Craving the Craven: A Look at Horror Master WES CRAVEN

I posted a poll asking people to pick their favorite American horror film director. There was a choice of 17 directors with an option for “other”. The overwhelming favorite was Wes Craven.

John Carpenter x 1
David Cronenberg x 2
Joe Dante x 2
Stuart Gordon x 2
Tobe Hooper x 1
Sam Raimi x 1
George Romero x 1
Rob Zombie x 1
Wes Craven x 6

You said give me some Wes Craven and some Wes Craven you shall have!
wes-craven-nightmareA BRIEF HISTORY

Craven was born in Cleveland Ohio and went on to eventually get a masters from J. Hopkins University. He taught humanities to college students and got married and had a couple kids. He left the teaching career behind and drove cab for a stint before landing a job as a sound editor. He directed a film with Sean Cunningham in 1971 (Cunningham went on to direct Friday the 13th in 1980) and never looked back. In 1972 he directed his first horror feature “THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT”.

deadly-friend-promo-posterTHE FILMS

Below is a look at Wes Craven’s list of films from 1972 to present.

Craven’s considerable contribution to the horror industry cannot be denied. The man did “A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET” for god sake! Freddy is without a doubt one of the most recognizable iconic horror figures in history! His first two films are the nastiest of his career and “Hills” is one of my personal favorites. “THE HILLS HAVE EYES” and “THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT” garnered much praise but the extreme violence in the films were palatable only to those who were fans of the genre. Not to say that Craven didn’t do anything good after these two films but he certainly didn’t do anything as gritty.

scream-2-promo-poster1It has been too long since I seen his next effort, “DEADLY BLESSINGS” but I do remember liking this one as a kid, I recall a scene with a tarantula dropping into a woman’s mouth. Now “SWAMP THING” is a movie I totally dig. I have never seen the original film but I love the cheesy comic book feeling this film has. The interaction between Swamp Thing and Adrienne Barbeau was perfect. The next film in the queue is “A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET”. You may not be a fan of this series but you can hardly deny that the concept of a man burned alive by a mob and coming back to kill the mobs children while they sleep is anything short of brilliant. Over the course of the series it has offered some of the most original and occasionally hilarious deaths to grace celluloid. Unfortunately this little piece of perfection was followed up by two of Craven’s weakest films. The only good thing about “THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2” is that wonderful cheesy, retro inspired promotional poster. freddy2“DEADLY FRIEND” I thought wasn’t such a bad idea but it would have been better served as a horror comedy. It is pretty hard to swallow a boy genius with a robot companion saving his friend by implanting his robots brain in her. He adds this whole abusive father angle in there too which really solidifies Craven somehow thought we would actually take this seriously. I can not tell you how much I love the tagline for the film “THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW”. “Don’t bury me…I’m not dead!” is one of those great quotes that stay with you. Sometimes I just randomly shout it out at work. This was a bloody good film and Pullman gives an excellent, memorable performance. Bringing an evil bastard back from the dead worked well for him once so he tried it again with “SHOCKER”. This time the killer gets the chair and uses electricity to bring himself back. It certainly is not “NIGHTMARE” caliber but does definitely have its charms. “THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS” is a dungeon favorite. I love everything about this film. It is not really all that scary or suspenseful or gory, but it is wonderfully strange and original. “A NEW NIGHTMARE” is not one of the best efforts in the series by any means but we still like it. It’s Freddy so It’s okay by me. Eddie Murphy as a vampire did not work for me and in “VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN”, he seems uncomfortable and out of his element. When the general population thinks of Wes Craven “SCREAM” is the one film they can name; His most commercially successful film. Sure, I liked the first Scream. It was smart and fun even though it was packed with star power. But talk about your unnecessary sequels. Ick. The second one was tolerable but the 3rd in the series was an abomination. And there is now talk of a fourth. “CURSED” was exactly that and it was all I could do to sit through the whole thing. “RED EYE” I thought was great up to mid-film but lost me after that. One of the dumbest endings ever. It really is more of a “thriller” than a horror. His last film is Paris J’taime. He is one of several directors including Joel and Ethan Coen, Tom Tykwer, and Gus Van Sant who contribute to this really excellent collection of short stories about love in the city of Paris.

