Honoring Craven: Director Earned Prime Spot Among Horror Greats

The world of horror cinema lost one of its pioneers Aug. 31.

Wesley Earl Craven, better known simply as Wes, passed away in his California home after a battle with brain cancer. Known for a dark sense of humor and thoughtful and entertaining horror films, Craven was incredibly popular to genre fans around the world, and his death caught many off guard.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1938, he was raised in a Baptist church lifestyle. Due to his upbringing, he was unable to attend movies until he was at college. It was not until he was a humanity professor at Potsdam College in New York when he caught the film bug. He, along with some of his students, bought an eight-millimeter camera and began making films in 1969.

There are always questions about who is the greatest in a particular field, but, while many have their own opinions, there’s no denying Craven’s contribution to the horror genre.

Beginning with “The Last House on the Left,”in 1972 he carved out a niche for himself by pairing extreme violence with surprising humor and thoughtful stories.

His next film, 1975’s “The Hills Have Eyes,” was based on actual events he found while researching murders at a public library.

The professor in Craven never left throughout his near 40-year run. While directors such as John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and George Romero have also had successful careers, none have done it with the style and grace of the Cleveland, Ohio native.

In 1984, arguably the greatest horror villain of all time was unleashed upon the world when Craven created Freddy Krueger with the release of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Throughout his illustrious career, Craven worked with Hollywood stars such as Eddie Murphy, Meryl Streep, Omar Epps, Jada Pinkett, Lance Henrikesen and Anthony Anderson.

In 1988, he did what no other film director would do and invaded the Haitian jungles, where he filmed the definite voodoo film “The Serpent and the Rainbow.”

Throughout his time with us, he also had a hand in creating the legendary “Ghostface” and the ever popular “Scream” series.

Craven helped usher in the post-meta horror film by having characters who knew they were in a horror movie and knew the rules to survive. He always had his fingers on the nation’s pulse.

Near the end of his career, he decided to retire from directing, with his last effort being “Scream 4.” His last couple years were spent helping young directors get their foot in the door producing independent films.

While many will spend years arguing over who is the greatest in any field, Wes Craven’s filmography and lasting impact on not only the genre but the fans, actors and even media puts him at the top of that list.

There will never be another who puts as much heart, humor, soul and thought into their films than Wes Craven.

This article originally appeared in the September 9, 2015 print edition of The Echo.

image via bishopdeville.com

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