Wesley Earl "Wes" Craven (August 2, 1939 - August 30, 2015) was an American film director, producer and writer, and was the creator of many iconic and genre-defining horror films. He was probably best known for his creation of Freddy Krueger, the dream-haunting villain introduced in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). He also found great success a decade later with the movie Scream (1996), a deconstruction of the slasher sub-genre that launched a slew of late 90's imitation horror films.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Craven was raised by a Baptist family and was reportedly a target for bullies (including one with the same name as his most famous creation). After leaving home, he gained an education in English Literature, Psychology, and Writing; he then married, and started a family. His marriage ended after five years, and his children left with his ex-wife. He moved to New York, and eventually directed The Last House on the Left, followed five years later by The Hills Have Eyes (1977). The success of these movies made him a seminal name in horror cinema.
Additionally, he directed a number of episodes of The Twilight Zone (1985) and, quite bizarrely, the biopic Music of the Heart (his only PG rated movie). Craven joked that he went "from violence to violins" in directing a movie about a music educator played by Meryl Streep.
He has also written one novel, Fountain Society, which deals with scientists doing brain transplants.
His personal website is located here.
He died of brain cancer on August 30, 2015. He was 76.
- The Last House on the Left (1972)
- The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
- Deadly Blessing (1981)
- Swamp Thing (1982)
- Invitation to Hell (1984)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984)
- Deadly Friend (1986)
- The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
- Shocker (1989)
- The People Under the Stairs (1991)
- Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
- Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
- Scream (1996)
- Scream 2 (1997)
- Music of the Heart (1999)
- Scream 3 (2000)
- Cursed (2005)
- Red Eye (2005)
- My Soul to Take (2010)
- Scream 4 (2011)
Common Tropes in Craven's Work Include:
- Action Girl: Nancy Thompson and Sidney Prescott being the most notable examples.
- Adults Are Useless: Either that, or the adults are a serious part of the problem.
- Deconstruction: Scream (1996) was so successful that it made the 80's slasher impossible to take seriously anymore. It did however lead to a resurgence of slasher movies in the late 1990s and the 2000s, typically self-aware or at least lampshading several genre tropes.
- Decoy Protagonist: Most of his films start out with a character who is set up to become the protagonist, only to die so that the focus can be shifted to someone else for the remainder of the story.
- Family-Unfriendly Violence: Virtually all of his movies.
- Final Girl: In most films, although Shocker features a Final Guy.
- Gorn: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), in particular.
- Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: On A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The People Under the Stairs and My Soul to Take.
- Police Are Useless: Cops are usually incompetent, though well meaning. Oftentimes they're a complete hinderance to the main characters.
- Postmodernism: Wes Craven's New Nightmare and the Scream movies take this Up to Eleven.
- Rape as Drama: His characters tended to either be raped, are implied to be raped, are raped as a backstory, or are rapists themselves.
- The Last House on the Left is a loose retelling (with a Setting Update) of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring.
- In one scene during A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead is playing on a TV in the background, which itself is a Shout-Out to Sam Raimi putting a poster of Craven's The Hills Have Eyes in the background of The Evil Dead.
- Slasher Movie: Two of the most famous examples, too.
- Take That!: One of the working titles for The Last House on the Left was Krug & Company. That title and the name "Freddy Krueger" were both taken from a bully from Craven's childhood.
Tropes about Wes Craven himself, Include:
- As Himself: He played himself in Wes Craven's New Nightmare, his name is even in the title.
- Creator Cameo: He had quite a few appearances in his own movies.
- Death by Irony: The creator of Freddy Krueger, a ghost entity killing people from within their dreams while asleep...died in his bed while resting.
- This can also count as a — Harsher in Hindsight moment for the movie series itself.
- Ironic Name: "Craven" means cowardly. This isn't how you would refer to a horror movie director.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: His full name was "Wesley" but he has always been known as Wes.
- Passed in Their Sleep: How he died on the night of August 30th 2015.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: He once walked out of Reservoir Dogs because the extreme violence disgusted him. Wrap your brains around THAT.
- Quentin Tarantino argued in an interview with Vulture that Craven's direction kept Scream from being better than it was. (Awkwardly, it was only a few days before Craven passed away...)
- The first monster you have to scare the audience with is yourself.