My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

In the middle of the show floor at PAX, a text message glared back with a brief message: Wes Craven had died. I stopped a moment, took a breath and sighed. Few humans have made me laugh and scream the way filmmaker Craven did over the years, and I'll miss him terribly.

Craven had apparently been struggling with brain cancer, though it was not something he talked about publicly. By all accounts, he was still a workhorse. Earlier this year, he signed deals to produce new movies, and one of his classics, Scream, had become a hit TV show over at MTV.

My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

Granted, Craven's creative output the last few years has not been great. Scream 4, which tried to put another set of twists on the already knotted up franchise, felt like a gasp at desperation. And does anyone even remember My Soul to Take came out?

But guess what? Who gives a shit.

The Last House on the Left, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, The People Under The Stairs, New Nightmare, Scream. Any director would kill for a resume that good, a slate of films that forever changed genres and created timeless pop culture icons. We were lucky enough to be around as Craven filled our dreams with nightmares that we were secretly thankful for.

Heck, without Craven, the world wouldn't know who Johnny Depp is, since Craven gave the actor a shot with the first Freddy film and famously killed him with the ol' bed of blood.

My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

Even within horror, Craven smartly reinvented himself over and over again. The filmmaker who created A Nightmare on Elm St. was far different than the one behind the lens for Last House on the Left. (A film that still continues to make me profoundly uncomfortable, years after seeing it! While most horror films are date-worthy, a reason to snuggle up with a significant other, Last House on the Left will probably leave you quietly sobbing into a pillow and closing your eyes.)

My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

I'm not sure what there is to say about Freddy Krueger, in which Craven created a legacy that will long outlast his own name. The character got weird as the years went on, quickly abandoning terror for humour, in the way many horror sequels are forced to change approaches, with the element of surprise long since gone. (The third one, Dream Warriors, is easily the best sequel that Craven wasn't personally involved it. So good!)

But some of my favourite Craven films didn't come until his creations had become so embedded in the cultural landscape that he started fucking with us. New Nightmare, the last time he played with his best known character, is deeply underrated and genuinely frightening. In it, A Nightmare on Elm St. is a film series, but Freddy invades the reality of the actors involved. Not only was the meta premise a fresh twist on the character, but it allowed Craven to finally make Krueger scary again, and laid the groundwork for the more expansive meta horror film Scream.

My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

And look, Scream is probably overrated, but it was so damn fun when it came out. It was a horror movie operating on several levels, only recently matched by riffs like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Cabin in the Woods. If you were a fan of horror films, you delighted at how it acknowledged the genre's tropes and subverted them. If you just wanted to be scared, Scream had plenty of that, too.

(The less said about Scream 3, the better, OK?)

One of my favourite moments from 2015 was when, for lord knows what reason, Craven decided to briefly talk to me. I had tweeted a fan-made drawing that imagined a Capcom-style fighting game with horror's icons duking it out.

My Nightmares Are Gonna Miss You, Wes Craven

Somehow, that got back to him, and it resulted in this brief exchange.

Just looking at that puts tears in my eyes.

He started following me on Twitter, which I still can't really get over. I had plans to reach out for an interview in October, but, well...sigh.

Writing about these films makes me want to pour a glass of whiskey and work through the man's catalogue again. I cannot wait for Halloween, when my wife and I can once again debate whether it's really worth watching the terrible A Nightmare on Elm St 2: Freddy's Revenge just to have a complete understanding of the series' mythology in totality. (We probably will.)

If the value of a life well lived is the impact we have on other people, Craven had a full one.

Craven may be gone, but his creations ensure he'll not be forgotten, especially when I'm asleep.


Comments

    Scream came out exactly at the point in my life where I was just too young to be able to see it. When I finally got the chance to, it scared the shit out of me and I loved it.
    Maybe I've got rose-tinted glasses in but I still love that movie. It was clever and subversive, and other by-the-numbers horror flicks which weer guilty of the clich├ęs it parodied always got a distinct thumbs-down from me.
    It's just a shame that the series devolved into the generic slashers the first tried so hard to parody.
    And why the fuck were Jay and Silent Bob in Scream 3? That confuses me even to this day.

      Wes had a cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back I think he was just returning the favor

        Ah, that makes sense.

          Wes became a victim of his own success with Scream 3. I had the wonderful chance to interview David Arquette years back for his indie movie "The Tripper", and in amidst his (very justified) ripping apart Scream 3, he mentioned how the studio essentially took control of Scream 3 out of Wes's hands. He had ultimate control over direction and script on part 1, mostly controlled 2 and it's script and barely any on 3 given how succesful it had become. This totally explains the fact it was so methodically ridiculous and chopped up. Arquette went on to praise the everloving shit out of Wes, saying he loved working with him and how fantastic he was. His death was a real loss to the industry and to us all :(

            Ah, the old "You're on to a good thing - your artistic voice has proven highly profitable. Here is some money. Do it again, but this time, DO WHAT WE SAY."
            The mentality that ruined many a good franchise.

            So the guy makes a brilliant movie (Scream 1) follows it up with a good movie (Scream 2) and you stop him having any input and surprised the Third movie is a joke?

            The people with the money just don't understand the people with the talent, and that makes me so very sad. Fortunately that is slowly changing.

              Yep. The original script writer even left Scream 3 prior to its filming, his original ideas ( including one that had a FAR superior idea where Sidney died and Gail Weathers turned out to be the murderer, due to her career stalling and her psychologically snapping due to PTSD, she staged killings so she could become famous again, creating a 'trilogy' of murders). But that script never happened, and we got the fecal matter that became scream 3.

              Don't get me started on Scream 4... what a wasted opportunity that turd was.

    Yea the only thing scarier then Wes Craven is the current youth. Have you seen them! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MerOZ0eR0z8

    Scream 4 was great, second best in the series

    I'm glad I got to see at least one Craven based Freddy movie at the cinemas. That was New Nightmare. I remember when Freddy 6 came out at the movies because there was the all the 3D marketing around it but I couldn't at the time convince my mum to let me go. Going back and watching New Nightmare now, I still enjoy it but one thing I can't help but notice compared to the rest of Craven's Freddy movies is nowhere near as many people get killed in it.

Join the discussion!