He was the darkness that spoke your name, as eyelids slowly shut, he saw your death. He saw your face, a thousand just like you, together, always the same. He was the madman at your door, the hands underneath your bed. He was the nightmare beast clambering in the dark, and its weight, like the deepest waters of sleep, sucked you down. You drowned and became silent. You were alone, forgotten, afraid. That fear swallowed you like a grave. And all that was left was darkness. He is the killing dream.
As some of you may know, we recently lost a legend in the world of film and horror. Wes Craven, a master who incited fear and terrorized our dreams for over 40 years, passed away on August 30, 2015, losing his personal battle with brain cancer. He was 76. Wes Craven wrote and directed a myriad of films in his career to varying degrees of success. Most notably, he was the twisted mind behind such horror classics as the shocking and extremely polarizing 1972 exploitation thriller: The Last House on the Left. He also wrote and directed the brutal road trip film: The Hill’s Have Eyes. His next big hit and, what is arguably his most famous movie, was the 1984 classic: A Nightmare on Elm Street, which introduced the world to the gruesome and grotesque Freddy Krueger. He released several other films, but hit major worldwide success once again in 1996, with the release of another horror classic: Scream. Both these films spawned several sequels, leaving a legacy of horror and fear that is unmatched by any other filmmaker.
Now, I am not or ever was a huge horror fan, but in doing a little research for this blog, I was shocked at how many of his movies actually governed my nightmares and haunted me while growing up, without actually watching his films. For us born in the early to mid 80’s, I am sure we can all remember our local video rental spot. For the rest of you, viewing this blog on your phone, smart watch, tablet or computer, yes, we did have to leave our house to rent movies. For me, it was a little shop called Video Max in Cudahy, CA. I loved that place. It was down the block from our house, in a local strip mall, in between a Mexican bakery and a liquor store. This ensured you got all of the major hood essentials at once: Hot Cheetos, the newest Steven Seagal movie and sweet bread. But, this was the only time we ever saw the cover of any new movies that had just come out. Back then, only the bravest kids would, one: walk through the "Horror Section" and two: peek through the "Adult Section" curtain. Of course, I would muster any and all courage I could, from my size 5 Vans to my Osh Kosh T-Shirt and walk through the Horror Section. Big Lou would always volunteer to peek into the Adult Section. He actually invented the brilliant strategy of walking and flinging his shoe past the curtain and then going in to (Slowly) retrieve it. If he were caught, he would just tell the store clerk that he was getting his shoe. BRILLIANT.
Nevertheless, going through a list of Wes Craven's movies, I didn't realize how many of these images had been seared into my brain and, even without watching the films, actually gave me nightmares just based off the cover images. Covers for films like: Fear, Shocker, The Serpent and the Rainbow and Wishmaster are so vivid in my mind and just seeing them again here, it immediately flooded my mind with terrifying memories. I remember thinking if we got hurt and blood fell on a tree, then that tree could develop a face and spring arms and become monsters like in Fear or believing that staring into a mirror, at night, for too long, while in bed, would make the Wishmaster appear. Our fears and the process in which they manifested were always so elaborate. And in that regard, our imaginations are a tribute to the masters of horror and fear, that with a single image, a mind fulfills their vision, their mission, their killing dream. So to that, we again, thank you Mr. Craven.
BEST WES CRAVEN FILMS ON NETFLIX
The amazing and intriguing thing about horror filmmakers, in my opinion, in due part to the genre and subject matter, is that the heritage they leave behind seems to be more lasting as fear is such an intense emotion. As such, Mr. Craven will forever be immortalized in the bone chilling films he birthed in his 40+ year career. Thankfully, several of his films are now universally accessible through Netflix. Below are the four best Wes Craven films available on Netflix today!
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- What's it About: On Elm Street, Nancy Thompson and a group of her friends including Tina Gray, Rod Lane and Glen Lantz are being tormented by a clawed killer in their dreams named Freddy Krueger. Nancy must think quickly, as Freddy tries to pick off his victims one by one. When he has you in your sleep, who is there to save you? Side Note: Attacking the one place we all regard as a safe haven or sanctuary, with Nightmare on Elm Street, not even our dreams are safe. This was the inception of all (literal) nightmares, ever!
- Scream (1996)
- What's it About: One year after the death of Sidney Prescott's mother, two students turn up gutted. When a serial killer appears, Sidney begins to suspect whether her mother's death and the two new deaths are related. No one is safe, as the killer begins to pick everyone off one by one. Everyone's a suspect in this case. Side Note: Who can forget that gory first scene. From the onset of the film, you knew this was not your typical horror movie.
- Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
- What's it About: It's nearing the 10th Anniversary of the film 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' and one of the stars, Heather Langenkamp is being scared by a voice on a phone, sounding very similar to the film's villain, Freddy Krueger. When Heather's husband is killed in a car accident and is discovered with slash marks on him, Heather starts to wonder something. Especially when she discovers that Wes Craven is writing another 'Nightmare' film. Soon, she realizes that Freddy has now entered the real world, and the only way to defeat him is to become Nancy Thompson once again. Side note: A bit ahead of its time, I don't think people really appreciated how meta or self referential this film was. Much like Scream, which came after it, this film does a great job at referring to the conventions of its genre, never giving anything away too easily. But rather, fully enveloping us as viewers into the fold of the movie with all its unexpected twists and turns.
- Scream 2 (1997)
- What's it About: Two years after the events of Scream, Sidney Prescott and Randy are attending Windsor college. They are trying to get on with their lives...Until a new Ghostface killing spree begins. With the help of Dewey and Gale, Sidney must find out who's behind the murders. As the body count goes up, the list of suspects goes down. Side Note: Much like 22 Jump Street, this film, like its self aware predecessor, also knows its a sequel and plays within the confines of those conventions as well. Very clever.
Aside from the obvious choices, if you get a chance, watch Swamp Thing (1982) and People Under the Stairs (1991). As a kid, I remember these two being two of my favorite movies, up there with Monster Squad and Little Monsters. They aren't cinematic masterpieces or anything close to that, but they are definitely worth the watch for their campy and almost goofy lighthearted horror tilts. I definitely recommend you guys watch these with friends, not out of fear, but to laugh and have a good time.
What are your thoughts? What are some of Wes Cravens movies you guys remember? Which would you recommend? Are there any movies I didn't mention that you'd like people to check out? Let us know in the comments section below.
And as always, hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or in the comments section below.