THANKS FOR THE NIGHTMARES: Remembering Wes Craven (1939 – 2015)

THANKS FOR THE NIGHTMARES: Remembering Wes Craven (1939 – 2015)

Adrienne McIlvaine (@mizocty) looks back at the blood-soaked but colorful career a horror maestro.

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I was seven the first time I met Freddy Krueger.

A Nightmare on Elm Street had finally wound its way from third-run movie theaters to local NYC independent television station WPIX, and I quickly became fascinated by Freddy Krueger’s twisted wreck of a face that dominated the commercial breaks. Naturally I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch. Big mistake–I barely made it through the opening credits, covering my eyes as Freddy stalked his prey through an industrial hellscape, his clawed glove trailing a shower of sparks. I was so terrified that, afterwards, I slept completely under the covers, convinced that Krueger would chop off any appendage which had the misfortune of escaping the sanctuary of my blankets.

When I learned that Wes Craven had died from brain cancer, those terrifying first moments of seeing Freddy Krueger in all his savage glory came rushing back. Sure, later on I watched Craven’s threadbare but influential films like The Hills Have Eyes, and like every other 90s teen, I obsessively watched Scream until I could quote the entire thing by heart. But Krueger remained my first introduction to the wicked world of Wes Craven, and his passing is an immense loss that won’t soon be replaced.

His films crackle with energy, a brisk holdover from his years spent directing and editing industrial films and hardcore X-rated flicks–even when you’re being scared out your mind, the adrenaline rush is half the fun. They’re also smarter than your typical horror movie, not surprising considering he was a former English and humanities professor with masters degrees in both philosophy and writing. What always intrigued me about his films is how they play fast and loose with the nature of reality and the subconscious, making you question the very nature of identity. From The Serpent and the Rainbow’s voodoo-soaked nightmares to New Nightmare’s clever deconstruction, Craven’s films share an intelligence and wit that elevate even the occasional flop (sorry, Vampire in Brooklyn).

His influence on a new generation of horror filmmakers is incalculable. Without the sulky teenage angst that fueled the early Nightmare movies, it’s doubtful anyone would have taken a chance on his slick and sick Scream, which launched screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s career and brought horror into a new post-modern era. Ti West even reflected the rural existential dread of The Last House on the Left in his cult classic debut The House of the Devil, and Drew Goddard cranked New Nightmare’s meta-horror up to 11 in the delightfully scary Cabin in the Woods.

In a genre that’s been hijacked by cheap found-footage flicks and gratuitous torture porn, Craven’s legacy of sharply observed, smartly written films that are as thought-provoking as they are terrifying is a gift to film lovers and horror fans everywhere.

We’ll miss you, Wes.

About The Author

Stephane Marquet
Creative Director

First of all, excuse my French! … I was born in the South of France. Lived in Paris for 10 years and travelled the world until I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, because obviously recession was a great time to move to a new country! I also arrived around Halloween and was greeted at the Social Security offices by a nurse who directed to the window Number 6 so a witch could hand me my social security number. Welcome to America. I am a painter, a photographer and the creative director of BELLO mag.

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