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Thank You, Wes Craven (1939 – 2015)

August 31st, 2015 by unkle lancifer · 12 Comments

Don’t you hate when you hear that somebody has died and then you go to sleep and later when you wake up you find out that they’re still dead? I do. Maybe I should consider a less passive course of action when confronting life’s unpleasantries but I swear, this sleeping and re-setting plan has worked on several occasions! In any case, I think Wes Craven would understand my logic. If you are a horror fan, I’m sure you’ve heard that yesterday Mr. Craven died. I urge you to seek out the words of those who actually knew him and worked with him. He was a true great and loved by many. All I have to offer is some remembrances of a lifetime of watching his films but luckily, around this joint, that’s what it’s all about. It would be virtually impossible to be a horror fan and to not be affected by his work.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

This may not be Wes’ first film but it’s my first film of his. HILLS was a notorious late night staple in my house growing up back when there was six channels to choose from. Here in Philly I’m guessing it played after eleven on either Channel 17 or 48. The title alone would fill me with dread. I’m pretty sure I tapped out long before the end credits threatened to roll and I’m going to cite this movie as an early indicator that I worry about the safety of dogs more than I do human babies. Is that wrong?

SUMMER OF FEAR (1978)

As I recall, when this made-for-TV witch flick aired it was called A STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE but the big-boxd THORN EMI VHS tape I rented from STAGE DOOR video at the King of Prussia Mall called it SUMMER OF FEAR. This is one of my favorite Craven offerings and I suspect I’m not alone. Tame though it may be by horror standards this baby kicked off my life long love affair with both witch movies and usurper comeuppance flicks. LINDA BLAIR pouting in a fro with giant red blotches on her face is pretty much exactly what I picture my very soul looks like.

DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

One of my earliest and fondest experiences seeing a horror film in the theater and yes, I snuck in. Full review HERE.

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

Ack. For years and years this was a very hard watch for me. For some strange reason even though this film is filled with brutal rape and murder the idea of a person being forced to pee in their own pants sticks out in my brain as the height of depravity. I can actually watch this movie fine now because I demystified it by reading a book about its making (by DAVID A. SZULKIN). The POV image used on some ads that featured the three attackers looking down upon the victim inspired a bunch of paintings I did in college (though I may have changed them to aliens) and even a Kindertrauma FULL HOUSE parody.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

I had a horrendous drug experience as a teen. I can only pull it about half way out of the cupboard in my brain otherwise I’ll get freaked again. A friend and I were offered some pot and so we smoked it. We were then informed by the laughing psychotic who offered it to us that it was laced with angel dust. What then happened, for what seemed like forever, was hell on Earth complete with hallucinations and promises of death pouring out of the radio. It was an absolute nightmare and I think I got to experience my own death a couple hundred times that day. I tell you this because believe it or not, that experience was what came to my mind the first time I saw ANOES. Maybe I had post traumatic stress disorder or something but I assure you that I did not find Freddy Krueger a cute wise cracking anti-hero when I first met him. He scared the living daylights out of me. Freddy’s ability to bend reality and basically do whatever the hell he wanted (like fitting behind that tree! Like stretching his arms across an alley!), terrified me to no end and I basically half expected him to pop up in my very own, recently made unsafe dimension.

NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)

Wrote a review back HERE but mostly see above.

SCREAM and SCREAM 4 (1996 and 2011)

Yikes, that bad memory makes me want to wrap this up. In 1996 the horror genre was crying because it was basically in a boat not unlike the one it’s in today. Sure there’s always earnest and interesting indie fare guppies flopping about but who cares when you’re starving for a humongous game-changing fish? SCREAM was a serious breath of fresh air and even though it probably caused another rut to eventually come about, it also spurred a lot of great stuff too. All I know is that after I saw SCREAM I had to drag friends to see it too and that’s the best review I can give a movie. I don’t have to tell you about that opening scene! You know!

And I love SCREAM 4. The second one is darn good (besides the singing), I’m one of those people who don’t care for the third (Today I’ll blame the cinematographer) but I do love Part 4 (I probably explain why in this old review HERE and here’s an entire SCREAM-a-thon HERE.). I’m just sad (and a little greedy) that it’s his last.

Anyhoo, thanks for all the memories, Wes both good and bad and fond and not so fond. Craven brought so much to horror that nobody else could and he saw the value and meaning beyond the surface and made sure his audience did too. He was a chronically innovative artist and storyteller and he broke new ground and paved the way more times than he is given credit for. When he hit, he hit hard and when he missed he missed hard but the misses never stopped him from moving on and hitting that nail right smack on the head again like nobody else could. How many times did he revitalize the entire genre? What are we going to do without you Wes? Who will save us now?

Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · Kinder-News




12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben SNo Gravatar // Aug 31, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    I had the same experience as you. I woke up, everything felt normal for a minute, and then I had the thought “Wes Craven is dead.” And now I’m depressed again. Thank you as always for the tribute. We watched SUMMER OF FEAR last night to celebrate him!

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 31, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Thanks Ben! You know, now that I think of it SUMMER OF FEAR can be seen as the prequel to WITCHERY! When I went to grab that image, it was all I could do not to watch the whole movie. I’m going to have to do that tonight. Linda Blair makes everything better.

  • 3 Thru-The-BlindsNo Gravatar // Aug 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    SUMMER OF FEAR was a young adult novel by Lois Duncan — the movie was good but the book is even better!

