craven was inspired by the real life story of the Sawney Bean family when writing this tale of survival against cannibals.
Deadly Blessing (1981).  Read my review HERE.
Swamp Thing (1982) was an early attempt at a more adult superhero film but it turned out to be a goofy action adventure movie with a guy in a bad monster suit.  Due to repeat airings on local TV and the presence of Adrienne Barbeau I saw this frequently growing up.

The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1984).  
In financial trouble, Craven found himself directing this crummy sequel.  Say what you will, I have a soft spot for this one as it's a personal favorite bad movie of mine.  Dog flashbacks!
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a straight-up horror classic.  It gave us Freddy Kruger and Johnny Depp.  There is some incredible imagery in this movie and if Craven had done just this one film he would still be a member of the horror hall of fame.
Craven and Kristy Swanson on the set of Deadly Friend (1986).  Read my review HERE.
Craven would do some television work, including multiple episode of The Twilight Zone (1985-86).  He would give Bruce Willis his first leading role in an episode titled "Shatterday."
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), a movie I recall liking but haven't seen since the mid '90s.
I've been meaning to watch Shocker (1989) and it is now for sure on my October watch list.
The People Under the Stairs (1991) is a memorable film, but also very problematic and not very good.
New Nightmare (1994) was the first Nightmare film to be released after I started getting into horror films so I was real excited and totally into it when it came out.  I was a big fan, but haven't seen it in years.
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) is to Wes Craven as Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) is to John Carpenter: a troubled production with a comedic actor who doesn't want to make a comedy.
Scream (1996) was a full on phenomenon and yet another horror hit for Craven.  It started a new franchise with Craven directing all three of the sequels, the last of which, Scream 4 (2011), would be his last directorial effort.
Music of the Heart (1999) was Craven's lone work outside the horror genre.  It was nominated for two Oscars, one for star Meryl Streep.
Cursed (2005) is without a doubt one of the worst movie I have ever seen.  Production problems plagued the movie, but sheesh, what a stinker.
I saw Red Eye (2005) once back when it came out and I was surprised by how much I liked it.  The third act was a bit weak, but I remember really liking the set-up and the actors.

This is a great interview with Wes Craven conducted by Mick Garris.  It goes into a lot of Craven's early life and background and into the making of his early films.

Wes Craven, 1939 -2015

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