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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Matt's Movie Mortuary: A Welcome Nightmare – A Small Salute to Wes Craven

A Short Look Back at a Legend

By Matt Wintz

When I was asked to write about the recent passing of Wes Craven, I knew there were several things I could say. I could talk about his lasting impact and how he turned the horror genre on its ear twice with his movies "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream." I could talk about his controversial movie "The Last House on the Left," or the fact young actors such as Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette had found breaks in some of his movies. The thing is, when it comes to the horror genre, Wes Craven should also be remembered for how he made horror cool to like. A genre that critics and moral crusaders hated, Wes Craven created movies whose murderous main characters crossed over into the mainstream and were loved.

Freddy Krueger transcended the small piece of the horror cinema corner he slashed for himself. Brought to life through the writing of Craven and acting of Robert Englund, Freddy found himself on MTV, having his own show entitled "Freddy's Nightmares," and became a pop icon. Without the genius of Wes Craven, he could have just been a "one-and-done" character, but Craven crafted him to be able to be something more. And Wes Craven would do that again with "Scream" in the 1990s, resurrecting the horror genre from horrible movies and into blockbusters again.

Personally, the movies of Craven I enjoy the most are sometimes overlooked for "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream." I have always loved the original "The Hills Have Eyes." The bleak reflection of two families pitted against each other: one of contemporary America and the other a cannibalistic clan forgotten from the nuclear age, showed a young director with an idea and a passion who set out into the desert to make a movie. That feeling resonated with me when I was making movies of my own. Craven was part of a horror generation of directors like Romero, Carpenter, and Hooper who didn't get dissuaded from not having a large studio behind them. Without the benefits of the technology filmmakers have now, they just ducked their shoulder and worked hard to make a movie. After hitting it big, Craven attempted to make another Freddy Krueger-esque killer in the film "Shocker." While the film never caught on like Craven hoped, it still remains a film when viewed with an open mind can be one with great potential and feeling of fun.

I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Craven, but I had the opportunity to meet people who worked on films with him and they always spoke highly of him. He was an amazing artist, a brilliant writer and director, and always came across as hopeful for the next generation of genre filmmakers. In a section of film where people who cut their teeth quickly try and distance themselves, Wes Craven stood like a sentry at the gate of horror, proud of the work he'd done and aware of the possibility the genre had. He was one of the champions the genre and he will be sorely missed.

And we'll always have Elm Street.