    R.I.P. Mr. Craven, and thank you for scaring the crap out of us for so many wonderful years!

  • 4 johnnyblackoutNo Gravatar // Aug 31, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    I did a few projects for Dimension Films, and would often borrow my friend’s desk when he was away on a set. I just liked working out of the offices. Air-conditioning. Wes Craven came in to discuss either A: THEY which Bob Weinstein REALLY needed surgery on or B: A Scream sequel (or Cursed – I don’t remember). But Wes and Bob were always having meetings. I met Wes Craven and I was such a geek. I praised Nightmare, Shocker, Scream, even deep cuts like Deadly Friend. He was so freakin’ nice. One day I was there, Wes went out, and came back with coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts for everyone. All the stories you hear about Wes Craven are true. He was really kind, and friendly, and loved his fans. RIP.

  • 5 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Aug 31, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    Heck, I even liked “Cursed”. A lot! Seriously – I’ve seen it like four times.

    I’ve heard it said that when we pass on we become a dream. I think that would please Wes.

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 31, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Thru-The-Blinds,

    I’ve gotta read that book but I can only read it if it has this exact cover….

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/e2/56/50/e25650a78950ac17a3e99b963da2e3fc.jpg

    johnnyblackout,

    I’ve never heard anything but nice stuff about him. He was very much loved.

    And thank you for bringing up THEY! That’s going on my underrated list for sure. I’ve always liked that movie even though it got the worst reviews.

    Chuckles,

    Now I’m kicking myself for not owning CURSED for a re-watch tonight. Damn. You’d think I’d have it on my shelf for the Christina Ricci factor alone.

    Wait, I think it might be on an ECHO BRIDGE set because it’s a Dimension title. I got some digging to do!

    If all else fails I can fall back on INVITATION TO HELL or DEADLY FRIEND.

  • 7 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 1, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Wow, how had I forgotten about They! I loved it.

    Thanks for mentioning New Nightmare. I really need to give that another go. I LOVED it when I saw it in theater, and I remember a story Wes told that in his scene where he’s explaining how Freddy can exist in the real world, he’s half smiling because he said he was just so excited to be making the movie!

    He was amazing. I loved most of his films, and the amount of thought he weaved into his metaphors make his movies relentlessly fascinating.

    I miss him so much. I rode on an elevator with him once and it took everything in me not to freak out on him. In retrospect, I wish I had.

  • 8 DrakeNo Gravatar // Sep 1, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Wow, so sad to hear. I was actually watching SUMMER OF FEAR on Sunday (because summer cannot end until I’ve had my dose of Southern witches and Linda Blair’s hair-nanigans) and had an urge for a Wes Craven marathon. Now it’s mandatory!

    Wes has a special place in my dark heart and several milestones and memories seem to be associated with his movies. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT in particular — it’s like the juvenile delinquent best friend I always I wanted!

    To help take some of the sting out, I’d like to share this Wes Craven interview by Joe Bob Briggs. Wes lives on!

  • 9 Thru-The-BlindsNo Gravatar // Sep 2, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Unk – that book cover is *awesome*. I’ve seen several different covers over the years but never that one. Even the one on my bookshelf has more generic, less creepy artwork than that!

  • 10 herrsundvall68No Gravatar // Sep 3, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t want to step on any toes here, but I don’t understand why the mention of “They”, which Craven neither wrote nor directed and does not even have an exec producer credit, which was supposedly his only contribution to the movie.The only reason I go on about this was the total lack of mention for “Serpent and the Rainbow ” and
    “People Under the Stairs” which I thought were two of his best in the end of that decade.Once again apologies for sounding strident , I paid to see “They” in the theater and thought the story pretty much ran in place for entire movie.

  • 11 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Sep 3, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    herrsundvall68,

    I don’t think anyone thinks Craven had much to do with THEY but the mentioning of that title by johnnyblackout made me remember that it was a movie that I thought was underrated.

    The comment section is pretty much an anything goes place around here.

    In the actual post my idea was to bring up the films of Craven’s that I had strong memories about.

    SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STARS are great movies, they just didn’t have as big of an affect on me.

    In fact, I was a big fan of the Serpent and The Rainbow book by Wade Davis and the movie was so far removed from it that it took me a while to get used to it.

    But that scene at the dinner table was incredible and memorable for sure.

    Anyway, I’m not happy with this post either. If I had more time it would have been a lot better.

    But I think you’d need a couple books to even begin to cover Craven’s contributions.

    And I’m such a slow writer that it’s a miracle I even finished that post in one day.

    Also I have to warn you, I put THEY in my upcoming underrated list so you might want to skip over that one. I can’t change it now!

    Anyway, thanks for bringing up SERPENT and PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS.

    I’m sure we can agree that CRAVEN was one of a kind and his passing was a GIANT loss for horror and film.

    Thru-The-Blinds,

    I actually wish that book cover was a poster I could hang on my wall or maybe a T-shirt.

    Drake,

    Thanks for the JOE BOB interview! That hit the spot!

    Amanda,

    Yea New Nightmare seems to get better with each viewing and I know I’m not to fhe first to point it out but it’s WAY ahead of its time.

  • 12 darkkoNo Gravatar // Sep 3, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Nice write up, Unk!

    Just thought I’d add Chiller(1985) to the list. I’m not claiming it’s some secret unsung gem from Craven, but I enjoyed it.

    Some kind human posted it up on YouTube if anyone cares to take a gander. I can’t believe I just used the word “gander.” I am old.

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