The Icons of Fright Team Remembers Wes Craven

IconsOfFright_Logo (1)We all have heroes, and this week, one of the true horror heroes and legends, Wes Craven, passed away after fightingWes__07-2smaller_crop brain cancer. To say that Craven’s passing has affected the horror community would be an understatement, a statement that just doesn’t articulate how much of an absent we’ll have from here on out. The horror genre is emptier now, with one of the true Icons of Fright gone.

We didn’t want to just write a standard eulogy-like post, because Craven was more than that, he was much much more important than that. I reached out and asked the Icons of Fright crew if they’d be interested in writing a little bit about how Wes and his work touched them, and thought we’d all say a little something about one of the true Masters of Horror. Here is what everyone had to say. RIP Wes (1939-2015).


 

11954658_1006536969390800_2860310540735014301_nJERRY SMITH

Wes Craven wasn’t a filmmaker to me, and though that statement could be confusing I’m sure, it’s the truth. He was in a lot of ways, someone in which I looked up to in ways that a child might look up to their parent. I say this never having met the man, and that’s something that deeply bothers me for many reasons. He wasn’t just a Master of Horror, a legendary filmmaking icon of just the father of Freddy, Krug and that silly Ghostface masks series (I only say that as a silly jab at SCREAM, which I’m not a fan of).

My childhood was a rough one, and relax, I won’t trouble you with the details of it, but let’s just say it was the stuff of well,…nightmares. As a child, I was suspicious of every adult because of that upbringing, thinking they were all predatory monsters, people who like Freddy Krueger, wanted to kill innocence. It was a huge weight to carry on my shoulders as a 5, 6, 7 and every other year growing up, until I learned to deal with that trauma. As a child though, I found an infinite amount of solace in the horror genre, which I have already written articles about, so again, I’ll spare the details, but to say that horror saves my life as a child would be an understatement, because it’s quite literally the truth. Countless hours sitting down in the movie theaters as a kid (before theaters really cared about enforcing the ratings, all you needed was a note from your mom), staying there from day to night, while a real life monster was waiting at home, I found my heroes through characters like Laurie Strode, Andy Barcly, and sometime after, Nancy Thompson. I watched A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a while after it hit video, and to say that the character of Nancy resonated with me, would be a disservice to the power of the character. While my father was too busy watching ESPN back in California (I lived with my mother for some time in Arizona), my mother either making choices that hinder one’s decision making, and her husband at the time that seemed to find pleasure in the torment and torture of children, I found myself to be, in many ways, a lot like Nancy Thompson. The way this monster, this Krueger motherfucker (excuse the profanities, but it still angers me to think back to that time) doing his best to steal everything from Nancy, with her friends, her sanity and the attempts to steal her innocence and soul hit me like a ton of bricks. This was someone who was like me. Nancy found such courage and strength in that final quarter of the film, and that scene at the end, in which Nancy, with her back to the monster says “I take back every bit of energy I gave you. You’re nothing. You’re shit.”, that moment hit me as profoundly as anything else in my life had. “You’re nothing. You’re Shit.” and she was right, he was just that.

Since that moment, experiencing that film, I became a devout believer in the power of Wes Craven’s writing. Films like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS and the countless other films he made (minus SCREAM, goddamn I still cannot bring myself to like that one) quickly became favorites of mine, and Craven became somewhat of an obsession of mine. I watched every interview he gave, read everything article on him and loved how deep the films he wrote himself were. As flawed as it is (and it’s QUITE flawed), even MY SOUL TO TAKE has some very deep undertones to it. That’s what Wes was great at, writing SMART horror films, ones that at times, went over the standard audience’s heads. He wrote characters that WERE us, to quote the band Bayside, “The Walking Wounded“. He wrote real characters, ones who lost people close to them, lost themselves at times, and ones that eventually became heroes and survivors. He was more than a filmmaker, he was the genre’s professor to me.

