Tuesday, November 6, 2007


“Fortunately, somebody always comes along when it’s least expected and reinvents the (horror) genre. And that’s exciting to watch.”
-- Wes Craven (1990)

And that’s kind of what Craven did with Scream, which turned Hollywood back onto horror in a big way. (Even horror icons like George Romero credited Scream for making Hollywood execs start calling him again to see if he was up to anything new.)
Yes, there was some backlash from Scream (including the resurrection of the deservedly dead slasher flick, as well as the ungodly births of TV’s Dawson’s Creek, Wasteland, and the abominable Teaching Mrs. Tingle, whose only saving graces were Helen Mirren, and the Exorcist bit), but it otherwise put horror back on the bankable map, and made Craven a force to be reckoned with once again, over two decades after his unsettling and infamous debut, Last House on the Left (which has the distinction of being on Stanley Wiater’s Disturbo 13, a list of the most “balls-to-the-wall disturbing” horror films ever made).
Anyway, for what it’s worth (and this is, after all, what we’ve come here for), my Craven 3 (in no particular order)…

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): welcome the razor-fingered Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs, as Freddy Krueger gives us our first walking (or should that be, running?) tour of Elm Street (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare—the 7th in the Elm Street franchise—was Craven’s first, badly botched attempt at postmodern horror, which Kevin Williamson showed him how to do correctly in the Scream films)

Deadly Blessing (1981): though Craven isn’t particularly fond of this one, I still think it’s a nice little horror tale that straddles the line, making the viewer wonder whether there’s a natural explanation for all the sh!t going down, or if it really is an incubus haunting the scenic Pennsylvania Dutch countryside (it’s also got Sharon Stone in it, long before she was “Sharon Stone”)

And, two for the price of one! Scream (1996) and Scream 2 (1997): postmodern horror cinema’s finest hour(s), these are horror films for horror film fans, and display Craven’s suspense at its tautest (please disregard Scream 3, with its limp screenplay by Ehren Krueger—who likewise degraded Ringu into its slick Hollywood doppelganger; the only memorable things in Scream 3 are the cameos, and indie queen Parker Posey)

Yeah, The Hills Have Eyes is a classic, but it’s also (like Last House) pretty bleak and hard to sit through. (It’s also pretty much Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre, with a social commentary. And this is, after all, the Craven 3. Or 4, if you want to be picky, so I had to make some tough choices.)

And, just to take a peek at the cruddy end of the spectrum, Craven’s also had a bunch of clunkers, the worst quite possibly being Deadly Friend (which was such a crapfest because of studio interference). Sad, since the script was adapted from a novel by Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the screenplay for the brilliant Jacob’s Ladder. (Though he also wrote… ulp… Ghost.)
Cursed is also a stinker, but you can read about that in the Archive.

“[Wes Craven] may need a good screenwriting collaborator, the way Billy Wilder needed collaborators I.A.L. Diamond and Charles Brackett to produce his best films.
“Craven’s masterpiece awaits; and I for one am eager to see it.”
-- Ed Gorman
“Several Hundred Words About Wes Craven” (1992)

(I think that masterpiece was Scream/Scream 2, that “good screenwriting collaborator,” Kevin Williamson, but then again, that’s just me.)

Parting shot: In recent years, Craven has been involved with The Hills Have Eyes remake and its sequel, as well as acting as one of the producers of Feast. He also co-wrote the script for the English-language remake of Pulse and contributed a great short to Paris Je T’aime.
He’s now reportedly at work on a sequel to The People Under The Stairs (as producer) and a remake of his own Shocker, which he is slated to direct.
(Reviews of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Cursed, The Hills Have Eyes II, Feast, and Paris Je T’aime can be found in the Archive.)

(Wes Craven image courtesy of webwombat.com.au; A Nightmare On Elm Street, Deadly Blessing, Scream, Scream 2 OS’s courtesy of impawards.com.)

(The above is an altered version of an identically-titled article.)

No comments: