You’ve probably heard it already but in case not: It is with a heavy heart that we report that legendary horror maestro Wes Craven has died age 76. His death follows a battle with brain cancer and he was surrounded by family at his home.
Few directors in Hollywood have been more influential in changing how people view an entire genre. He first shocked cinemagoers with the controversial Last House on the Left way back in 1972 but it’s a film that is still pretty jaw-dropping to this day. Following that he made the likes of The Hills Have Eyes and its sequel, as well as Swamp Thing.
But it wasn’t until the ’80s and a certain dream killer that Craven really made his mark. With 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven gave us arguably the most iconic silver-screen killer of all in Freddy Krueger, iconically played by Robert Englund. He took a genre that had become comfortable in real world killers with a big knife stalking and kill young people and made that univerasally scary – everyone has to sleep some time.
12 years later he reinvented the genre once more, this time in a more self-aware way. Although you could argue he introduced that side of himself fully with Elm Street sequel Freddy’s New Nightmare, 1996’s meta-horror Scream took the world by storm with its mix of sophisticated genre in-jokes, compelling whodunit mystery and good old-fashioned scares. Not to mention giving us another instantly iconic villain in Ghostface.
Although he never really got out from under the shadow of his most iconic creations for the rest of his career – his last film saw him go back to the Scream franchise for a third sequel – he remained one of the most influential, famous and important figures of horror cinema, one who was often imitated (and parodied) but never bested. It’s truly a great loss for the industry and movie fans the world over. Our thoughts are with Wes’ family at this time.
R.I.P. Wes Craven. You scared us all, sir.