Remembering the Work of Wes Craven

by Larry Dwyer

I vividly remember seeing my first Wes Craven film. I was about five years old when my parents took me to the drive-in for a double feature. I can’t remember what the first movie was, maybe it was Grease or maybe it was Superman, but by the time the second movie started, I was supposed to be asleep in the back seat of our old AMC Rambler. I’m not sure how good a job I did pretending to be asleep but my parents didn’t seem to notice that I was laying down, watching The Hills Have Eyes from the space between the drivers seat and the drivers side window where the drive-in speaker hung in the car.

I was nearly paralyzed with fear from the opening credits with its super-eerie music and crawl-shot of the night desert. To say that The Hills Have Eyes scared me would be an understatement; it’s a film that still disturbs me to this day. It wasn’t until years later (thankfully) that I first saw The Last House on the Left and learned how a film can truly make a person uncomfortable.

Fast forward to the early 80’s and then came along one of my first obsessions with a Wes Craven film. No, it wasn’t the one you’re thinking of; it was 1982’s Swamp Thing. If you were a kid with cable in the early 80’s, you’ll remember that Swamp Thing was on HBO about twenty times a week and it seemed (much to my parents chagrin) that I did not miss a showing. I wanted to be Swamp Thing and I even begged my parents to let me dress as him for Halloween (never happened); it was a legitimate obsession. I think there was at least a year long period of my life where all I watched was Swamp Thing, Cannonball Run and DC Cab.

A Nightmare on Elm Street…I was ten years old when my father took me to the old Merrit Theater in Bridgeport, CT to see it and I can still hear him arguing with an old lady there who thought that I was too young for it. Well, my dad won the argument and I sat there munching popcorn and watching this maniac…this perfect maniac named Freddy tearing apart a group of high school friends and dropping the occasional snarky one-liner (Freddy definitely amped up the amount of one-liners as the sequels went on).

Then came Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, some NOES sequels (and many more) before we get to 1996’s Scream; a film that I will readily admit had to grow on me. I didn’t want to like this movie because it was too trendy for me…I was something of a horror hipster – too many people liked it and they weren’t even horror fans so there’s no way that this movie is good enough for me. Yeah, I was (and can still be) an asshole. At least I can now admit that Scream is a hell of a great movie and a huge chapter in the book of horror.

I can go on naming films and TV series’ that Wes Craven has put his stamp on in his grand career but if you’re reading this, you already know them all. Wes created not just movies, but icons of the horror genre that will be discussed and dissected for as long as film is talked about.

Craven, Romero, Carpenter, Hooper, Raimi…there are not many “masters of horror” out there and yesterday, we lost one of the best.

Rest in Peace, Wes Craven. The world will miss your work.

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