Goodbye Wes Craven, and Thanks for the Nightmares

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When Scream came out in 1996, it revitalized the slasher genre and awoke something special in me: from that moment on, I would always be a horror buff. I’m starting with Scream because for me, it represents some of the best cinema of the 1990s and I will always be a ‘90s kid at heart. Scream was my first taste of the joy of watching movies, a joy that Wes Craven would bring to me again and again with each of his films. Less than a decade before I was born, he was making audiences hide beneath blankets as they watched Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street and even earlier with 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes, both of which I discovered later with equal enthusiasm.

Wes-Craven

Wes Craven was an inimitable director, even though many tried—the countless remakes can attest to that. That was the beauty of Wes Craven: you didn’t need to remake his films. As an adult university graduate who has entered the workforce, I still can’t fall asleep after one of my many repeat viewings of Nightmare. Craven followed up by turning his biggest hits into some of the biggest horror franchises in cinema’s history. Yet unlike the predictable trap that most sequels and series fall into, Craven’s evolved as they progressed. He possessed an unrivaled eye for how his films fit into the changing industry. You didn’t exactly always end up in the same situation you started in, but there’s no way you could say you didn’t enjoy the ride.

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Craven passed away from brain cancer on Sunday, August 30, leaving movie fans saddened and the horror genre a little bit emptier. He had an incomparable career. Nightmare spawned nine films, a television show, novels, comics, and more. The Scream films made over $600 million and a brilliant television series that just premiered this summer. Even his films that didn’t spark franchises, like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, inspired remakes. I was fortunate enough to write the last paper of my undergraduate career on Wes Craven, focusing on the brilliance of the Scream series and its use of tropes of gender and sexuality. To date it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in academia, and that’s thanks to Mr. Craven. Getting to watch the Scream movies over and over again as an assignment? That’s pure, unadulterated joy! Even though Craven is no longer with us physically, his legacy (screams, yes, but that pure movie-watching joy, as well) will never leave us. I like to think that whether we’re awake or asleep, Wes Craven is watching—and terrifying—us with impish glee. But beware of the glint from strange sharp objects—it might just be Freddy.

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