Legendary director Wes Craven passed recently, so let’s take a look at his legacy and see why he will still be remembered for years to come, by examining some of his best films.
Some of his films are definitely misses, but when he hit – he really hit. He really made his mark for many people with his classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, released in 1984.
This film hasn’t aged well, unfortunately. But it’s still a classic in it’s own right, spawning an entire franchise and creating a new monster for our nightmares with Freddy Krueger. While the film’s age does show, especially now, Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy still stands up. So do the ideas behind it, and the tongue in cheek undertone saved the film from taking itself too seriously and being poorer for it.
While the franchise stumbled along rather badly towards the end until it almost became a parody of itself, Wes came to it’s rescue with New Nightmare in 1994.
This is seen by many as a true return to the film’s horror roots, even if it is slightly tongue in cheek with it’s fourth wall breaking plot. The fact is, though – Freddy Krueger himself is a legend that will live through the ages, and while the remake perhaps didn’t capture the spirit of the originals, it still shows Craven’s lasting legacy.
The surrealism of Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the things that makes it great, and a lot of that was thanks to the dreamlike setting. It allowed Wes Craven to get really creative with the artistic direction, and allowed Robert Englund to portray Freddy as a truly nightmarish creature devoid of humanity.
Sadly, Robert’s performance is the only one that really stands out, with the rest of the characters being fairly one dimensional. This, coupled with the dated special effects, mean that it does wear it’s years rather badly but I still feel that if you can put this behind you, it’s well worth watching.
The next film that Wes is well known for is undoubtedly Scream. Scream revitalised the slasher horror genre, and again had the tongue in cheek humour laid underneath the horror.
The film pokes fun at horror tropes, especially the “sex = death” trope that at it’s best with the infamous Halloween scene, while also being scary itself. It wasn’t really what I would call a “comedy horror” like the Scary Movie films it spawned, but it definitely knew how to poke fun at itself and the genre.
This franchise was better at maintaining it’s quality over the various iterations, and while Scream 3 is not great, the franchise never reached the depths of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: Dream Child. I have to yet to see Scream 4, but I have heard that it is a return to form. While I don’t think Ghostface will quite have the lasting power of Freddy, everyone knows his image.
While some might think “Scary Movie”, most will think “Scream”, or maybe both. Just like Nightmare on Elm Street before it, the Scream franchise is home to some pretty gory deaths (although nothing on the Johnny Depp death from the original Nightmare) which again showed Craven’s creativity and sometimes depraved sense of humour.
He is also remembered fondly for Red Eye, The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left. While the remakes of the second two are better remembered than the rather dated originals, Craven still had a hand in their creation.
The Hills Have Eyes especially is regarded to be a very good horror film in a time that was full of mediocre horror films retreading the same tired ideas, and some would argue that it supersedes the 1977 original.
In short, although Craven’s films aren’t all hits, the hits he did have will be remembered for a long time after his passing, and the villains he created will probably last even longer than the films themselves. Now, time to rewatch Scream again.