On August, 30, 2015, horror director Wes Craven, best known as the creator of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and ‘Scream” film franchises died at the age of seventy-six. The filmmaker passed away from complications with brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles.
Craven had a storied legacy in horror filmmaking, beginning with his controversial 1972 rape-revenge film “The Last House On The Left”, and the creepy killer mutant picture “The Hills Have Eyes” (starring Michael Berryman). After a dud (1981’s “Deadly Blessing”), and 1982 pseudo-cult classic “Swamp Thing”, he hit it big with 1984’s “A Nightmare On Elm Street” featuring the iconic slasher villain Freddy Krueger (played by Robert Englund). The character proved so popular that he launched seven more sequels (Craven however, would only direct one more installment, 1994’s “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”)
After “Nightmare’s” success, Craven notably tackled voodoo in 1988’s “The Serpent and The Rainbow”, and had a minor horror hit with 1991’s “The People Under The Stairs.” But he came back in a big way with 1996’s “Scream”, a horror comedy that poked fun at fright film cliches. He would direct four “Scream” films in total, the most recent being 2011’s “Scream 4.”
Born Wesley Earl Craven Aug. 2, 1939, in Cleveland, Ohio, he studied English and psychology at Wheaton College, later earning a philosophy and writing masters from Johns Hopkins.
Elements from his studies were borne into his filmmaking, where characters fate’s were largely decided by their stances and psychological motivations.
In addition to his filmmaking skills, he had a knack for casting, giving early roles to the likes of Bruce Willis, Rachel McAdams, Sharon Stone and Johnny Depp.
And he even had a chance to work with master thespian Meryl Streep in the 1999 drama “Music of the Heart.” He noted in an 2014 interview with Mick Garris that “We had a very difficult time getting an audience into a theater on my name. In fact, we moved toward downplaying my name a lot on “Music of the Heart”. The more famous you are for making kinds of outrageous scary films, the crossover audience will say, ‘I don’t think so.”
Another little known fact was Craven’s stance as a bird conservationist, becoming a longtime member of the Audubon California Board of Directors. In a fitting homage to one of his favorite directors, his bird-themed monthly column for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine was titled “Wes Craven’s The Birds.”
Craven is survived by his his sister Carol, son Jonathan, daughter Jessica, grandchildren Miles, Max and Myra-Jean his stepdaughter Nina and his wife, former Disney Studios vice president Iya Labunka.
R.I.P. Wes Craven 1939-2015.