GOODBYE NIGHTMARES: AN ODE TO WES CRAVEN

| August 31, 2015

The Horror Maven

Earlier this year I sifted through the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films and as anyone would expect, 1,3, and New Nightmare were among those that got the very positive notice.
This is because they were graced, whether in the fullest extent or even the first draft (Dream Warriors) by one man: Wes Craven.
Cravens name was among those that was mythologized by the time i first saw A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET at the age of 12. The film scared me to the point of little to no sleep for 3 days. It’s probably because Craven knew how to tap into the human anxiety through the common thread of a natural state and natural human occurrence, but I also like to think it’s because he was intelligent enough to blend dark humor into the process without letting it get carried away. If i ever learned about dark irony within script writing, it was through Wes first and no one else.

A scene I point to is Freddy taunting Tina by showing her that he can slice his fingers off. Its a cruel and sick joke but it is funny without relieving the tension, thus showcasing his power with horror material.

The film THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT showcases that demeanor as well, as does NEW NIGHTMARE and SCREAM, and to me reasons why he is considered one of the most regarded horror directors in history.

Today we lost an absolute genius in that world. His second to last film was MY SOUL TO TAKE. Even in that film which did not get much regard, I found myself enthralled by his touch and sensibility because you could tell he was there (its not that bad, id check it out if your curious).

He will be missed, his influence is one I shall always hold dear and will embrace to the day I too go to the beyond.

With that, I’d like to share my 5 favorite Wes Craven films with you:

5. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

Essentially and admittedly a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRINGS, LAST HOUSE is a complex narrative that digs deep into the post modern affairs of revenge and more to the point how agressive society has become. The scenes in the woods are brutal even by today’s standards, even more so than the remake attempted (which is also a fairly good film itself). The only thing that dates it primarily is the comic relief, but if you can move past or better yet embrace THAT madness, the film will prove a thought provoking ride.

4. CHILLER (1985)

Starring Paul Sorvino, it is not a very well known Craven affair, but the story of a man who loses his soul as the screenplays karmic trade-off for his being revived ten years after death is a strange and fascinating study. One of those few TV films I have pawed over again and again mainly because of Sorvino’s interesting performance, but Cravens influence is easily seen and its a fun watch that’s can be easily found in the 99 cent bin much to my chagrin .

3. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Enough has been said of this films legacy in the previous statement. Suffice it to say, the film is a masterpiece and only one of his many. Watch it and get ready for Freddy.

2. SCREAM (1996)

The more mainstream construct of the New Nightmare that brought horror back from the plunges of obscurity. Williamson’s script is perfection and Cravens mastery in the genre elevates it to the heights that no other horror director probably could have thanks to that mutal affection he and Williamson clearly had for the dark , dark humor. The climax is both unsettling and hilarious at the same time. Its a wonder to still behold.

1. NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)

Possibly the most personal film of Cravens outside of Serpent and the Rainbow (I have my theories), this stunning and Oscar worthy achievement tackles the subject of the monsters we create and how far we must go to defeat them wrapped into the most clever and blunt commentary on horror ever made by one of it’s initial perpetrators . It is a master stroke and one that should be watched on a double bill with the first Elm Street movie.

RIP Wes Craven and here’s hoping the afterlife loves you the way the living did.

About the Author:

Zach Eastman is the filmmaker responsible for films such as TWOMBLEY (Starz Film Festival 2012 Official Selection) and THE BOY WHO STARES. He is also the producer of Matty O Connor's film GUNS DRUGS AND SYNERGY, Adam Jewels award winning film THE ZONE, and Tony Grosz's TWO YEARS SINCE FRIDAY. He has been a frequent guest on REEL NERDS PODCAST and now is one of their contributors.
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