Remembering Wes Craven: Staff Favorites
Unfortunately, Wes Craven passed away earlier this week, but before he died, he left us with an impressive array of work. His influence is undeniable in horror films over the last several decades, and he was an innovative mind in a relatively stagnant genre. Rather than bemoan his loss, we had some of our writers give a breakdown of their favorite Wes Craven films.
Yashar Pirasteh: Scream
Probably the most well known in pop culture of all of Craven's flicks, Scream (and its sequels) took everything we had grown weary of in horror movies and flipped them on the audience. The entire film is a meta breakdown of typical horror tropes. From killing off the film's biggest star (Drew Barrymore) within the opening scene, to having Jamie Kennedy show disgust at the tropes and rules of horror and slasher movies, Scream stood out immediately as something both familiar and new. Ghostface was a truly unforgettable villain, not for his motives (which are ridiculous in a way that is exacerbated in each subsequent film), but for his costume, which has become ubiquitous during Halloween. While never truly terrifying, Scream managed to keep you on the edge of your seats and open the door for horror satires, such as Cabin in the Woods. It also allowed for Craven to jab a little fun at his own work while giving audiences something fresh and unforgettable.
Marc Hall: A Nightmare on Elm Street
If I could think back to the first film character that ever scared me as a child, it would certainly have to be Freddy Kruger. Freddy and that legendary laugh... his sinister wit and haunting mannerisms that could send a literal chill up your spine, and have kept me up at night more than once.
Wes Craven was a master at creating monsters, and Freddy stands as perhaps his most legendary. So much of modern Slasher lore is owed to this man and his vision, not to mention the risk and foresight taken by casting a then unknown Johnny Depp in his flagship film. Nightmare on Elm Street and its sequels are Craven at his best. Many thanks to the man that introduced me to a genre that I, and countless others,I have grown to love so much. Be sure to tell em Freddy sent ya, Wes. Godspeed.
John Lein: Red Eye
Honestly, I would have preferred to do New Nightmare, since it combines the gore and violence of Nightmare with the meta humor of Scream, but since that film is already included in our annual horror movie month, and I didn't want to just cover another Scream or Freddy flick, I picked one of Wes' other films to talk about in my section, Red Eye.
Red Eye is a film from 2005 in which Rachel McAdams is abducted by psycho-terrorist, Cillian Murphy, on a late night flight. Murphy's goal is to kill a politician by having McAdams change the politician's hotel room to one accessible by missile launcher. It's a little bit heavy handed for a villain who goes through all the trouble of secretly holding a woman hostage on board a plane with other people on it, but whatever. It's an interesting plot set up, with a surprisingly cool climax considering the limitations of a plane as the primary set, and Cillian Murphy is a more than compelling villain. His performance alone is enough to make Red Eye entertaining. Rachel McAdams' performance and character also manage to be exciting, which is a special accomplishment considering the often less then stellar depiction of the "damsel in distress" archetype. While a departure from typical Craven fare, it was an intriguing foray into a less horror focused thriller genre for the accomplished director, and it showcased his versatility.
Zach Wickwire: Anything with Freddy Krueger
I am no fan of horror movies, so it comes as no surprise that I haven't been privy to much of the late Wes Craven's work, however, it's hard to argue with the impact he left on the genre. Without a doubt, Mr. Craven's greatest creation was that of Freddy Krueger, the now iconic horror villain. Krueger's reign of terror began in the 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film would go on to start a multimedia franchise that would see nine films, including a cross over with Friday the 13th, its own video games, comic books, a television series, and numerous other incarnations. The franchise was also influential in the careers of numerous actors, including Johnny Depp and Robert Englund, who played the title character. While Nightmare may not have been the most successful of Wes Craven's creations, it will likely be the one that he will be remembered for. Thanks to the creation of such an influential character, this franchise is sure to live on and ensure that Wes Craven is well known by future generations.