8/31/2015

A Tribute to Wes Craven: Master of Horror Pt. 1: From the Last House to the Serpent


Last night, I was looking at my Twitter feed, when I saw a tweet mentioning that Wes Craven, one of horror's true master directors, had passed away. I didn't wanna believe it. At first, I found no articles, just an increasing amount of tweets, then it was confirmed. Craven had died of brain cancer on Aug. 30, 2015, at 76 years of age (he had been born Aug. 2, 1939). I was devastated and deeply heartbroken.

Craven was one of my heroes growing up. He, along with other horror masters, influenced my love of film and made me want to make films of my own. His movies shaped me and became a huge part of my life. I struggled with what would be a suitable way for me pay tribute to him. After all, this one hurt, a lot. I was crying reading about his passing and seeing the outpouring of love from friends and fans. I thought what could I write here? Then it hit me, I will talk about certain and somewhat select batch of his movies and how or why they influenced/ affected me and/ or my thoughts on them. But, basically, if I don't mention the movie, I either never saw it, or I think it flat out sucked.

He has made definitive classics, and gave birth to two genuine franchises and villains: A Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddy Krueger and Scream and Ghostface. Not everything he made was great, in fact he made some genuine crap. But, like I already stated, I won't focus on the shit,  and why should I? So without any further wasted adieu, here are few words on some of his movies, in the order they were released:

The Last House on the Left (1972)- Along with future Friday the 13th director Sean Cunningham (here as producer) they gave us one of the very best rape-revenge films ever made, in this one. A brutal and shocking film, it is near perfect, sans the uneven acting from the parents, but most of all the unneeded humor provided by the dumb cops.
Regardless, I recall watching this classick with my grandpa, when as a young teen, I rented it on VHS. We both loved it, but I was definitely numb by the level of viciousness and uncompromising violence contained in the movie. Both Craven and Cunningham were, themselves, shocked by this movie. Combine it with his next film, and they stand for a side of Craven he would never fully indulge again. I admit, I always kind of wished he would have. The remake, by the way, is just meh.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)- Streamlined and with none of the faults that Last House had this brutal and badass movie, stands as one of the seminal horror movies of the 70s. I recall watching this movie with one of my then best friends, and being floored by it. The vicious violence and exhilarating climax ranks as some of the most in your face quality and rousing horror film making around. Plus, like his previous film, and later films, he gave us great villains (Pluto!). Only now the heroes were equally compelling. Plus, the dog kicks fucking ass!
Craven would later make an awful sequel to this classic. And, this movie, itself, was later remade into a good film, which inspired it's own shit eating sequel.


Swamp Thing (1982)- I remember when this came out, I wanted to see it sooo badly! I mean I loved horror, monsters, and superheroes, by this point in my life and this had all of that! It got me to read the comic, which became my all time favorite horror superhero. The movie itself is just OK, but it's memorable due to the acting and Adrienne Barbeau, and her breasts (even in the PG cut they look great!). And, of course, Craven's considerable talents.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)- This is his crowning masterpiece. If he only made this, then that would've been enough for him to live in horror history forever. Whatever, one thinks of the sequels, like Friday the 13th and Halloween, it stands head and bloody shoulders above them (though the finest entries in the Nightmare series are great films in their own rights). Far darker and scarier than the following installments, what this movie did with it's budget memorized me as a child. The gore, the babes, the classic lines and  classic imagery, and of course, Freddy, all captivated me and still do to this day. This movie is not only my favorite of his, but my third favorite film of all time. I believe it to be the single greatest slasher film ever made. OK, OK, I'll stop professing my love for this one and move on.

Deadly Friend (1986)- Wait, I thought he said we were not gonna talk about his sucky movies! That's what you're thinking right? Well, yeah, but as bad as this one is, and it's pretty fucking bad, I did like it, at least a kid. Maybe, I liked it cause it so bad and so stupid. I mean dude falls in love with beautiful girl next door (Kristy Swanson), then puts a robot brain in her after she is killed. She then comes back to life, but is no longer a good girl. She acts like a robot and the ending is horribly, and I do mean HORRIBLY ridiculous and awful. But, I do think that that is what makes it so much fun. Or maybe it's the gore that I like, in particular the mean old lady whose head gets crushed by a basketball and explodes. Even, if you understandably hate the movie, you gotta agree that scene fucking rules. Or maybe, in the end, I liked this one just cause I had a HUGE crush on Swanson. Actually, yeah, that's the main reason I enjoyed this one. Judge me then, if you must!

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)- Unlike Romero's zombie films, this one tries to stay within the confines of real life, more or less. And, for that reason it sets itself apart. The trailer to this was pretty captivating and scary for me as a kid. The whole voodoo aspect and it's basis really make this one a fascinating watch. Bill Pullman is great in the lead role, and even my family, whom I saw it with, liked this one. Actually, this might be the best movie to deal with voodoo (yes, I like it even more than Angel Heart). It loses itself a bit in the ridiculous climax, which goes too Freddy and over-the-top, but this remains a nice addition to Craven's filmogrpahy.

To be continued...

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