My son Dexter has Autism and part of his many obsessive traits, is collecting photos of people he likes. To add to his wall, I’ve made it a mission to try to fill his wall with my heroes too, in a way that he can see the people who inspired me growing up. John Carpenter was incredibly nice to send Dexter a care package with tons of signed stuff just for him. He’s getting ready to attend his first convention this year and I’m excited to show Dex all of the icons that made me courageous and inspired, and there was always one person that I wanted to show my son, the same person I’ve had dreams of just being able to shake his hand and just say “Thank you”. This week, that person was taken away from the horror genre, the world, his family, and people who looked up to him, by one of the cruelest pieces of shit around: cancer. I’m angry. I’m beyond upset that the man who helped a scared little boy find his strength through his films, is gone, and I’ll never be able to say thanks, or introduce my son to the man who caused me to discover my voice. I don’t take deaths hard, I know it’s a part of life, but to say I haven’t cried every single day since Wes has died would be a lie. This is a bold statement, I know, but it has affected me more than the passing of my mother and father will, because I didn’t learn much from them growing up. I learned my power through Wes Craven, and for that, Wes, wherever you are, THANK YOU.

 

ds

DEREK SMITH (FilmClassicsVirgin.com)

As a child, I was scared of everything, having constant nightmares. So finding out that there was a horror movie with a killer of children that attacked through their dreams only made things worse. The image of Freddy Krueger and his claws scratching against a surface as he stalked towards me menacingly haunted me, and all I had ever seen was the TV spots for the sequels. The creator of those nightmares has left us, and I immediately felt a whole in my soul. While his creations chilled me to the bone, they also sparked a desire to know more.
One of the first horror films I was able to sit through after getting out of my ‘fraidy cat phase was THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. Again, a Craven film. And I was at the perfect age (16) when SCREAM came along. After that, it didn’t take long for me to search out his other films. I was lucky enough to live down the block from a video store that had $7/7 movies/7 days rental deals, and they had the majority of his work.
Like bad pizza, a bad Craven film is still enjoyable. Warts and all, his creativity shined, and for that I’ll greatly miss him. Hell, who else would have a film with a flashback sequence for a dog? Rest in peace, Maestro!

 

AaronAARON PRUNER

Instead of telling you what Wes Craven truly meant to me in a typical obituary-style blog, I’m going to share a story with you instead. A little while after first being introduced to A Nightmare On Elm Street by my best friend — I was 11 years old at the time — Freddy Krueger regularly popped up in our time together. Whether it be, scaring our friends at a sleep over party or trying to conjure fun from nothing as two young bored boys can do.

It’d possibly be strange to say that Freddy Krueger was a childhood hero of mine. However, my bedroom walls were adorned with images of the burned child killer and a life-sized cardboard standee of the man guarded my front door. I had the toys, the movies, the halloween costume, the shirts, the movie soundtracks, and never missed an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares when it originally aired on TV. However, it was the bond between my best friend and I that truly elevated the work of Wes Craven to a whole new level for me.

As two young loners, Calvin and I tended to flock to the weird, strange and horrific. I have this specific vivid memory that pops into my mind whenever Wes Craven comes up in conversation and it’s a simple one centering around two 13 year old boys trying to make fun from nothing on a bored holiday off from school. With our parents off at work, we were left to our own devices which quickly escalated from simply watching Freddy slice through multiple high school victims on-screen, to acting out the scenes from the movies as DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s hip hop classic “A Nightmare On My Street” played loudly on the boombox. There’s something strangely enlightening about mouthing the lyrics “You’ve got the body, I’ve got the brain,” while wearing the glove and nodding your head to a steady beat and stalking your best friend in an exciting rendition of hide-n-seek.

