A first in a series dedicated to all sorts of horror directors will be discussed today! And out of all of the many, many, many directors who have their foot in horror and left a big staple, I wanted to start with a big personal favorite of mine. I think he and his presence is truly missed in the genre, very talented and innovative. I think without his work, I wonder if horror would have even changed.
So today I’m gonna share some of my favorites in a not so long filmography of the late but great Wes Craven.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – The first in my favorite franchise of the “big 3”, there’s nothing like this first one. You know what makes this movie work even today? Great practical effects and we barely see Freddy or his face. He’s barely in this first one but when he’s on screen, he really demands your attention.
Scream (1996) – Overrated or not, we can’t sit here and deny the impact Scream has had on pop culture. I like Scream, I have a love/hate with the rest of the franchise but Wes was a HUGE reason why the later films worked. But since this is the first one, the directing is great. The set up, the fake out at the beginning with Drew Barrymore, I love all the characters. I really love the dynamic of Stu and Billy, too.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) – I personally think this film is a blueprint of what Scream becomes in my opinion. It’s well aware of itself, we have actors playing versions of “themselves”, some based on real experiences and I like the idea of something you created taking on a life on its own and transforming. I’ve seen a lot of the behind the scenes and the fact that they used real life earthquake footage (that was happening during the filming) is quite amazing and serendipitous.
Red Eye (2005) – More of a thriller but I’ll add it in because there are some horrifying moments. It’s definitely an unexpected film from Craven and I think he could have done more thrillers, honestly. The chemistry and dynamic between our two leads, I believed it and Jackson Rippner is an underrated villain but I think he was definitely not ready to be taken out by Lisa. If you enjoy thrillers, especially ones that take place in one environment/setting like a plane, train, boat situation, this is for you! Or if you enjoy Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, that works too.
The People Under the Stairs (1991) – This film has a soft spot in my heart. I saw this really late in life, maybe in the mid to late 2010s and I remember this film in a random trailer for Universal on many vhs tapes (as well with Shocker and The Serpent and the Rainbow) and this was during a time when a lot of films weren’t easily available to find on vhs OR dvd. Nonetheless, this is just great storytelling around black lead characters and depicting those neighbors we all have that we kind of know but we don’t. There’s something “off” about them and I enjoy the journey “Fool” goes through to uncover the truth.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – Shudder talked about this film for Cursed Films and the few times I’ve seen it, there’s something really haunting about it. I don’t know if it’s the realism that’s a part of the film but it creates a certain vibe. Like this one, out of ALL of them, seems the most likely to actually happen. I think this is one of Craven’s underrated films, along with The People Under the Stairs. People just forgot this film exists but Serpent and the Rainbow is the more creepier film against like A Nightmare on Elm Street, whereas that film hits all the notes of horror but not the creepy factor.
Why I love Craven and his films is that everything he has done fits a certain genre but all feel very, very different from each other. It’s the “I don’t feel like I’m watching the same movie over and over” energy and it is heavily missed. I wonder what he would think of newer horror films of today? What he would like? A lot of these horror greats aren’t with us anymore and that’s pretty sad cos I think horror has evolved and come a long way from the 1920s or even when Craven first started because I would love to know what he, Hooper, Romero, etc, would be into.
What are some of your favorite Craven films? Either directing, writing, producing, all of it counts! What did you like that he stamped his signature on?