Wes Craven, father of modern horror, dies at 76

Colleen KellyWASHBURN UNIVERSITY

Hollywood and horror movie fans alike were disheartened Aug. 30 to learn that Wes Craven, critically acclaimed director, writer and producer, died at age 76 from a long battle against brain cancer.

Craven graduated from Wheaton College with undergraduate degrees in English and psychology in the late 1960s and later earned his master’s degrees in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins.

For a short period he taught at both Westminster College and Clarkson College as an English and humanities professor respectively. Suffice it to say the man was busy.

Arguably best known for his 1984 cult classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Craven electrified the masses and helped set the tone for the ‘80s horror genre scene with his highly stylized and delightfully terrifying masterpiece. This landmark film about a serial killer that takes out his victims in their dreams launched a decades-old franchise yet to come not only gave us one of pop culture’s most easily recognizable villains (i.e. Freddy Krueger), but also delivered Johnny Depp to the silver screen.

That’s right, Johnny Depp’s big break into Hollywood was “A Nightmare on Elm Street” at the ripe old age of 20, where he played Nancy’s – the film’s protagonist – hapless boyfriend. Riding out the success, the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise spanned five movies total, all box office hits.

“Elm Street” isn’t the only horror movie franchise Craven leaves as a legacy. He also directed and at times wrote and acted in each of his four “Scream” movies, a wildly popular movie series that spanned two decades.

This film franchise is a lot of ‘90s kids’ definition of tension, as it follows teenage Sidney being stalked by a sadistic masked serial killer obsessed with two things: horror movie trivia and dragging out the chase.

This franchise in particular has become so recognizable in pop culture that it was responsible in part for spawning the campy movie spoof franchise “Scary Movie,” and has inspired an updated TV adaptation “Scream” on MTV this year.

A few “Scream” actors of note discovered in the early stages of their careers: Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore and David Arquette.

Aside from Craven’s two aforementioned hit franchises, he also was the mastermind behind other successful movies, including “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Inside Deep Throat,” “The Last House on the Left” and “Red Eye,” as well as strange, campy gems like “Dracula 2000,” “Flowers in the Attic” and “Jason vs Freddy” (the latter being a collaborative effort with the “Friday the 13th” franchise).

He also oversaw the remakes for “The Hills Have Eyes” and “The Last House on the Left” in recent years. Despite his heavy involvement in films, Craven still found the time to direct five episodes of “The Twilight Zone” revival series. He helped not only revamp the mass interest in the series, but propelled a young Bruce Willis into future stardom by casting him in the first episode.

To say that Wes Craven will be sorely missed would be an understatement. He leaves behind Iya Labunka, his third wife, and two children, as well as multiple generations of fans to mourn his unfortunate end.

While it’s a hard pill to swallow that we will never know what he could have given the world next, we know for certain that his cinematic legacy will not be forgotten for quite some time.