Mr. Craven will be 70 years old this August and is still going strong. He has a film in production right now about a serial killer who returns to his hometown to stalk seven kids who share a birthday with his date of death. Sounds fun and it is full of lesser known actors and actresses which I find most intriguing indeed. Although the Dungeon may not be overly fond of his more recent efforts they have been shocker-promo-postercommercial successes for a director who has definitely put in his time behind the camera. His film “MUSIC OF THE HEART”, his only non-horror entry was nominated for two Oscars; one for Streep for Best Actress and another for original song. Craven has some TV credits, including The Twilight Zone but below I have included only the Horror film titles he directed. He has an extensive list of writing and producing credits also. Among others he produced
“WISHMASTER”, “DRACULA 2000” and “FEAST” and wrote the screenplay for the American remake of the Asian film “PULSE”. Sure
there have been a few fumbles but when you have been directing horror for 37 years you are entitled. Wes Craven is indisputably one of the great horror masters.

Scream 4 (2010) (announced) (in talks)

25/8 (2009) (post-production)

Starring: Max Thieriot, Denzel Whitaker, Frank Grillo, Zena Grey, Danai Jekesai Gurira, Dennis Boutsikaris and Trevor St. John

Red Eye (2005)

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox and Jayma Mays

Cursed (2005)

Starring: Mya, Shannon Elizabeth, Portia de Rossi, Kristina Anapau, Daniel Edward Mora, Solar, Jesse Eisenberg, Milo Ventimiglia, Jonny Acker, Eric Ladin, Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson and Derek Mears

Scream 3 (2000)

Starring: Liev Schreiber, Kelly Rutherford, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Lynn McRee, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Patrick Warburton and David Arquette

Scream 2 (1997)

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Elise Neal, Jerry O’Connell, Timothy Olyphant, Jada Pinkett Smith and Liev Schreiber

Scream (1996/I)

Starring: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, W. Earl Brown and Drew Barrymore

Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, Allen Payne, Kadeem Hardison, John Witherspoon, Zakes Mokae and Joanna Cassidy

New Nightmare (1994)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, David Newsom, Tracy Middendorf, Wes Craven, John Saxon, Robert Shaye, Sara Risher and Marianne Maddalena

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Starring: Brandon Quintin Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer, Ving Rhames, Sean Whalen, Bill Cobbs and Kelly Jo Minter

Shocker (1989)

Starring: Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Mitch Pileggi, Sam Scarber, Camille Cooper, Ted Raimi, Keith Anthony-Lubow-Bellamy and Heather Langenkamp

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Conrad Roberts and Badja Djola

Deadly Friend (1986)

Starring: Matthew Laborteaux, Kristy Swanson, Michael Sharrett, Anne Twomey, Anne Ramsey, Richard Marcus and Russ Marin

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985)

Starring: Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, John Bloom, Colleen Riley, Michael Berryman, Penny Johnson, Janus Blythe, John Laughlin and Willard E. Pugh

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Starring: John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp, Charles Fleischer, Joseph Whipp, Robert Englund, Lin Shaye and Joe Unger

Swamp Thing (1982)

Starring: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise, David Hess, Nicholas Worth, Don Knight, Al Ruban and Dick Durock

Deadly Blessing (1981)

Starring: Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Susan Buckner, Jeff East, Colleen Riley, Douglas Barr, Lisa Hartman, Lois Nettleton and Ernest Borgnine

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Starring: Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, John Steadman, James Whitworth, Virginia Vincent, Lance Gordon and Michael Berryman

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Starring: Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess, Fred J. Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr

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