It sounds silly but when I speak of Wes Craven’s work — and almost every movie he created has a deep meaning to me — I am always brought back to that tiny apartment in North Hollywood, California where Freddy Krueger helped make a game of make-believe gruesome and fun between two bored best friends.

jsJOSHUA SORIANO

If you look up the word “craven” in the dictionary, the definition is: contemptibly lacking in courage; cowardly. Ironically, that couldn’t be farther from the description of Wes Craven’s career. When I was younger, I didn’t recognize his contribution as much I should’ve. I was primarily obsessed with Freddy Krueger, never taking into account the brilliant mind behind them all; who, without, none of these films would have ever existed. In my early teens, when I saw the (often-underrated) PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, it was like a smack in my face. Here was a film that was unlike anything I had ever seen so far–pulsing with bizarre insanity, terrorizing on the same level as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, revealing that sometimes the most-fucked up and evil beings are the ones you share fences with.Say what you want about his films like CURSED or MY SOUL TO TAKE, but never say the man didn’t have the courage to constantly try something new. In fact, I had a hard time thinking of a horror director with a more colorful and unique career who was also brave enough to stray into new territory every time. Aside from helming the SCREAM franchise, Craven rarely ever made the same movie twice. There will never be another movie franchise  like Nightmare ever again (even if you cast Robert Englund) and there will never be another trail blazing film like Scream. Whether you liked it or not, Scream lovingly brought horror back from the dead. It changed cinema, as a whole, much like PULP FICTION (though Tarantino is nowhere near as brave as Craven). As i sit here writing this and waiting for the SCREAM season finale on MTV, my tears feel incredibly bittersweet. It’s touching that the nightmares Wes created will forever live on but it’s that same notion which reminds me we lost a brilliant mind too soon.

 

BJBJ COLANGELO

When I was a little girl, my mother and I bonded over horror movies. My father was always too worried about showing his scaredy-cat side in front of people, so my mom assigned me to be her horror partner in crime. We consumed AMC’s Fear Fridays the way some people plan their entire weeks around church. Horror films were our houses of worship, and slasher films were our preachers.

I remember being 7 years old when I picked out the box art for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and begged my mom to rent it for us to watch. Her eyes lit up with a smile plastered across her face before she said, “you need to ask your Auntie Carla about that movie.”  My Auntie Carla had been one of my mom’s closest friends since adolescence, and I was no stranger to hearing them talk about the good old days. A few days after the video store visit, my Auntie Carla came by for a visit. Armed with a rental box, I put the film in her face and said, “Mom told me I had to ask you about this movie.” I think this is the part where I should tell you that my Auntie Carla is essentially a female Sam Kinison. At the top of her lungs she screamed out, “FUCK THAT SCARY ASS FUCKIN’ MOVIE!”

As it turns out, my mom and my Auntie Carla went to see A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in the theaters when they were in their twenties. They later had to walk home from the theater, on a dark foggy night, and were so scared they didn’t sleep and had to keep the lights on. My mom swears that the fear she experienced that night was the reason she became such a horror buff, and in turn, inspired her to pass that love on to me. Without A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, I wouldn’t be the horror fanatic I am today.

After I started dabbling in horror journalism at 18 years old, I was encouraged and supported by both of my parents, including my non-horror watching father. My dad HATED being scared, but he loved to scare other people. They’d always try to give me topics to write about. “You should write about the best one-liners!” “Hey, Britt, have you written about TEXAS CHAINSAW yet?” I loved hearing their suggestions, regardless of how predictable they could be.  And then my dad piped up with, “Do you know what the scariest movie ever is? THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. Oh my god, that movie is scary, Britt.”

At 19 years old, consuming horror for over a decade…I had never even heard of this film.  My dad and I immediately ransacked my grandmother’s collection of movies recorded off of the TV until we found a VHS tape of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS.  My dad never, ever, EVER watched horror movies with me, but this time, he did. I was a budding horror writer and this was the first time in my life my father had ever watched a horror movie with me. I sat there and analyzed the relationship between Mommy & Daddy and made comments about the social structure of our protagonists and my dad turned to me and said, “Britt. Let yourself be scared. It’s okay. You don’t have to be a fearless academic all the time.” So, I tuned out. And I found my heart racing and my palms sweating.

