Wes Craven on the set of the 1999 drama “Music of the Heart,” an occasional departure from horror films.
CreditKerry Hayes/Miramax Films
Wes Craven, a master of horror cinema and a proponent of the slasher genre who was best known for creating the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” franchises, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 76.The cause was brain cancer, his family said.
Perhaps Mr. Craven’s most famous creation was the serial killer Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, who, with his razor-blade glove, haunted the dreams of high school students in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) and its sequels. Krueger became one of the best-known villains in horror movie history, often mentioned alongside Michael Myers of the “Halloween” franchise and Jason Voorhees of the “Friday the 13th” films.
The first “Nightmare on Elm Street” cost $1.8 million to make and grossed about $25 million.
It also spawned six sequels, although Mr. Craven directed only the last one, “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994). Much as dreams had overlapped with reality in the other “Nightmare” movies and in Craven films like “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977), “The Serpent and the Rainbow” (1988) and “The People Under the Stairs” (1991), “New Nightmare” blurred the line between fiction and reality: Mr. Craven played himself, and the film was set in a world where the “Nightmare” movies existed but where Freddy Krueger was also a real person menacing the actress Heather Langenkamp, a star of the original movie.
Mr. Craven was well known for creating Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, his cinematic alter ego
CreditGary Farr/New Line Cinema
It was at his first teaching spot as
a humanities professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., that Craven fell in love with film at the local art house theater and his life took a dramatic turn. He started originally editing porn movies and then writing scripts but it was not until he changed jobs and was teaching English at Presbyterian Westminster College in Pennsylvania and that in 1972 he directed his first feature film, “Last House on the Left,”.
House was a low-budget, extremely violent horror movie and it was marketed as such, but it was inspired by “The Virgin Spring,” Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning 1960 film and took the twist that a returning Viet Nam vet was horrified by the rape of his teenage daughter. It was indeed popular because like Death Wish and Billy Jack, it tapped into Americans desire of revenge against the destructive criminal forces that rose with the increase of drug abuse from the hippie 60’s.
|Courteney Cox in the 2011 film “Scream 4.”
|It was the nightmare sequence of “Last House on the Left” that inspired “A Nightmare on Elm Street. Click here to House on utube.It takes about 15 minutes to download the 720p version.
Next was “The Hills Have Eyes,” which centered on a group of savages out to kill a family stranded in the desert.
In recent years “Last House on the Left,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” have all been successfully remade,; Craven did not direct the remakes.
Wesley Earl Craven was born on Aug. 2, 1939, in Cleveland to Paul and Caroline Craven. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois and a master’s in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. He is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka; a sister, Carol Buhrow; a son, Jonathan; a daughter, Jessica; and a stepdaughter, Nina Tarnawksy.
In David Konow’s book “Reel Terror: The Scary, Bloody, Gory, Hundred-Year History of Classic Horror Films” (2012), Mr. Craven was quoted explaining his theory about horror movies: that they have to get under moviegoers’ skin in unexpected ways.
“Horror movies have to show us something that hasn’t been shown before so that the audience is completely taken aback,” he said. “You see, it’s not just that people want to be scared; the reality is –people are scared.”