When producer Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th) approached iconic filmmaker Wes Craven at the outset of his career about possibly writing and directing a scary movie, the director countered by stating, “I don’t know anything about scary movies.” Shortly thereafter, Craven would go on to make Last House on the Left for producer Cunningham, and would follow it up with a career full of seminal horror films, villains, and moments. On Sunday, it was announced that the visionary filmmaker had passed away at 76 at his Los Angeles residence, after suffering from brain cancer.
For cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike, Craven is considered to be a Mt. Rushmore-like figure of the horror genre. Including Last House, the writer/director has brought audiences films like The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs, Scream, and Red Eye. The director also made some unique directorial choices to avoid being pigeonholed in horror by making films like Vampire in Brooklyn – the Eddie Murphy starring vampire comedy – and Music of the Heart, a 1999 drama that earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination. Ultimately, though, Craven always found his way back to horror, and near the end of his career directed numerous sequels to the slasher sensation Scream, of which the director was reported to have been working on a fifth installation to the horror franchise.
Included in Craven’s resume, is his addition of perhaps his two most iconic characters to the horror villain canon, Freddy Krueger and Ghostface. Between both villains, there have been thirteen movies, with Krueger appearing in nine Nightmare on Elm Street films including a Freddy Vs. Jason crossover. Ghostface, on the other hand, has appeared in four Scream films, albeit by different actors behind the mask.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Craven grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist household. He was a college professor of humanities before getting his start in Hollywood; he also had a job behind the the camera in pornography to pay the bills. The director actually had a late start within the industry, directing his first feature in his 30s. In the end, Craven directed twenty-two feature films and amassed an immeasurable legacy in the film community. Wes Craven is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka, and children Jonathan Craven, Jessica Craven, and Nina Tarnawksy.