I don’t have a lot in common with my family, but Wes Craven’s films are the thread that keeps me connected to my family.  Thank you, Wes. Your films truly united The Colangelo Family, and you are the singular director that we universally agree upon.

 

natNATALIE COX

One thing I had always hoped for, was for the chance to meet Wes Craven. I always prepare speeches of admiration for heroes in case I meet them someday…and I had one prepared for Mr. Craven himself. I would have thanked him for creating a significant portion of my favorite films. Not only did they provide endless hours of entertainment and happiness, they helped set the background for memories that I hold dear to this day. I grew up worshiping (and still continue to worship) ANOES. It was one of my first tastes of the horror genre, and to be honest, nothing is quite like being a child…and getting absolutely terrified every time someone mentions the words “Freddy Krueger.” After I gushed about how he helped shape my childhood and made me into the ride or die horror fan I am today, I would have to mention THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. Watching that film always takes me to a specific time in my life, where my only responsibilities were to not get grounded, and begging my parents to order pizza. I recall bonding with my Mother while watching the film, and it was Mr. Craven who helped me see how cool my mom could be.  I also included a section of my hypothetical speech to Wes Craven completely devoted to the first SCREAM film. At the time when it came out, it was exactly what I needed in life. I was an awkward tween who adored horror films, and it was a major factor in finding one of my best friends of over fifteen years. Yes. We totally bonded over our love of SCREAM.

In a way, I always felt that Wes Craven was a part of my upbringing, which is why the news of his passing hit me so hard. It was like losing a part of life. However, he will live on with all of us with his films. He will always be loved, and admired. Although I never had to chance to meet him, and give him my special, personalized speech, I can only hope there is an afterlife where we get a second chance to tell our heroes how much they mean to us. Rest in peace, Mr. Craven. Thank you for everything.

 

jovJOVY SKOLL

I was in 5th grade when the first SCREAM came out and I didn’t know too much about it. I caught a few TV spots here and there and was aware that a killer was involved. There was a lot of talk about who the killer was and I wasn’t able to see the movie until weeks afer release. By then, I knew the reveal (at least one of them) and that Drew Barrymore doesn’t last very long. Still, I wanted to see what everyone in school was talking about. As usual, most just scoffed at it and said it was a stupid movie (even as they showed up for the sequels) and the closeted horror fan would rave about it. My mom was not a big fan of horror movies then and I was able to convince my dad to take my brothers and I to see it on one of our weekends together. In typical fashion, my dad had us arrive as late as possible and the movie was still making crazy money, so the theater was packed. We waited in the concessions line that moved like a glacier pace and a young teenager ran out of the theater yelling at presumably her friends in line “It already started!!!” and urged them to hurry. By the time we walked in, the crowd was going crazy and resembled very close to the screening of STAB in the opening sequence of SCREAM 2. The first image I ever saw was Barrymore’s Casey Becker running in slow motion, the killer reaching from behind covering her mouth and stabbing her in the chest. The blood pours and as she attempts to scream for help, the killer makes sure she is incapable, forcing her to be as helpless as possible. The sequence concludes with her mother screaming at her daughter’s lifeless corpse hanging like some Christmas tree ornament, teasing of things to come.  I had to of owned at least three different VHS variations of SCREAM when it became available for home video and watched it multiple times.

SCREAM and WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE were influential in my taste in movies growing up and still hold a special place. They introduced me to characters that were self aware, but no matter how smart you are, the horrors of everyday life will always come back to haunt you. I learned what it meant to be meta, to see real people in traditional horror. While SCREAM embraces slasher devices, NEW NIGHTMARE provides a slow burn and questions the ethics of onscreen violence and how young is too young to watch. Wes Craven has given me nightmares that live as inspiration in story telling and create standards that many duplicate, rarely creating as big an influence as he has. He allowed himself to be physically present onscreen in NEW NIGHTMARE as a shy, yet fatherly like presence who was both scared, yet assured all of us that everything would be ok in the end.

craven

RIP

Leave A Comment