Earlier this week on August 30th, Horror Maestro Wes Craven passed away after his battle with brain cancer. Craven directed several iconic horror films that has made quite the impact in the genre and will be cherished in years to come. From Last House on the Left (his directorial debut) to A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Craven along with other horror masterminds (Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, and Dario Argento) made me fall in love with the genre from a young age and for that I thank you immensely Mr. Craven. To honor your memory, I came up with my Top 5 favorite films in your impressive and successful career.
Synopsis: “A pair of teenage girls are headed to a rock concert for one’s birthday. While trying to score marijuana in the city, the girls are kidnapped by a gang of psychotic convicts.”
Craven’s directorial debut gives us a taste of the future gruesome, violent, but genuinely frightening films he made. One of the reasons The Last House on the Left is so frightening is that the monsters of the film aren’t creatures, they’re humans that have no sense of morals and live to make the lives of the families of these two girls a living hell. The film is quite graphic and not for the squeamish, but is quite scary thanks in part to David Hess’ terrifying “Krug Stillo”.
Synopsis: “On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.”
I remember a friend who described this film as “Mad Max Last House on the Left” which I came to find pretty funny, but he wasn’t off about it. In the Hills Have Eyes, Craven continues his line of work where he makes humans the terribly frightening villains of the film. Craven personally thought the casting of Michael Berryman (Pluto) in the film was greatest achievement of the movie. Berryman’s scary shaped head worked, but Craven also praised him for being such a good actor which is more than he could’ve wanted. The film was remade in 2006 and produced by Craven, and while the remake was a nice effort, none can compare to Craven’s original film.
Synopsis: “Story of a schoolteacher’s struggle to teach violin to inner-city Harlem kids.”
The only non-horror film on the list which starred the always phenomenal Meryl Streep and led to an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role was one of the very few films Craven made that strayed away from the genre he was known for. The film followed the real life story of Roberta Guaspari (Streep) and the role she played in her students’ lives by teaching them how to play the violin. The film itself is well made and anchored by Streep’s performance that showcased Craven for being a proficient director not just in horror but in drama.
Synopsis: “Attempting to cope with her mother’s murder, Sydney and her horror movie-obsessed friends are stalked by a murderer who seems to have a hard time letting the past go.”
Arguably the most recognized Craven film by teens today. Scream is such a great film because it parodies the horror genre while still being a terrifying movie. The kids in the movie are all tough and independent, they know what you must do in order to survive in a horror movie, but they’re not prepared for the killer Ghostface to be someone amongst them. The opening scene itself is one of the greatest scenes in horror history where Drew Barrymore’s character is the first victim, but the way Craven shoots and writes the scene make it a horrifying thing to watch but something to behold on how to make a horror film.
Synopsis: “Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. When the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won’t lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.”
Was there ever any doubt? The crowing achievement in Craven’s career was that in A Nightmare on Elm Street. In this film, Craven created one of the most iconic movie villains of all time in Freddy Krueger (played incredibly well by Robert Englund). Craven reinvented the slasher genre with this movie and stood out from the “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” franchises. Freddy Krueger is not your typical slasher film villain like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees where they are silent characters just killing teens. Freddy in turn really has a personality and one of the scary features other than his razor bladed gloves or burned and scarred appearance, is how he talks to his victims that makes him that much more vile and terrifying. Another great feature to the film was Craven writing a great part for our heroine Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp)and how she stands above the rest of her friends and stops at nothing to stop the maniac infesting their dreams and killing them. Craven nailed it with this one and while the sequels weren’t as good, with the exception of Nightmare 3, the one with Patricia Arquette, he created a franchise worth praising.
August 2, 1939 – August 30, 2015